Windows 8 Native Support for ISO Images and VHD Files

Windows 8 features native support for ISO images (ISO-9660 and ISO-13346) and VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) files. This means that users running the next major iteration of Windows will be able to work with ISO and VHD files directly in Windows Explorer, without requiring any additional software programs or hardware devices.

“With Windows 8 (…) you can simply access the contents of the ISO file without needing to either burn a new disc or to find/download/install additional software just to logically access the ISO,” revealed Rajeev Nagar, a group program manager on our Storage & File Systems team.

VHD images have traditionally required Windows users to download and install a virtualization solution, such as Hyper-V or Virtual PC. Customers had to create a virtual machine and point it to the VHD file, and could only access what was packed inside via the VM.

In the next version of Windows this has changed dramatically, since “accessing a VHD in Windows 8 is as simple as what we’ve done with ISO files,” according to Nagar.

Windows 8 Explorer sports a “mount” option for ISO files right in the new Ribbon / Fluent UI. Alternatively, or double-clicking an ISO file will also mount it, just as it’s the case for leveraging the right-click contextual menu.

“Underneath the covers, Windows seamlessly creates a “virtual” CDROM or DVD drive for you on-the-fly so you can access your data. 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,” Nagar explained.

All mounted ISO images can be ejected also via the new Windows 8 Explorer UI, when users are done working with the file, causing the associated virtual drive to disappear.

Working with VHD images will be just as simple and intuitive, but Windows 8 will not represent mounted Virtual Hard Disks as removable drives but rather as 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,” Nagar added.

“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.”

I for one love the idea of native support for ISO and VHD files in Windows 8. How about you?

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