One useful but relatively overlooked feature of Microsoft's latest operating systems is the ability to burn disk images on CDs and DVDs without having to install additional software. For this task, Windows 7 offers a small tool named Windows Disc Image Burner which is included in all versions, while Windows 8 simply builds the function into File Explorer. In this article I will share what disk images are, which formats are supported and how to burn disk images using both Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as the Command Prompt.
What Is a Disk Image & Why Is It Useful?
For those of you not familiar with the term, disk images are digital copies of a disc (CD, DVD or Blu-ray), that keep the same structure and contents. These disk image files can have many formats and file extensions, the most common being IMG and ISO.
They are useful when you need to backup media such as installation discs, data discs, etc. By making a disc image, you can easily copy it over to another disc which can be used in case the original gets deteriorated. You can also use third-party software, or Windows 8's File Explorer to mount the image in a virtual drive. This virtually mounted image would then function exactly the same as a physical disc in your drive.
For more information about mounting disc images, check out our article here: Introducing Windows 8: Mount or Unmount ISO Images in File Explorer.
If you want to know which applications can create disk images, read the following tutorials:
- How to Copy a Disc (CD, DVD or Blu-Ray) in Windows
- How to Make a Backup Copy of a Protected Disc (DVD or Blu-Ray)
What Kind of Image Files Can I Burn?
Currently Windows Disc Image Burner supports only the two most common formats: IMG and ISO disk image files.
Do You Need to Burn Discs with Other Types of Files: Pictures, Video, Music, etc?
If you have arrived to this page while trying to find a way to burn videos, music or data to a disc, this tutorial will not help you. Try these tutorials instead:
- How to Burn CDs and DVDs in Windows Media Player 12 - to learn how to burn music and different types of audio files to a disc.
- How to Burn DVD's with Windows DVD Maker - to learn how to burn pictures, movies and audio to your DVDs, straight from Windows 7, without installing any special software for this task.
- How to Burn Files and Folders to a Disc in Windows Explorer - the guide was created using Windows 7. However, the burning process works almost the same in Windows 8.
How to Burn an Image With Windows Disc Image Burner in Windows 7
First, navigate to the ISO or IMG image file you want to burn, right click on it and select Burn disc image.
NOTE: If you have third party software installed which has file associations with ISO or IMG files, you will find Windows Disc Image Burner in the Open with menu.
The Windows Disc Image Burner application will now open. You can choose which disk burner to use, if you have more than one, in the Disc burner drop-down list. To double check that the burning process was successful, you can select the option "Verify disc after burning". Insert a disc in your DVD or CD burner, wait for a few seconds and click on Burn.
The application will detect the disc type and, if the disc is rewritable and has content on it, it will show a warning message allowing you to choose between deleting the existing content or not. Once the burning process starts, there is no percentage progress meter. There's only a green progress bar.
After the burning process finishes, the DVD/CD tray will automatically open and you will see a confirmation message if the burning process was successful.
To exit the application, click Close.
How to Burn an ISO File to a Disc in Windows 8
To burn your ISO file to disc in Windows 8, right-click or long-press the file in File Explorer and click or tap Burn disc image.
NOTE: If a third-party application is installed that handles ISO or IMG files in your system, you'll need to reassociate File Explorer for this to work. This article explains the procedure in detail.
You can also use the ribbon interface which is new in Windows 8 to burn an image file. Select your disc image file, select the Manage tab on the ribbon and click or tap Burn.
The Windows Disc Image Burner will then launch and select your default disc burning drive to use for the procedure. If you'd rather select another drive, you can choose it from the Disc burner drop-down list at the top of the window.
After selecting your drive, choose whether or not to verify your disc after burning. For a simple program or video it isn't really worth the time to verify, but if you're burning something like a Linux operating system that you intend to install to a computer, verifying that there are no errors could prevent some serious problems during the installation.
Then, click or tap Burn and wait for the process to end. After the burning process finishes, the DVD/CD tray will automatically open and you will see a confirmation message if the burning process was successful.
To exit the application, click or tap Close .
How to Burn an Image from the Command Line
If you prefer the command line, you can use it to burn an ISO or IMG image file in either Windows 7 or 8. First, open the Command Prompt . To learn how to access it, check this article: 7 Ways to Launch the Command Prompt in Windows 7 & Windows 8.
You can start the burning process using the following command and parameters:
isoburn.exe /q [the CD/DVD writing drive] .
For example, I had to burn the ubuntu.iso file, found on my F: drive, in the test image folder. The drive of my DVD writer is I:. To burn that iso file, I have to write the following command:
isoburn.exe /q I: "F:\test image\ubuntu.iso".
The command is not case sensitive which means that it doesn't matter if the image or folder name has capital letters or not. After you write the command, press Enter and the Windows Disc Image Burner opens, performing the burning process automatically.
Unfortunately, in the Command Prompt, you cannot set Windows Disc Image Burner to verify the disc after the burning process.
This tool is perfect for occasional burning of image files to a CD, DVD or Blu-ray. While there are third-party applications that offer tons of bells and whistles, this utility is simple to use and built right into your operating system. Though we recommend its use for 99% of users, those who work extensively with image file type other than ISO or IMG will still need to seek elsewhere.
For other tools that can be used to burn files on CD or DVD, check out our recommendations below.