General discussion

Is it possible to convert CD software to flash drives?

To reduce physical space, is it advisable or a mistake or impossible to convert software programs contained on CDs to a flash drive? I have accumulated approximately 250 CDs and DVDs in large toolboxes and this could be reduced to a few thumb drives. One reason I'm asking though, I have several programs that will not run unless the CD is inserted in the PC's CD drive, as they did not ever allow for an installation onto any hard drive. If I copied the CD contents to a flash drive, will I have to insert the flash drive every time to run the program or will it not run at all? By the same token, if such a program were contained on a flash drive containing other adjacent programs, will everything on that flash drive refuse to run in the future? I only have one experience with this 20 years ago and moving contents of a software program and its files and installers from its original CD to an external hard drive resulted in not only a refusal to install but an error message saying, "Insert CD to install program," "Insert CD to run program," "Insert CD to access program." When is a CD as a storage device not a storage device? When a manufacturer has installed something on the CD that forces an installer to look for a CD to install from? Am I stuck lugging these toolboxes of CDs around the remainder of my life? Or is there an alternative solution to this? Thank you.

--Submitted by Charles V.

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Yes, but ...

Yes, you can create ISO images of folders, CDs, DVDs using ImgBurn, unless they are copy protected. Those ISO images can be stored on your hard drive or on flash drives or even SD cards. You can mount the images in Windows and they act just like the original CD, DVD, etc.

But, I must ask, what kind of software do you have on all those CDs and DVDs and how old is it?Is there enough time in the world to deal with all that? Maybe it's just time to invest in some new software with the same or more/better capabilities that will install on your system.

I'm just sayin' ...

Bob

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Beware of how you will mount them if you make them ISOs

In the previous post, Bob makes a good point. Is all of that software you have in the toolboxes still valid? But he was correct about converting them to ISO images. Just be careful that you also have an ability to mount an ISO. In Win7 you have to do it with 3rd party software. Fortunately Windows 10 just lets you mount it.

From a speed issue converting them to ISOs and putting them either on jump drives or portable drives (all 3.0) and you will see a big jump in performance when you have to use them. But also keeping track of the authentication keys can become an issue as well. So assuming your software is till valid make yourself an Iso folder on your drive(s) and a authentication file to store your keys (you can keep them together but that gets awkward fast. so either store iso and key in a unique folder or isos in one folder and keys in different one.)

Hope that helps.
CBNAX

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Some can be stored on a flash drive

I know about the frustration with older CDs that want to run from the CD only. I hate that situation.

If they are just software CDs that do not require that the CD be present, then your best bet is to create ISO files and store them wherever you like so that you have backups. You can also copy the files to folders on your flash drives. Try this method first to see if it works. Don't forget to also make backups of the ISO files so that you do not lose the software if a file becomes corrupted or if they accidentally get deleted.

As mentioned, most that must run from the CD can be converted into ISO files and run in a virtual CD drive. This is the next thing to try. Also make sure that you back up those ISO files.

I do have one that would only run from a CD. You may encounter this occasionally. I made an ISO anyway in case the CD was lost or broken. I haven't ever had to try it, but it is there if I need it.

You might also check to see if there are free or reasonably priced substitutes for the CD-based software available. It is worth looking.

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It is Possibe...With Some Exceptions

Hi Charles

250 CD’s /DVD’s is a lot of plastic. Whew! Not to be rude but I’d be curious know....are you saying you have that many individual programs or are some so large they require more than one CD? In either case you seriously need to consider what programs you actually use versus those you haven’t visited in several years. The latter may be obsolete anyway. Just something to think about.

I’ve tried to provide answers by breaking down your post into quotes from the original in Bold Italics. So here we go…

To reduce physical space, is it advisable or a mistake or impossible to convert software programs contained on CDs to a flash drive?

A CD and Flash Drive are similar in that they are both Digital Storage mediums. So it is possible to move information from a CD to Flash Drive. Under certain conditions.

If the CD is rewritable it’s possible to drag n’ drop information to a Flash Drive. Flash Drives are always rewriteable unless they have been locked by a password or other encryption scheme.

If the CD is not rewriteable (as are most program CD’s) the information will first have to be ripped to a folder on your HD via a CD ripping program. Keep in mind that information on a Program CD is probably copyright protected and therefore ripping the information to a HD may be a violation.

