Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Using .BIN, .ISO And Virtual CD Drives

An image of a CD may be stored as a file in several different formats. Here's what they are and how to manipulate them, assuming you are running Windows XP.

This article will answer several key questions:
1. How do I recreate a missing .CUE file?
2. How do I convert from .BIN to .ISO?
3. How do I directly access a .BIN as a virtual CD?

The first common format involves two files. The .BIN is a large binary image of the disc. The .CUE is a small text file describing this image. If this happens to be missing, you can create your own using any text editor. For a PC simply put in the following, verbatim except for the file name:
FILE "filename.BIN" BINARY
TRACK 01 MODE1/2352
INDEX 01 00:00:00

The other popular format for a disk image is an .ISO file.

If you need to convert a .BIN file to an .ISO, use this conversion programme from WeetHet.nl, the website of a Dutch IT Manager.

There are further formats specific to one software product or another: .IMG, .MDF, .NRG and so on.

CD image files were meant for one simple purpose: from them you can directly burn a CD, without your software having to compile together multiple files, a directory structure, etc. Most CD burning software will handle this task.

But often you might wish to access the files on the image directly, without wasting a blank CD. For this task you need some sort of virtual CD product. There are three free choices.

The first is provided by Microsoft themselves, but is unsupported and only described in the FAQ for their MSDN product. The question "What are ISO image files and how do I use them?" links to their Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel.

The second, Daemon Tools, is commonly used by game hackers, since it gets around certain copy protection schemes.

The third is Virtual CloneDrive, a free product from the company SlySoft, who make a variety of (commercial) disk burning products.

I tried the last of these. When you run it, the result is a new drive with a cute sheep icon. The context menu gives you a "mount" option, from which you pick the .BIN in question. The drive then appears like any other. It even gave me a "drive not ready" error before it read the data!

From there you can drag and drop the data off the "disk". Simple.

One small note. Though you can unmount the disk after use, there appears to be no way to unload the virtual drive software itself.


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