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A computer with no CD drive still needs to have software installed on it. It can often be done through your USB drive.

My new laptop does not have a CD drive. I have some programs on CDs such as Office 97 and Access 97, which I want to run or update from on my new machine. Can I (so to speak) squeeze them through a USB? How?

In this excerpt from Answercast #90 I look at the possibility of transferring contents of a CD to a USB drive in order to install a program.

Computer with no CD drive

Well, the good news is that many programs that come on CD will actually install just fine if you simply copy the contents of the CD, the entire contents of the CD, to a USB drive.

I typically recommend that you do so to an empty USB drive so that it looks as much as possible like the CD - except that it happens to be a USB flash drive.

Run program from USB drive

Then, after you've done that (presumably on some other machine that has both a CD-ROM drive and the USB drive) you can then take that USB drive to your new machine and plug it in.

After it appears in Windows Explorer you can then navigate to the root of that drive and run what would, presumably, be a set up program or something like it.

Now, I will warn you that some programs, not very many these days, but some get kind of, I don't know, "picky." I did run into one recently with my ham radio that insisted that it could only be installed from a CD, from a CD image. Well, that's a pain in the butt.

There are ways around it - but for the most part, most programs that are delivered on CD can usually be installed by simply copying the contents of the entire CD to a USB drive and then installing from the USB drive instead.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

End of Answercast 90 Back to - Audio Segment

Article C6275 - January 23, 2013 « »

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?

Ken B
January 25, 2013 8:34 AM

The other option is to simply get an external USB drive. A quick search shows you can get a USB CD/DVD drive for around $20.

January 25, 2013 9:48 AM

Another option is to attach a cd drive from another system through the network (if you have another system on your home network)

John H
January 25, 2013 11:56 AM

Will My official Windows 7 installation disks copy to USB and still load? If any installation disks are going to be picky, I would suspect Microsoft disks to be.

These are the only programs I still load from a disk.
Thanks for another great newsletter Leo!

Mark J
January 25, 2013 12:35 PM

@John H
When any OS is simply copied to a USB stick, that USB stick will not be bootable. So you would not be able to install from it. There are some third party utilities which can copy the DVD and produce a bootable USB stick. I can't recommend any, as I don't have any experience doing that with anything but Linux, But you can use Google to help find one.

John H
January 27, 2013 5:39 PM

@Mark J.
Thank You for the good informstion. I try to minimize the time I spend maintaining my system. My time being more valuable than a technically "efficient" computer system. Thankfully my external USB hard drive is small enough. The most efficient solution would be a proper disk image.

I have an external 3.5" floppy drive for loading CNC software into a DOS environment ...

Theo H
January 28, 2013 1:34 AM

Yet another option would be to create a CD image (on a computer that has a CD drive of course), transfer that to the target machine, and on that target machine use a CD emulator program like e.g. daemontools to trick the OS in thinking there really is a CD drive in the machine.

I've actually done this with software that actually refused to install unless it was on a CD. Mounting an ISO file as a fake CD worked just fine.

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