One reason I'm asking though, I have several programs that will not run unless the CD is inserted in the PC's CD drive, as they did not ever allow for an installation onto any hard drive. If I copied the CD contents to a flash drive, will I have to insert the flash drive every time to run the program or will it not run at all?/b]

Assuming that you can get the program onto a Flash Drive that process will not change. You’ll still have to insert the Flash Drive to run the program.

By the same token, if such a program were contained on a flash drive containing other adjacent programs, will everything on that flash drive refuse to run in the future?


You’ll have to rip each program to a separate folder on the Flash Drive. Then train your PC’s OS not to execute upon insertion but instead open to let you view and manually select its contents.

When is a CD as a storage device not a storage device?

A CD/DVD is always a storage device either for data, movies or music. It doesn’t matter if the contents execute automatically upon insertion or if it opens to allow you to select specific content.

When a manufacturer has installed something on the CD that forces an installer to look for a CD to install from?

Not sure what you’re asking here. In today’s world if an installer program is looking for contents to execute it will find it be it on CD or Flash Drive as long as the information is readable/executable and not encrypted. Typically, an installer programs is used only when the “exec” or “setup” file is not resident on the CD. In most programs of today you can double-click the “exec” or “setup” file found ion the storage medium.

The information I’ve provided is not guaranteed to work. It’s only applicable under the right conditions. You may have programs on some CD’s (250 +) that just won’t allow you to run them any other way except via the original CD. They are either heavily encrypted and will not be ripped or legacy under an old OS.

I hope you accomplish your goal.

Together Everyone Achieves More = T.E.A.M.

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You didn't quite get that right

Quote:

"If the CD is not rewriteable (as are most program CD’s) the information will first have to be ripped to a folder on your HD via a CD ripping program. Keep in mind that information on a Program CD is probably copyright protected and therefore ripping the information to a HD may be a violation."

First of all, the information on a CD (any CD) can be directly dragged and dropped to either the hard drive or a flash drive. Ripping a CD only applies to music. Of course, some CDs have hidden files or folders. In that case, one would have to find a way to get to those hidden items in order to drag and drop them

Second, it is perfectly legal to make backup copies of software CDs or DVDs that you legally own. This was decided a long time ago. You cannot distribute or loan them, but you can make copies for backup purposes.

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Addenum

If you in control panel make all hidden files visible the drag and drop will work.

I have one program and one game requiring the install CD/DVD be present that I have copied to hard drive and installed from there so the OS knows where to look.

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There's a Method to My Madness

Thanks for commenting...here's my reasoning...

The fact of the matter is --- our comments thread closely to a gray area when it comes to understanding the law regarding copying software. There are some people (unlike you 4Denise) who just don’t get it, are too young to understand or are just plain ignorant.

Need I remind you of the person in last week’s post who erroneously suggested that 95% don’t like Windows 10. That individual probably ran with a few negative comments circulated in the initial Win10 launch (or from his/her two friends) and now it’s gospel to them.

That being said I thought it my responsibility not open the flood gates for some reading the helpful comments in this post to think that copying or moving software to another medium is perfectly OK under any circumstances for whatever reason. It was just my hidden way of making a public service announcement.

Call me paranoid if you wish ---- but, I’m not to the point where I believe Microsoft is spying on me via my Xbox One camera Happy

As far as drag n' drop you’re right in most instances it’s works without a hitch; unless as netsiu suggested there are hidden files that need to be addressed.

Together Everyone Achieves More = T.E.A.M.

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Yes, some people don't get it

I specifically said that the software cannot be loaned or given away or distributed in any way for that reason. It is worth repeating. Software backups are backups only. They are not for sharing.

I think that the best policy is to give the entire legal standpoint and let the person who reads it take responsibility for their actions. However, someone who is asking about copying old software is unlikely to have made copies before and pirated it. This is probably not the idea, and letting such a person know that copies for personal use are acceptable is only reasonable.

You are right. Some people just choose to be ignorant, including the younger generations. Even many of us older people are known to stretch fair use to extremes from time to time. For example, what about software that is still useful but is no longer published? What about software that was made by a company that is no longer in business? These are legal gray areas. What do we do when someone we know needs something we have, but we can't point them to a place to acquire it? The law is not always crystal clear in this case.

For example, I have a solitaire game that everyone loves. The problem is that the company no longer makes it. I would consider that to be a case of only using one copy, either me or someone I give it to. It is risky to distribute it because the company still owns the rights to it.

