Yesterday, Nick listed what he considers as the best Blu-ray burners and players. I’m thinking this a great opportunity to talk a little bit about disk images, which you may not know much about.
Basically, a disk image contains all the data and structure from a device such as a hard drive, a CD or DVD. It can be a backup of somebody’s disk, a copy of a DVD, or just any collection of data that’s been saved. The real trouble with disk images though is the sheer number of formats they can appear as: ISO, BIN, CUE, NRG, CCD, BWI, MDF, CIF….there’s almost too many to name.
If you’re lucky enough to have a program already associated with these files then you won’t have to worry about how to open them. Otherwise, double clicking on your disk image will bring up the infamous ‘Windows cannot open this file” popup, which is pretty much useless in helping you find the application that will open up the troublesome file.
To make things even worse, many disk image formats are proprietary, which means they’ll only work with a specific application, just like .NRG does with Nero Burning Rom, .CCD with Clone CD, .BWI with BlindWrite, .CIF with Roxio Easy Media Creator and .MDF with Alcohol 120%, to name a few.
The most common disk image format around is .ISO, which is generally an optical disk image, hence why you usually find it in CDs or DVDs. Still, .ISOs can be composed of literally any file, folder or physical media. You may also, although more rarely, find applications as .ISO files. Programs like MagicISO Maker or WinISO or most compression utilities can open up .ISOs.
.CUE/.BIN is also a very common format. The .BIN archive contains all the data stored on an optical disk in raw, while the .CUE file simply describes the data in your .BIN file. .CUEs are generally just text files. Most CD/DVD burning programs can normally open or create .CUE/.BIN files.
When you come across a disk image, don’t panic. If it’s there, that generally means you have the associated application to work with it in the first place. If not, try to find out if it is proprietary, in which case you’ll have to install the program it works with. As last resort, and if you’ve come across a really weird disk image type, try prying it open with a good compression utility like WinRAR.