Question: "Windows 7: how to play .iso files without burning them to DVD? – Is there a way to play iso files without first wasting DVDs burning them?"

Do you have a hard drive full of ripped movies in ISO file format? Are you looking for an easy way to play ISO file in Windows Media Center or other media players on your Windows computer? Or, are you looking for a free ISO player and solutions on how to play ISO files on PC? Such problems are quite common online. Many people would suggest these question askers to mount ISO files to a virtual drive and then search online for software to play back these ISO files. This guide would show you how to play ISO files on PC in different ways.

Part 1: About ISO Image File

What is ISO image file? How to play ISO files? Files with .iso extension are commonly used nowadays but still many PC users do not know what an ISO file is or what to do with one. ISO files are simply a way of packaging a lot of files and folders together into a single file with the file extension ISO. The easiest way to think of an ISO file is more like a .zip or .cab archive file, only without the compression.

Technically speaking, an ISO file, often called an ISO image, is a single file that’s a perfect copy of an entire CD, DVD, or BD disc. The entire contents of a disc can be precisely duplicated into a single ISO file.

Think of an ISO file like a box that holds all the parts to something that needs built – like a child’s toy you might buy that requires assembly. The box that the toy pieces come in does you no good as an actual toy but the contents inside of it, once taken out and put together, become what you’re actually wanting to use. An ISO file works in much the same way. The file itself is no good unless it can be opened, assembled, and used.

ISO image icon

All ISO images end in the file extension ISO, and are often used to distribute large programs over the Internet due to the fact that all of the program’s files can be neatly contained as a single file.

The most common use of an image file is to write it to a blank writable CD, DVD or Blu-ray disc, resulting in an identical copy of the original disc including file name and volume label information. ISO image files may also be opened and their contents copied to a local folder, much like ZIP files. ISO files may also be virtually mounted and accessed as a device.

You cannot directly copy and paste the .ISO file to the blank writable DVD/Blu-ray disc for direct playback on DVD/Blu-ray players. You need to have or to install a third party utility that "burns an image to disc".

Part 2: Open ISO File with Un-zipping Apps

Most computers would have certain unzipping apps like WinRAR installed for unzipping downloaded files. To open ISO file, your unzipping apps could also be of great help.

  1. Change the ISO file extension name from ".iso" to ".zip" manually. The system would pop up a notice "If you change a file name extension, the file might become unusable. Are you sure you want to change it?" Click "Yes".
  2. The ISO file would then turn into a zip package. With unzipping apps like WinRAR, you could unzip the package and then choose the file you want to play back with players on your PC.

Part 3: Play ISO File with Free ISO Player

It might be the best way to directly play ISO file on PC with the help of free ISO player. A free ISO player could directly open ISO file free and then play ISO file on PC. Some media players could play ISO file on PC with help of certain addins, while some other advanced media player software could act as a free ISO player to directly open and play ISO file on PC for free, like Leawo Free Blu-ray Player and VLC media player.

Free ISO Player

Part 4. Mount ISO image files

To play back ISO image file, you could mount ISO image file to make it appear as DVD/Blu-ray drive and then you could make use of your DVD/Blu-ray player to play back, just like playing DVD/Blu-ray disc. All you need is actually is an ISO image mounting program and some neccessary add-ins. The below guide shows you how to mount ISO image file for playback on Windows Media Center.

Mounting an ISO Image in Windows 7 or Vista

The utility to use for mounting ISO file on Windows 7/Vita is called Virtual Clone Drive. This utility will let you mount .ISO, .CCD, .DVD, .IMG, .UDF and .BIN files. Download the utility and start the setup process.

Virtual Clone Drive

Select Yes or OK at the hardware prompt and continue. You might have to restart your computer. Now you should be able to mount any ISO image by just double-clicking on the file. You can also right-click on the cd-rom drive to mount or unmount an image.

Mount or unmount ISO

Mounting an ISO Image in Windows 8 or 8.1 or 10

Ever since Windows 8, it’s worth noting that ISO and VHD mounting is built right into the operating system. All you need to do is right-click, double-click, or select and use the Ribbon to Mount an ISO image. It’s just that simple. Once you’ve done so, you’ll see the ISO mounted as a new drive in Computer. You can right-click there to unmount when you’re done.

Part 5. Burn ISO file to Disc

To play ISO file on PC, burning ISO file to DVD/Blu-ray disc and then playing it on DVD/Blu-ray player is widely used, especially for data backup and data transfering. Various ISO image burners could complete this task well. Here we would like to recommend you a powerful 1-click ISO to disc burner program – Leawo Blu-ray Copy.

Reasons to choose Leawo Blu-ray Copy:

1. Bypass any CSS-DVD discs and remove DVD disc region code for easier DVD backup.
2. Quality lossless 1:1 DVD duplication. Copy DVD movies to disc, folder or ISO freely.
3. 1click DVD copy to directly copy and burn ISO to DVD disc in one click.
4. Different copy modes available: Full Movie, Main Movie and Custom Mode.

Things you need to prepare for copying ISO file to disc:

  1. Download and install Leawo Blu-ray Copy on your computer.
  2. Windows Vista, XP, 7, 8, 8.1 or newer versions (Mac OS X 10.6 or newer), with Blu-ray recorder drive installed.
  3. Source ISO image files, and blank writable DVD/Blu-ray disc.
  4. DVD recorder drive (Blu-ray recorder drive required for ISO to Blu-ray disc copy).
  5. Internet connection.

How to copy ISO file to disc:

1. Insert a blank writable disc into the disc recorder drive. Drag and drop your source ISO image file onto Leawo Blu-ray Copy.
2. On the popup "Add iso file" interface, set "Copy to" and "Disc Label" options. Select the disc recorder drive in "Copy to" box.
3. Click the "Burn" button on the "Add iso file" interface to burn ISO file to disc.