Years ago, I came across software that did something I wanted to do, but it was old and belonged to someone else. I wrote to the company and asked if I could pay them to use it. They told me that it was so old that they didn't care if I used it for free. This is perfectly legal (although I kept the email, just in case).

In the case of software that is no longer owned by anyone, that becomes public domain, but how do we know that someone hasn't bought up the rights to the software? We don't. The original company may be out of business, but someone may have bought their rights. This is a legal gray area, and we are guessing when we decide to distribute that software.

The courts have a lot of work yet to do to clarify rights when it comes to software.

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Not quite right regarding CD's

" In today’s world if an installer program is looking for contents to execute it will find it be it on CD or Flash Drive as long as the information is readable/executable and not encrypted."

Windows can report to a program whether a device is a CD drive, Floppy drive (??!?!), pen drive or hard drive. So some software that was designed to run on CD can still be funny running from a pen drive because it will refuse to see the pen drive as a CD drive - even some floppy disk software used to refuse to acknowledge floppy disks that had been copied to the hard drive or CD drive.

Older software has a number of ways to check if it's on a CD drive - possibly one of the oldest and worst checks ever is the one where it checks D: drive and if it doesn't find the files it's looking for there, then the CD isn't inserted, this was a very old method for checking a disc and a very poor one because this goes back to the days when everyone had one hard drive, one or two floppy drives and one cd drive - that way your drive lettering would be A: B: (Floppy Drives - in very old machines one was 3.5" while the other was 5 1/4" and until recently I still had an old 5 1/4" knocking around just in case I ever came across a 5 1/4" disc,) C: (Hard Drive) and D: (CD-ROM, however many people now have multiple drives and multiple partitions, and drives can sometimes change letters - quite a lot of PC's have D drive as the storage partition with C drive being the main windows partition now and A and B are no longer used that often - this type of check possibly originated from the floppy drive days because it was guaranteed that a floppy drive would always be either A or B drive but CD drives never really had that guaranteed drive letter.

Another method was to ask Windows which drives are the CD drives and assume the first CD drive it identified would be the drive with the CD in it - this isn't too much of a problem because if the CD is in the wrong drive the disc can just be swapped over to the correct drive - there was a few multi-disc games that used to do this and sometimes they could be a pain because if you had multiple drives you'd put the multiple CD's in the multiple drives expecting it to find the disc and you'd still get the message half way through installation "please insert disc 2 into the CD drive" even though the disc was already in a CD drive, it wasn't in the right one.

Another method was to check every drive that identified itself as an optical drive in some way (Blu-Ray/CD/DVD/HD-DVD) and just ignore all other drives - there is a work around for software that does this and that is to use some of the fake CD emulators to make Windows think that either an ISO file or a folder is actually an optical drive, even though it isn't.

So it isn't necessarily always about the file being available, some software does check that it is available and that it's stored on some kind of optical media too.

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Some reading
http://pcsupport.about.com/od/termsi/g/isofile.htm

It will give you an idea of how to create an iso.
How to write the iso to the flash stick.
How to mount the iso.

Some tools to use.

With 250 disc your going to be there for a while between creating/writing/mounting/testing to see if it functions.

Note: Post edit by Forum admin to include link from author

Post was last edited on June 28, 2016 5:44 PM PDT

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Go for the ISOs

I am with others who suggest using ImgBurn or CDBurnerXP to create ISO files for each CD. If you are running Windows 7 or earlier, install the ImDisk Virtual Device Driver. Dunno whether Win 8 allows you to mount an ISO like Win 10 does. One caveat, though. Test each program after mounting the corresponding ISO, which will then look like a CD-ROM drive with a drive letter. I did a similar project with many of the CDs used in the children's room of a local public library. Most of them worked just fine. Some did not. Sometimes the software thinks that a mounted ISO is close enough. Other times, it really wants to examine a real CD.

Maybe create a command file (.CMD) or use PowerShell to mount an ISO CD, run the program and dismount the ISO, automating the process a bit?

You **** MIGHT **** be able to accomplish the same using the wonderful Rufus software tool to load a bunch of CDs as ISO files onto a flash stick. But all Rufus would appear to do is store the ISO files on a medium other than your hard drive.

