What are ISO, IMG, BIN-CUE, etc. disc images?

Have you come across the terms disc image or ISO image? At iGuru.gr we often mention the term ISO, but you may have also heard it from a tech-savvy friend of yours who has a library of discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs) but doesn't seem to use any of them, at least not regularly. So this friend of yours has probably created disc images of all the optical discs he uses most often.

What are disk images and why would anyone create or use disk images?

iso dvd

What is a disk image?

A disk image is a file that stores the contents and structure of an entire disk. This disc can be an optical disc such as a CD, DVD, Blu-Ray disc, hard disk or SSD drive, USB flash drive, a movie, etc. A disk image is a file that is an exact copy of a disk volume or an entire physical disk drive. This copy retains all the properties of its source: files, folders, properties and the disk name.

Why is a disk image file useful?

Disk images are a very handy way to back up your disks. For example, you may still have some audio CDs that you play regularly. If you don't want them to wear out, a good way to keep them in top condition is to create disk images for them.

Disc images can be saved to your computer and you can simply mount them when you want to listen to your music. Obviously, you can copy their content into another format as well, but that's another story.

What are the most common file formats for disk image files?

ISO – by far, the most popular disk image file format currently in use. The name ISO comes from the file system used by optical media (usually ISO 9660). ISO files are automatically recognized by modern operating systems and can be used without the need for third-party software.

I'M G – raw disk image files of magnetic disks or optical disks. These files can only be opened by applications that can detect their file systems.

BIN & CUE (Cue Sheet File) – are CD or DVD disc images split into two different files. One of them is a .BIN file, which is a binary file that is an exact copy of the disk. The supplementary .CUE file contains the details of how the data on the original disk is structured.

MDF & MDS (Media disk Image File & Media Descriptor File) – the CD or DVD image is stored inside the .MDF file, while the header information of each track is stored in the MDS file.

NRG (Nero CD/DVD Image File) – are CD or DVD disc images created with Nero disc creation software.

If you want to know more about all known disk image file types check out this site

How do you create disk images in Windows?

To create a disk image, you need to use an application that can do this.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn't create disk images, so you'll need to use a third-party program to do so. There are many such programs available on the Internet, and most focus either on creating CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc images, or on creating disc images of hard drives of any kind (see UltraISO).

How do you mount a disk image in Windows?

Windows 10 and Windows 11 know by default they can open the most common file format for disc images: ISO images. You can mount it by double-clicking on it (or by right-clicking and selecting Mount). When a disc image is mounted, it looks and works the same as if a physical disc were loaded into an optical media drive.

If you need to open disk images that use other file formats, then you should install a tool: We recommend it WinCDEmu, a tiny (2MB) open source emulator that allows one-click mounting of all common disc images: ISO, CUE, NRG, MDS/MDF, CCD, IMG. It works on every version of Windows from Windows XP onward (including Windows 10 and Windows 11), is free, and supports an unlimited number of virtual drives.

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ISO,IMG,BIN-CUE,disk images

Written by giorgos

George still wonders what he's doing here ...

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