Create a virtual optical drive in five simple steps

(Credit: CNET Asia)

Anyone remember a time when floppy disk drives were the de facto components in laptops? No? Well, the optical drive may not be in danger of becoming obsolete. But when it comes to making a laptop more portable, the DVD writer is usually the first to go.

While the world is moving toward downloadable media, there are occasions when you need to pop in a disc. For certain games, the program will look for an authentic DVD to verify that the title is legitimate before allowing the software to run. Moreover, retail box sets usually include an installation DVD, not USB drive. Still, there are always workarounds and here are a few ways you can live without an optical drive.

Step 1: install a virtual drive software

We like things cheap and good, and we've found two free virtual drive software apps that we use regularly, Virtual CloneDrive and MagicISO Virtual CD/DVD-ROM. Both are competent virtual drive creators that emulate an optical drive. In this article, we will demonstrate how to use Virtual CloneDrive.

After downloading the software, double-click on the file to install. Once it's completed, an icon will appear in the status bar. If you need more than one virtual drive, right-click and select settings. From here, you can choose the number of drives required.

You can create up to 15 virtual drives. (Credit: CNET Asia)

Step 2: create virtual CDs

Now that you have made virtual drives, we can proceed to creating virtual CDs. The most common format for virtual CDs is the ISO format. For this step, install Magic ISO Maker, which is available for US$29.95, though there is a free trial period available. After this, insert the media into an external optical drive or another system with a built-in DVD writer.

Start Magic ISO Maker, go to Tools -> Make ISO from CD/DVD-ROM. We suggest choosing ISO as the output format is a more commonly recognised standard, though there is nothing wrong if you prefer UIF instead. Let it run. And that's it. If you have time, just make all your virtual CDs during the trial period if you don't wish to pay.

Making a virtual CD is as simple as choosing the right format and clicking OK. (Credit: CNET Asia)

Step 3: "inserting" a virtual CD into your virtual drive

This is the simplest step. Right-click on the Virtual CloneDrive icon, select drive -> mount. Choose the ISO file you've created and it will appear in your computer as an emulated DVD disc.

For games that require a DVD to be inserted for authentication, we suggest installing the software from the virtual CD rather than an external optical drive. However, we've encountered some titles that are smart enough to detect when a virtual CD is being used and prevent the game from running, so this method is not 100 per cent foolproof.

Step 4: adding files to a virtual CD

This is a neat trick for virtual CDs. Though it may have come from a standard CD/DVD, once it has been "virtualised", you can add data to the ISO file using Magic ISO Maker.

Open the ISO using the program, drag-and-drop the new data, and select File -> Save. If you wish to create a different ISO, choose Save As and give it a new name. However, do remember to dismount the original ISO from the virtual CD program before adding or removing files. If the virtual CD is mounted, the program might prevent you from making changes to avoid data corruption.

Step 5: burning virtual CD files to DVD

We may seem to be working backward here by suggesting that you burn the ISO file to a physical media. But in some cases, you may want to pass information to someone who does not have a virtual drive program installed.

While Magic ISO Maker has this function, by now your trial period may be over. Fortunately, you can easily burn ISO files in most DVD writing software. Freeware like CDBurnerXP (which also works with Windows Vista and 7) provides this functionality.

Even freeware DVD writing software like CDBurnerXP offers ISO burning capability. (Credit: CNET Asia)

Via CNET Asia

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