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ImgBurn, CDBurner comment

ImgBurn and CDBurnerXP are good programs. Just one caveat that you need to keep in mind... these may come with, not spyware, but adware, depending on the version you get. I do not want adware on my PC, so I am careful as to what version I use. Some of them offer (offered?) a link that lets you get a version without the bundled adware. Yeah I know, free software, the creators need to be supported financially. All valid arguments, and I don't blame them one bit for including adware to pay for the development. Just that you should be aware of what you are getting. Most of us click through the setup screens without reading what they are clicking on. The adware stuff is spelled out on some, not in others.

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And now a word about NINITE.com
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Ninite

The Very first thing I do after setting up a new computer is to run Ninite which installs 80% of the programs I want. I even purchased the program on one Computer and whenever there is an Update I then run it on my other computers. Three other Programs I highly recommend are www.Secuniapsi.com tracks if programs are up to date and installs them. If you have an older program that you do not want to update just select ignore updates for this program. (I have a program from MS Word2000 that it wants to replace with a new pay version.)

www.Uncheky.com which monitors all installations and uncheck any that may be additional addons. It can also alert you that it did so and you can go back and check if you want the Addon.
The very last is to install www.belarcadvisor.com this will show every last program on your computer and how long since you last used it, advise you if A/V is up to date. It show the Serial Numbers of all MS and other registered programs. This program is free and is used by the biggest Corporations, Government Agencies and the Military.

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Yes for older programs, bumaybe not for copy-protected discs

Many of your older discs can be copied directly onto a USB flashdrive and will run perfectly. Some discs may have copy protection on the disc. These may not copy correctly and, therefore, will not run correctly from a flashdrive. I would start with several of the older discs and see how it goes. USB flashdrives have become much cheaper over the last year or two. You can buy a 3-pack of 8GB capacity on each drive or 16GB capacity each for as little as $8.99 to $12.99 at Newegg.com or Amazon.com often with cheap or free shipping. I've also seen 10-packs at very low prices. At home we use a separate USB flashdrive for each program we're copying from a disc. This method allows Windows "autorun" feature to bring up the program's install window a few seconds after you insert the flashdrive into a port. I suppose you could copy several programs onto one flashdrive then open the desired program folder and click on "setup.exe" to begin the install. The only time this wouldn't work is if you need the computer to actually boot up from the flashdrive such as when installing Windows or Linux from the flashdrive. In those cases you should only have the one program on the drive.

Post was last edited on July 1, 2016 12:43 PM PDT

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Bears repeating

I said it in my response too, and it bears repeating:

IN MANY CASES A CD CAN SIMPLY BE COPIED TO A HARD DISK OR FLASH DRIVE AND THE PROGRAMS WILL RUN -- no need to make ISO's, etc. Always try that first!

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Old copy protection schemes may be a problem

In the early days of copy protection, a popular method was to require that the DVD or CD be present in order to run the software. This wasn't just a matter of reading a file - the program looked for a particular bit of information in a particular track and sector of a mounted disc, or looked for deliberately-created "errors" in the disc. You can't replicate that with an ISO image; you need specialized copying software of the sort that the DMCA made illegal.
So, while you should be able to ditch many, if not most, of your DVDs, you're likely to be stuck with some of them indefinitely.

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Alcohol-soft and VSO Software are still going...

Alcohol-soft and VSO Software still offer specialised copying software that works round the problems. I don't know whether these two get round it because one has an address of Northern Ireland and the other an address of France and the DMCA is only valid in the US or something.

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Try WinCDEmu to mount ISO images

I used to use a CD emulator when I had games that needed the CD in a drive to run. I'm not sure what the program was, but it copied the contents of a CD (and later, a DVD) to hard drive in a propriatary format. You could mount these as a virtual CD drive, using any unused drive letter (e.g. XHappy. I remember some games had to be installed from that drive, but they would play with no problems, and much faster since no waiting for the CD to spin. I haven't used one in a few years, but WinCDEmu (http://wincdemu.sysprogs.org/) is freeware and says it works with Windows 10 and uses ISO files and multiple virtual drives. (I use ImgBurn to make ISO files, never had a problem making one, but I haven't tried it with any copy protected discs.) You can mount/unmount images as needed, no rebooting. It also has a portable version so you could put the program and a bunch of ISO files on one stick and use it with any computer.
Incidentally, I discovered you can burn a CD image ISO to a blank DVD and it works just fine. In Canada, blank DVDs are a lot cheaper than blank CDs.

