Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Some software is distributed as .iso files. I'll look at a couple of ways to install .iso files, or rather, install the software that they contain.

I downloaded a game and all that I got was an .iso file. My computer doesn't know what to do with that. What do I do? How do I install .iso files?

ISO files are becoming more and more common as a delivery mechanism for assorted types of both software and data.

An ISO file is nothing more than an image of a disc. Typically, it's a complete image of either a CD or DVD.

Which gives you at least one clue as to one of the options.

Burn the CD image to CD

The first and most common option is to use a tool like ImgBurn to burn the ISO image to the actual physical media that it represents.

After you burn an ISO to CD or DVD, you can then access the contents of that CD or DVD as you would any other.

To install the ISO, you would either run the Set up program found at the root of the drive, run the "autorun.inf" found at the root of the drive, or in some cases, reboot from the CD or DVD to install a new operating system.

To be honest, burning to CD is probably the most effective way to install an ISO, and it gets you a backup copy of your download at the same time. It's also the only solution if you need to boot your computer from the media in order to install.

Mounting ISOs as virtual drives

Daemon Tools Lite is a free utility that, when installed, allows you to mount ISO files and have them appear as virtual drives on your machine, without burning them to actual media.

Be careful what you download. Like many sites that provide a free utility, Daemon Tools has a lot of advertising on it and much of it is misleading. The download link is easily lost in the noise:

Daemon Tools Lite download link

Also, when you install, be sure to opt-out of any additional, unrelated software that may be offered.

After running Daemon Tools Lite, a small icon will appear in the notification area:

DaemonTools Icon

Double-click that to get the Daemon Tools Lite application.

In the application, right-click the drive that appears in the lower pane:

Daemon Tools Lite

Click the Mount option, which opens a file selection dialog. Select the ISO file that you want to work with and click OK.

Once mounted, Windows may run Auto-Play on the "disc":

Autorun after having mounted an iso image

The act of mounting the image as a drive makes Windows believe that a new disc has been inserted and thus it applies the same operations that it would were it any normal removable-media drive.

You can certainly allow any auto-play action to happen, if that's what you need - in most cases, the result would be the install of the ISO that you're looking for.

Alternately, you can open the virtual drive, which will have been assigned a new drive letter, in Windows Explorer:

Mounted ISO open in Windows Explorer

Here you can see the ISO that I selected (an older copy of a System Rescue CD) opens as drive "D:", a virtual drive created by Daemon Tools to expose the contents of the ISO file. You can use this drive like any CD.

In many cases, you'll find a setup.exe or other installation program that you could then run directly to install the contents of your ISO.

Naturally, you can unmount the ISO (more or less equivalent to ejecting the CD) and select a different ISO to mount.

Next Steps

There are additional ways to access the contents of an ISO, outlined in What are ISO files and how do I open them?

If you want to burn an ISO to CD or DVD to install it, grab a copy of ImgBurn, and then follow my step-by-step instructions on burning an ISO to CD or DVD.

Article C4956 - October 15, 2011 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Doug Brace
October 16, 2011 5:21 AM

I use an ISO mounting program called Virtual CloneDrive made by SlySoft. It works really well.

October 18, 2011 10:56 AM

The easiest though slow way is to extract the iso using 7-zip. Afterwards, you can just run the installer in the extracted files.

October 18, 2011 11:27 AM

I prefer Slysoft's Virtual CloneDrive for mounting ISOs.

You can also extract some ISO's with 7-Zip.

Quick tip: If you need to edit an ISO, you don't need to install shareware. Just extract it with 7-Zip, edit the files on your hard drive, and recompile it with ImgBurn or another tool.

Also ImgBurn can be used to extract a disc right to ISO. This I use for some of my older games that have noisy CDs (fast drive) but require the CD to play.

Also if you have a weird CD image format, install the program needed to mount it, then use ImgBurn to turn it into an ISO.

I'd also like to note that sometimes if you try to play certain games or use certain software (even if you're using a legit CD) they won't run if you have a virtual drive installed. It's a pain, usually if you disable the drive temporarily it works.

October 18, 2011 6:43 PM

Reading the post by Andrew, could I use that method to make a back up copy of Wii game disks? I have had to replace several disks at full pop due to scratches etc. I would like to make a copy of my game discs to keep the originals undamaged.

October 18, 2011 7:36 PM

Good article...another option is to burn it to a disc with Ashampoo Studio 6 FREE edition. Thus you have a free DVD/CD/Bluray utility as well as the game (or other ISO) saved for reinstall.

October 18, 2011 10:41 PM

Hi Leo,

You're Warned! I find your readers are also highly informed, and probably more than you're in some issues. The style of some content is really enjoyable.
Do you think, I'm correct?

In the bargain, novices like me gain a lot. And, I love every bit of it. Yes, I'm fortunate and fell indebted to you all!

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