This free program for Windows lets you create a virtual CD drive on your hard disk. Some visitors to the site have confirmed the virtual CD software also works with Windows 2000, even though it was designed specifically to run on Windows XP only (Windows 2000 support is not stated in Microsoft’s official readme). For anyone unfamiliar with the terms ‘virtual CD’ or ‘CD emulator’, they mean that you can copy the entire contents of a CD-ROM to your hard disk and run the programs or access the files without the need for the original CD to be in the drive. This can make files more accessible, faster and more convenient. Given the speed and size of today’s hard drives, you could easily fit a large number of CDs onto your hard drive without noticing the difference. Assuming you had 30 full CDs, these would take around 20GB on a hard drive and all will be accessible after a few clicks of a mouse.
Apart from the convenience, a virtual CD gives you faster access speed. Hard drives are about 10 times faster than a CD, plus you can instantly access the files through the virtual CD instead of grabbing the CD case, inserting the CD and awaiting for the contents to load. It’s true, you could try copying the files over to the hard drive, but this can get messy, plus some programs require a CD to be loaded in order to run. This virtual CD program ‘pretends’ it is a CD drive (even though the files are on your hard drive), so your programs will run as normal.
As mentioned above, this program is free, and it is absolutely tiny at just 0.06MB. There are many similar commercial programs around, but they will set you back $50-$100 and can be substantially larger.
There are three tricks with this free emulator:
- It only runs on XP and unofficially Windows 2000.
- Your CDs have to be converted to ISO files. That is not as hard as it sounds. Programs like Nero can do it, but there is another free tool for XP that will let you create ISO files in a flash. For more information see http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com
- Most types of copy protected CDs cannot be used by the emulator.