What Is ISO Format?

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Commercial CDs and DVDs have software and other data that is contained in a format called ISO. ISO refers to International Organization for Standardization, the group that created the format.

ISO Structure

  • An ISO is the entire "image" of a program or operating system that is contained on the disk and designed to facilitate installation of that software. It contains not only the software data, but the structure of the data's organization.

ISO Behavior

  • Programs are not typically run directly from an ISO, but installed from it. This installation creates folders on the hard drive to store temporary data and files created by the person who is using the program (like documents and spreadsheets).

ISO Management

  • If you have an ISO on your computer, it must be either burned onto a CD to allow installation, or "mounted" using a virtual drive. This virtual drive makes your computer see the ISO as a disc that has been inserted into an optical drive.

ISOs and Installation

  • Simply copying the ISO image to a CD will not allow you to install the ISO. It must be burned specifically as an ISO image to establish the proper file structure that will be recognized by your operating system as installable software.

USB Thumb Drives

  • Some ISOs can be imaged onto a USB thumb drive instead. Then you can install from this drive, or use it as a boot device.

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