Using ISO CD Images with Windows – Burn.Now problems

When CD-R drives first turned up you needed special software to write anything – originally produced by Adaptec but they were soon overtaken by Nero, with NTI and Ulead having lower cost options. Now, when you get a PC it will usually come with one of the above bundled, and Microsoft has added the functionally to Windows since XP (for CD, if not DVD). This is not good news for the independent producers, but Microsoft’s offering doesn’t quite cut the mustard, so most people will want something better.

My new Lenovo PC came bundled with Corel Burn.Now. Corel recently bought the struggling Ulead, and this is fundamentally the same product as Ulead Unfortunately Burn.Now is also pretty feeble – it just can’t do the basics.

To duplicate a CD you need to copy all the data on it. Pretty obvious really. If you’re not copying drive-to-drive it makes sense to copy the data to a .ISO image on your hard disk. You can then transfer it to another machine, back it up or whatever; and write it to a new blank disk later. Burn.Now will create a CD from an ISO image, but if you ask it to copy a disk it uses its own weird and whacky .ixb format. Some versions of Burn.Now gave you the choice, but not the new Corel. It’s .ixb or nothing. This matters, because whilst everyone can write .ISO files, only Burn.Now can write from  .IXB format.

Burn.Now is crippled. What about Microsoft’s current built-in options? You can actually write an ISO image using Windows 7 – just right-click on the file and select “Burn disc image”. Unfortunately there is no way to create such a file with Windows. To do this you need add Alex Feinman’s excellent ISO Recorder, which basically does the opposite: Right-click on the CD drive and select Create Image from CD/DVD.

Unfortunately ISO Recorder doesn’t read all disks – it won’t handle Red Book for a start. This is a bit of a limitation – was its author, Mr Feinman concerned about music piracy? Given Windows Media Player can clone everything on an Audio CD without difficulty, his conciousness efforts won’t make a lot of difference.

So – Windows is its usual painful self. If you just want to simply create an image of a CD or DVD with no bells and whistles, go to UNIX where it’s been “built in” since the 1980’s (when CD-ROMs first appeared). Just use the original “dd” command:

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# dd if=/dev/acd0 of=my-file-name.iso bs=2048

An ISO file is simply a straight copy of the data on the disk, so this will create one for you. You can write it back using:

# burncd -f /dev/acd0 data my-file-name.iso fixate
# cdrecord dev=1,2,3 my-file-name.iso

Burncd is built in to FreeBSD (and Linux, IIRC), but only works with atapi drives. In the example it assumes the CD recorder is on /dev/acd0 (actually the default).

Cdrecord works with non atapi drives to, but has to be built from ports on FreeBSD and for other platforms it’s available here – along with lots of other good stuff. The example assumes the device is 1,2,3 – which is unlikely! Run cdrecord -scanbus to locate the parameters for your drive.

Once you have your ISO file, of course, you could use Windows to write it. The choice depends on whether you have strongly held views on whether Windows is a worthy desktop operating system. Corel Burn.Now is, however, a long way from being a worth CD/DVD writing utility.