Tired of scratching all of your discs every time you fling them about your desk after an install? Want to pull of your favorite online services--Google Mail, Google Picasa, Amazon S3--directly into Windows explorer, bypassing the need to log into them from a Web site? Want an easy way for compressing the contents of your folders into a single mountable source, and beyond that, a way to mount up to 20 of these at once? It's mount week at Maximum PC's freeware... repository... feature... thing. We're going to take a look at five different programs that will make your optical drive quiver with fear, your Internet connection explode, and your general computing life much easier.
What it does: Here's the deal. Using a variety of image backup programs, you can rip the contents of your CDs--applications, games, music, movies, whatever--and package them into single files, commonly with a .iso extension. Daemon Tools runs in the system tray of your PC allows you to create virtualized optical drives. You can then load these packaged files into the program, which will then display the CD's contents on this virtualized drive. Your computer will think it's an actual CD that you've loaded into the drive. This leaves you free to install programs, run the application, watch your movie, and much more! It's a great technique if you're getting worried about scratching your physical CDs left and right.
What it does: Programs like Daemon Tools use the SPTD access layer to make your virtual devices work. But installing these drivers can sometimes wreck other burning applications on your PC, like iTunes. Worse yet, these programs are completely unsupported thus far in the new Windows 7 Beta. That's why we like Virtual CloneDrive. It's not as feature-rich as Daemon Tools, but it makes for an easy way for mounting simple images to virtual optical drives without mucking up the rest of your system.
What it does: Alright, crazy person. Are the "limited" number of mountable drives provided by Daemon Tools and Virtual CloneDrive not enough for you? Consider ISODisk the Gatling gun of file mounting applications. You can run up to 20 virtualized drives at once, perfect if you want to... uh. Okay, we're not really sure why you would ever wan to run 20 virtualized drive at once. But if you can find a means, than this program is the method to your madness. Our single caveat is that it doesn't seem to work well with Windows Vista x64. Sorry, power-Vista users: No 20 virtualized drives for you!
What it does: This program take the contents of any Windows folder and converts it into a mountable .iso file. It's perfect for organizing your hard drive, especially for the batches of files that you keep on-hand "just in case," but never actually use. Wrap those up into a mountable .iso, which will take far less time to mount and copy from than if you were to wrap your files up in a .zip or .rar archive. Better yet, you can burn these .iso files to discs any time you want!
What it does: Since we're on the subject of mounting, Gladinet is the application of choice for the prolific online services user. This program takes Cloud drives from services like Google Docs, Windows Live Skydrive, and Amazon S3, slapping them into Windows Explorer as if they were drives physically attached to you rPC. Forever remove Web interfaces from your life and access your files using the same ol' drag-and-drop interface you've grown to know and love.