Just a few hours back, Microsoft posted about improvements in Windows 8 Explorer:
Now its time to talk about another interesting feature in Windows 8. Microsoft has posted about native support for mounting ISO and VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) files in Windows 8.
Here is what the official announcement says:
In continuing with the improvements in core Windows functionality and also oft-requested features, Microsoft is adding native Explorer support for ISO and VHD files in Windows 8.
Windows 8 enables easy access to the contents of two important storage formats, ISO and VHD files. While we generally think of these formats when they appear on media, they are also very useful as files within a file system and that is where native support in Explorer comes in handy.
Working with ISO Files:
An ISO file is simply a disc image stored as a file, composed of all of the contents of a CDROM or DVD disc. You can also think of an ISO file as a full-fidelity image (digital copy) of the optical disc.
ISO files are used by vendors to distribute software. Backup applications also store content in the ISO format and many utilities allow creation of an ISO file from existing CDROM or DVD media. Once created, these files can be sent around, downloaded, and stored just like any other file – however, before you can access the photos, video, applications, documents, or other content contained within the ISO file, you either have to "burn" the ISO file to a writable optical disc or download and install software that allows you to "mount" and access the ISO file contents directly (i.e. without burning).
With Windows 8, Microsoft has eliminated this last step – you can simply access the contents of the ISO file without needing either needing to burn a new disc or needing to find/download/install additional software just to logically access the ISO.
So how does this work in Windows 8? It's quite simple – just "mount" the ISO file (you can select mount from the enhanced Explorer ribbon or double-click or right-click on the file), and a new drive letter appears, indicating that the contents are now readily accessible. Underneath the covers, Windows seamlessly creates a "virtual" CDROM or DVD drive for you on-the-fly so you can access your data.
To mount the ISO, you can either double click the file or click Mount on the Actions tab.
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.
Once you are done using the ISO, you can (virtually) "eject" it, and the virtual drive disappears.
Accessing ISO files has now become a snap with Windows 8. Regardless of whether you have an optical drive accessible to you or not, accessing your data is never a problem.
Working with VHD Files:
Virtual Hard Disks are the format used by Virtualization software Hyper-V or Virtual PC. The Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format is a publicly-available 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. The VHD format is used by Hyper-V to store information for Virtual Machines.
Accessing a VHD in Windows 8 is as simple as what is done with ISO files, but there is one important difference: rather than appearing as a removable drive (as is the case with ISO), VHDs appear as new hard drives.
Underneath the covers, Windows provides a virtual drive letter pointing to the volume within the VHD.
You can then work with the virtual hard disk just like any other file storage in your system, whether you are modifying, adding or removing files.
Once you've finished working with the VHD, like an ISO, you can right-click it and click Eject (or just use the Eject button on the ribbon). Any changes you've made remain saved within the file.
Thanks to our reader "Aaron Wright" for sharing the news...
If you want to have a similar feature in Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, Server 2003 or Server 2008, you can use following freeware: