Optical drives aren't potatoes. You can't boil them, mash them, or stick 'em in a stew. And by that, I mean there's simply not that much you can do with your average digital coffee holder. Optical drives read CDs. Optical drives write CDs. And... well, unless you have your drive hooked up to some kind of crazy Rube Goldberg device that feeds your guinea pig whenever you eject the tray, there's simply not much else you're going to be able to do with this essential part of your PC. CD goes in; CD goes out--end of story.
Of course, I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with this description. There's a great deal you can do with your optical drive on the software side of things. Here's the problem: There are a ton of different programs out there for ripping, burning, and mounting images, amongst other behaviors. Finding the best-in-class application for your device can be like trying to find a tiny scratch on the bottom of the disc itself--a mind-numbing task that's sure to frustrate you as you sift through the 30 different utilities you've pulled down onto your desktop.
Allow me ease the pain a bit. In this week's freeware files, I'll be taking a look at some of the must-have software to supplement your CD drive. With these five apps, you'll be covered for a wide range of uses--ripping all different kinds of media to your (presumably) terabytes of storage space, burning your own custom discs and presentations based on preexisting files, and converting physical media to digital images that you can pull up off of your hard drive instead of ever having to fiddle with a disc again.
Grab a CD-R coaster for your drink and join me after the jump for all the software goodies!
AutoRun was originally intended to help automatically start programs stored on optical media. However, once USB drives became popular, AutoRun also became a popular way to launch programs from hard disks and thumb drives by working with Windows' built-in AutoPlay functionality. Unfortunately, AutoRun's ability to provide instant launching for programs has also been widely exploited by malware such as the notorious Conficker/Downadup worm and others. Microsoft changed how AutoRun works in Windows 7 RC, but until now, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2003 have been wide open to USB-based AutoRun attacks. To find out how Redmond's reining in AutoRun, join us after the jump.
AutoRun and AutoPlay, Microsoft's "dangerous duo" for launching programs from CD/DVD and other removable media types, have become among malware authors' favorite infection vectors - and Microsoft has finally said, "enough already!"
A research study by Forefront Client Securitycited by the Engineering Windows 7 blog determined that infections that can be started with AutoRun amounted to 17.7% of detected infections in the second half of 2008.
Although AutoRun was originally designed strictly for optical media, it can be used for other types of media. For example, you can create an autorun.inf file that adds the program on the media to the AutoPlay menu Windows displays, and change the default icon to make the malware program mimic a legitimate program. Conficker used this method to spread, as illustrated here.
Starting in Windows 7 RC, Microsoft has changed how both AutoRun and AutoPlay work:
AutoPlay no longer supports AutoRun on non-optical removable media. An autorun.inf file on a USB or other type of non-optical removable media will be disregarded. Only AutoPlay options that pertain to the types of files on the media will be listed.
When AutoPlay displays programs present on the media, the dialog now states that those programs will be run from the media.
To learn more about these changes, and to find out what other Microsoft operating systems will eventually get similar protection, join us after the jump.