Five Best Disk Image Tools

Disk image tools allow you to take physical discs and drives—DVDs, hard drives, and other media—and turn them into virtual images for ease of storage and manipulation. Here's a look at five of the most popular disk image tools.

DAEMON Tools (Windows; Lite: Free, Pro: $US100)

Disk image emulator DAEMON Tools comes in several flavors, including Lite, Pro and Pro Advanced, with each version building on the feature set of the last. The basic Lite version is quite a bargain with a free-as-in-beer price tag. You can backup disc images, mount up to 4 virtual drives simultaneously (additional drive mounting is one of the upgrade perks) get quick access to your virtual drives from the system tray, mount images directly from Windows Explorer, and interact with your disk image collection from the DAEMON tools desktop widget. DAEMON Tools supports both local and network mounting.

Alcohol 52% (Windows, $US27)

Alcohol 52% is the baby brother of Alcohol Soft's flagship product, Alcohol 120%. The principle difference between the two: Alcohol 52% doesn't include any disc burning software. Alcohol 52% does, however, include Alcohol's excellent CD and DVD drive emulation tools. The app supports up to 31 simultaneous virtual drives, is optimised for speedy playback—making it a popular choice for playing games off virtual discs—and can emulate and read dozens of drive and image combinations. Alcohol 52% supports both local and network mounting.

Virtual CloneDrive (Windows, Free)

Virtual CloneDrive (VCD) is a free offering from SlySoft, the company behind popular disc-related products such as AnyDVD and CloneDVD. VCD supports up to 8 simultaneous virtual drives and supports common image formats such as ISO, BIN, and CCD. Once installed VCD integrates with your Windows shell, so mounting an image file is as simple as double-clicking on the file. Virtual CloneDrive supports both local and network mounting.

PowerISO (Windows, $US29.95)

PowerISO goes beyond simply mounting and unmounting of your virtual drives. You can extract ISO files, make bootable ISO images (or examine and extra boot information from an existing bootable ISO), and even optimise your ISO file to save space while preserving its integrity. PowerISO includes Windows shell and context menu integration, ISO creation from physical discs, and conversion between image formats. It also supports both local and network mounting.

MagicISO (Windows, $US29.95)

MagicISO is a disk image tool with an emphasis on start-to-finish image manipulation. You can extract disk images from physical discs, convert between formats, and work within your disk image as though it were an active drive instead of a static image. MagicISO includes a disc burning tool with support for multi-boot images (you could, for example, put three Linux install images on one master DVD). MagicISO integrates with Windows Explorer for easy drag-and-drop file swapping between virtual discs and your physical drives. MagicISO supports both local and network mounting.

Have a favourite app that didn't get a nod? Let's hear about it in the comments.


    It's worth noting that Vista and 7 come with a decent imager built in -- accessible through the backup/restore area of the control panel.

    I tend to use InfraRecorder, a cd/dvd burning app - it's free and open source but can only image cds/dvds.

    I can then open/modify the images it creates with 7-zip (open source to)

    For hard drives I like to use CloneZilla, works really well, easy to use - free and open source aswell

    no mac disk image tools reviewed?.. oh yeah that's right.. it's already incorporated into the OS!

      Can I see a preview of that window?

    How can you leave ImgBurn off this list?

    It's lightweight, open source and awesome.

      I agree -- ImgBurn and Virtual CloneDrive, together, make a mean duo, and do virtually everything I need in the way of creating and mouting images.

      yeah! I was just about to say. Where is ImgBurn???
      You could leave one of the bottom two off as they pretty much do the same thing, and replace it with one of the best free DVD and BluRay imaging tools ever!

      yep. Imgburn is a significant omission. Dont know what these guys were thinking to have left it off the list...

        For the information of everyone wondering about ImgBurn: Hive Five selections are based on reader votes on the US site. While it has also been mentioned in the commnents stateside, it clearly didn't attract as many reader votes initially. Them's the breaks sometimes.

    I like mount

    I am a fan of Ultra ISO. Mainly for the fact it can inject files into ISO images (even UDF images).

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