How to create a virtual CD drive on your Mac

November 30, 2008

If you have ever lost a disc, wanted to make a backup of expensive new software like Rosetta Stone or Adobe products, or needed to do some simple file conversions, you have needed a virtual disc drive. There are ways to handle this problem on your Mac, some involving downloading free or low cost software to do the job and some using existing tools, depending on your experience level.

Beginner

The easiest thing to do to solve your dilemma is to download a free or low cost program to handle creating the virtual CD or DVD drive for you. There are a few out there that will help you based on specific needs. Some are meant for music backups and restoration purposes, some for video or data.

The most popular of these is M4P Converter. M4P Converter is intended to help you make backups of your iTunes library without burning actual disks. It is handy for making sure you have an mp3 file for every song, just in case something happens to your computer, external drive or online storage. M4P Converter shows up as a virtual CD drive in iTunes and on your hard drive, but it only works for music files.

Intermediate

If you don’t just want to search Mac Downloads on CNET for the application specific to one need, like .mp3 backups, you can create and mount your own ISO disc images. There are a variety of ways to do this. If you already have an ISO file made, you can mount it right in the Disk Utility of your Mac’s OS. Just drag and drop the ISO icon into the sidebar of the Disk Utility window.

If you don’t have an ISO already made, you can make your own using a program for that purpose, then mount it in Disk Utility or another program. My favorite program for this problem is Roxio Toast Titanium, currently on version 9.x. You can make an ISO in Toast then mount it in either Toast or Disk Utility and use it as you would any normal CD or DVD. If you are a bit more advanced you can try using MacFuse as well.

Advanced

Using Terminal to mount an existing ISO is one way to go. I would not recommend Terminal use for the inexperienced or the faint of heart, as this is the easiest way to bork your Mac somehow. If you use Terminal, just use the mount command right from the Terminal window and point it to the name of the ISO.

For the truly geeky out there you can use I/O Kit framework to develop your own virtual drive. This is a bit above my pay grade (I am not a programmer) but a few links to get you started with this are:

I/O Kit Fundamentals

I/O Kit Device Driver Guidelines

Kernel Extension Programming Tools

However you choose to solve your problem, there is really no one-two-three style solution if you need a virtual CD drive for any reason. If you have a solution other than the ones above, please add it to the comments – I am always eager to learn new tricks and tips that I may not have explored yet.

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