Apps Gadgets

Use CDs in a PC with no optical drives

This is an old trick, but an useful one especially for new PCs & Tablets which don’t come with optical drives to read CDs or DVDs. The other day my son brought a book with a CD of “The Human Body” and wanted to know how he can use it in his laptop.


His laptop being one of the new convertibles (Tablet and PC) doesn’t have an optical drive and it was running Windows 8.1 Update (what else you will expect in my house). First I tried copying the entire contents of the CD to a folder in a USB thumb drive, copied it to the laptop, tried launching from the copy. As suspected it didn’t work, complaining it needed the CD to be present to execute properly. This meant I needed to have the exact binary of the CD content available in a drive letter in the PC.

The only PC I have in my house with Optical Drive was my iMac. I have an utility there called Burn. This free open source app allows you to Burn Data files to a Disc, Burn Audio CDs, Burn Video CD/DVDs and do an exact copy of your Disc into a file (ISO image). The copied file (ISO)  can then be burned back to a Disc using the same program.

For PCs running Windows, you can this other app called IMGBURN which is free too and one I have been using for years in my Windows PCs.

Once you have downloaded and installed Burn or IMGBurn as appropriate run them and follow the instructions to make an ISO file of the CD drive. I just did that for “The Human Body” CD. Copied the file through a USB flash drive to my son’s laptop. Since the laptop was running Windows 8, I had to just double-click on the ISO file, which instantly mounted the file as a drive letter (in my case F:\). I navigated to F:\, double click on the setup.exe and installed the CD, then ran the app. It worked fine now.

If your PC is running older versions of Windows, like Windows 7/Vista/XP you can use these programs to mount the ISO file as a drive: Official Microsoft Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel or Slysoft Virtual CloneDrive (my favourite).