What is an ISO file? How can this type of file be opened

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What is an ISO file? How can this type of file be opened and converted to various formats?


The era of CDs and DVDs may have ended, but ISO files that mimic CDs in their operation are still - and will remain - very useful and widespread, as you encounter them frequently, especially when downloading and installing programs, operating systems, etc. In this article, we will learn about ISO files, what they represent, and how they can be played and burned to a CD or converted to another format.

What is an ISO file?


An ISO file can be considered an archive of the same files on a CD or DVD. That's why this type of file is sometimes called an ISO image because it represents an identical image of the files on the CD.

This type of file is used to back up files on a CD, or conversely, it is used to burn a large group of files to a CD.

The name ISO comes primarily from the name of the file system used in CDs, which is often ISO 9660.


Each volume operates on its own dedicated file system. A file system is the way files are organized and stored in any storage unit. For example, the file system determines the type of data stored in a specific storage unit and the type of information that can be added to the files in this unit (including the file name, its permissions, etc.).

You can think of an ISO file as a copy of all the files on a CD (whether CD, DVD, or Blu-ray), including the file system. This copy includes all sectors on the disk, without any file compression.

ISO files were first created to create an exact copy of what a specific CD contains, and then use this copy to burn it onto another set of CDs so that it becomes exactly identical to the original disc in preparation for distribution.

Most operating systems allow ISO files to be opened and played as a virtual CD. This means that all applications and programs running alongside that operating system will treat the file just as if it were a real CD inserted into the drive.

How to play ISO file?


As we mentioned, running an ISO file means that the operating system and applications will treat it as if it were a real CD inserted into the computer, so the process of running the file is sometimes called “mounting.”

Windows 10 and 11 allow running ISO files by default without the need for any additional applications. Once you right-click on the ISO file and choose Mount, the file will run.


If you are using Windows 7 (or any of the previous versions), you must use an application to play this type of file. We recommend the free, open source program WinCDEmu .

How to burn an ISO file to a CD or DVD?


You may need to burn the ISO file to a CD if you want to use the disc to install an operating system, or to burn a disc more than once, although this is less commonly used these days.
Every version of Windows, including Windows 10 and 11, has a tool built into it by default to burn an ISO file to CDs. You do not need any additional software to burn the iso file to CD or DVD. All you have to do is insert the disc, select the ISO file you want to burn, right-click on it and choose Burn Disk Image.


If the drive in your computer is not a writer (that is, it can write to CDs), you may not find this option in the drop-down menu. However, even if you find the option and the driver is not a writer, it will not help you at all.

Also, if you have a compression application (such as 7-Zip) and the ISO format is added to the program to be processed by it, you will not find the previous option in the list. We will talk about that shortly.

The method is similar on computers running macOS. Simply select the program in Finder, choose File, then Burn Disk Image to Disc.
How to extract the contents of an ISO file without running it?

If you do not want to run the ISO file in the previous way, but want to view its contents, you will need the WinRAR or 7-Zip decompression application . As we mentioned, 7-Zip is responsible for dealing with ISO files by default once it is installed. Therefore, if you have previously used this program, simply clicking on the ISO file will display its contents within the 7-Zip program window. This process may take some time if the file size is large.

When using WinRAR, you have to right-click and open the file using this program.



The program will show you the ISO content of the files, so you can deal with them as you want, by copying, cutting, modifying, etc.


Through WinRAR, you can also extract all the contents of the file to a folder that you specify, just as if you were dealing with a regular compressed file, through the Extract To command. It's exactly the same with 7-Zip.

You can select the default program to open this type of file using the following method. You must first go to Settings, then Apps, then Default Apps, then choose Choose default apps by file type.


A window will then open containing a long list of many file formats. On the left side of the screen, search for .iso, and then on the right side of this format, choose the default program to run this format.


You can download WinRAR to run iso files and extract their contents through the link , or 7-Zip, which does the same purpose through the link .
How to burn the contents of a CD to create an ISO file?

macOS and Linux come with special software to create an ISO file, unlike Windows. If you are using a Windows system, you must use another program to do this task. We recommend the Ninte toolkit, which includes InfraRecorder , ImgBurn , and CDBurnerXP , all of which are programs that help you create your own ISO file.

After downloading one of the previous programs, insert the CD, then choose Read Disc (or Create ISO, depending on the program you are using), then choose the location where you want to save the ISO file. The picture shows the user interface in the InfraRecorder application.


You can download the InfraRecorder program to convert files to iso for free through the link . An alternative program is ISO Workshop .
How to convert different file formats to and from ISO?
Convert BIN file to ISO:

Here you have to use the ISO Workshop program . After downloading and installing the program, open it and choose Convert Image. Then you must specify the path of the BIN file whose format you want to convert to ISO, then choose ISO from the list of available formats and start the conversion process.

Convert RAR file to ISO


This can be done through the same previous program, ISO Workshop . The program allows you to convert many formats to and from ISO, as well as deal with ISO files and perform all the tasks we mentioned in this article.

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