Windows 8 will let you open and view ISO and VHD files all on its own, according to the latest "Building Windows 8" blog from Microsoft.
Posted yesterday by Microsoft engineer Rajeev Nagar, the new blog post, titled "Accessing data in ISO and VHD files," revealed that native support for ISO and VHD files was one feature often requested by users, prompting the company to add it to its upcoming OS.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) files are image files that hold the contents of a CD or DVD. Large programs available for download through the Internet are increasingly being created as ISO files. For example, the programs that Microsoft offers through its TechNet subscriptions are packaged as ISO files.
With Windows 7 and prior Windows versions, you're forced to burn an ISO file to a CD or DVD in order to install the program stored within that file. Of course, many users rely on third-party ISO utilities instead to work past the limitations in Windows. Virtual CloneDrive and are two utilities that can "mount" ISO files so that the OS can see them as disk drives, letting you directly install the program.
But Windows 8 will natively support the ability to mount ISO files. Double-clicking on the file will automatically mount it so that it appears as a virtual disk drive. From there, you can click on the drive in Windows Explorer to view the contents of the ISO file and install the software it contains.
VHD files are virtual hard disk files often used to store an entire operating system, applications, and files. As Nagar explains, "VHDs are handy for portability of system settings or to play back what has been saved as a snapshot of a system."
VHD files can be read by Microsoft's own Virtual PC and products and can be used to boot up a virtual operating system from Windows 7 or Windows Server R2 machines.
But as with ISO files, Windows 7 and prior OS versions lack the ability to read the contents of a VHD file. Windows 8 will let you read those contents by creating a virtual disk drive of the file. By clicking on the VHD's virtual drive in Windows Explorer, you'll be able to view its files and even modify, add, or remove files, according to Nagar.