Microsoft details new Windows 8 capabilities, accessing ISO and VHD files

Microsoft is adding more functionality to Explorer in Windows 8. On Tuesday the company is announcing improvements for data access in ISO and VHD files.

When was the last time you used a CDROM or DVD in your computer? Are you seeing that optical drivers are disappearing from laptops? This time around Microsoft is noticing this and now Windows 8 will enable users to easily access to content stored in storage formats such as, ISO and VHD files.

Accessing data in ISO files

To get everyone in the same page, ISO file is a simple disc image stored as a file, composed of all the contents of a CDROM or DVD disc — virtual optical disc if you will –. You can think of an ISO file as a full-fidelity image (digital copy) of the physical disc.

So what is new and how this will work in the new operating system? You may ask. Many times you had to get third-party software to do this work, e.g., WinCDEmu, now in Windows 8 this feature comes integrated without the need of installing any extra software. The way it works is easy — “mount” the ISO file by double-clicking or right-clicking on the file, or using the Mount option in the Windows Explorer ribbon. Once you do one of those actions, Windows seamlessly creates in the background a virtual CDROM or DVD drive on the fly, and a new drive letter will appear, which indicates that the data stored in the ISO file is now accessible.

The biggest benefits of ISO files are that they eliminate the need to have a physical discs and they are easier to distribute.

In a new entry from Building Windows 8 blog Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s Windows Chief, walks you through the flow that will enable you to access an ISO file:

“As you see in the figure below, we have three ISO files in a local folder. The one we will work with contains the (legally obtained) Office application suite. To mount the ISO, you can either double click the file or click Mount on the Actions tab.”

Windows 8 - Mount ISO file

“Once you mount the ISO, a new drive letter appears for the virtual CDROM/DVD drive that Windows seamlessly creates. The contents of the ISO are accessible just as they would have been had you inserted the CD/DVD media into a physical optical drive. Only, operating on the contents happens at the speed of your hard drive, not an optical drive.”

Windows 8 - Mounted ISO appears as a new drive letter

“Once you are done using the ISO, you can (virtually) “eject” it, and the virtual drive disappears.”

Windows 8 - Virtually ejecting an ISO file

And that is how easy will be accessing an ISO file on Windows 8!

Accessing data a VHD file

Another improvement in Windows 8 is a much easier access to a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) file. This file format is used by Microsoft virtualization solutions, Hyper-V and Virtual PC in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 to store information for Virtual Machines.

VHD is a “image format specification that allows encapsulation of the hard disk into an individual file for use by the operating system, as a virtual disk in all the same ways physical hard disks are used.” – Sinofsky explains.

Working with a VHD file is same as working with an ISO file with the difference that a VHD file will appear under the Hard Disk Drives section as a new hard drive.

Windows 8 - Accessing a VHD file

As you can see, Windows will also provide a drive letter for the VHD file.

Windows 8 - VHD file appears as a hard drive

Once the virtual hard drive is mounted, you can work as if it was a normal hard drive. When you are done you can simply right-click it and select Eject, or you can just click the Eject button in the ribbon.

Windows 8 - Ejecting the VHD file

Source Building Windows 8 Blog

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He is also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.