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Consider virtualizing your CD collection

While converting your CDs to ISO is a viable option, why not consider virtualizing your CDs instead? Virtual CD is software that gives you 1 or more virtual disk burners on your system, allows you to create virtual copies of your disks (not the same as ISO, but it handles ISOs as well), and gives you a searchable catalog of your disks. Your virtual disks can be stored on a local hard drive, or NAS. I've been using this for several years. It's excellent software.

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Usually you can just copy

I would say that to start, just copy the entire CD to a folder on the flash drive. In the vast majority of cases the software will still load. The folder should have the same name as the CD volume name.

So, for instance, let's say that the CD volume label is WORDPROC, i.e., if you put the disk in CD drive D:\, open cmd.exe and type D: and then VOL what you'll see is: Volume in drive D is WORDPROC

But on your flash drive the copy of the CD is actually at: F:\Old CDs\Wordprocessors etc\WORDPROC

And let's say the program name is MYWORD.COM

In many cases you can just navigate to that folder on the flash drive and run whatever the executable is by double-clicking on the name.

To run particular software, you might have to set up a virtual drive, because the software expects to be in the root directory of a CD drive. The easiest way to do that is with the SUBST.EXE command -- which still does work, even in Win 10.

So in the example you would open CMD and type SUBST G: "F:\Old CDs\Wordprocessors etc"

At that point you should see a new drive G: Then try running G:\WORDPROC\MYWORD.COM

Some problems you may run into:

1) Old software often assumes there is one hard disk, drive C:\ and the CD drive is drive D:\. So the software might have D: hard-coded as the CD drive. If that is the case, if you already have the letter D: assigned to something else (such as a data partition or a second hard disk) your only options are don't run that software or reassign the other drive/partition to a different letter and then use SUBST. SUBST will not create a virtual drive using a drive letter that is already in use.

2) It's best to keep path names short and only use DOS 8.3 format. Don't put the copy 8 levels down, e.g., F:\CD's\1990's\non-Microsoft\Office Suites etc\Wordprocessors\

Rather than 8.3, it's actually best to use just "8". A lot of older programs don't handle well folder names with more than 8 characters or that contain a period.

3) Older programs often are very sensitive to total length of path names. The cutoff is somewhere around 250 characters. So although D:\WORDPROC\MYWORD.COM and all the related files might work fine, D:\{80 letters of description in four sublevels}\WORDPROC\MYWORD.COM might not.

Remember: even if the path of the main file is within the 250ish character limit, temporary files, files in subfolders, etc., might exceed the 250ish limit. That might cause the program to simply not install or not run, or it might cause intermittent failures because a particular subfile is rarely used.

4) Old programs can be very sensitive to the total environment size. Years ago an environment of 1000 characters was ridiculously large. Even though in theory the environment could be up to 32k, programs often would simply allocate a certain amount of memory and just read in the entire environment, being "sure" no one would ever have an environment that big. With all the long path names now common, environments that exceed the old "safety margin" size can cause all kinds of problem -- and they often will be intermittent, since many programs create temporary environment variables.

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Yes easy

YES!, I have converted my collection of 1,800 CDs to MP3, Burning Studio software, can copy what I want on to USB, or play from master list with Media Play, or us the USB's, worked fine last three years

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Guess what?

You totally missed the point of the question. Not all CDs contain music. These are software CDs.

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Software to usb

When yo have the ISO, open it with RAR and it create a file with everything, just click the .EXE and install. Copy can be carried on any memory device,

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Consolidating the mess.

There are a couple of different methods you could choose.

I will start with one caution:
***MAKE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT YOU HAVE CAPTURED ANY LICENSE KEYS ALONG WITH ANY NEW STORAGE MEDIA.***
You can create a text file containing the license key and include it along with the original files. I would encourage you to create a master file in which you store all license keys. You can then store such a file in the cloud for easy access. A spreadsheet would be best with columns for application name, publisher, version number, license key, and possibly the machine installed on.. Before I thought of this method I created "contacts" in my Gmail account for each app, particularly Windows license keys and the machine they went with. (I commonly reinstall Windows on machines.) Since my first disk with a license key I have made a point of writing it on the disk as well

Something to consider: a 1TB drive can be had for about $50 and a 2TB for $20 more. Install it as the second drive in your home computer or as the main drive in an old computer you then use as a NAS (I suggest the Open Source software titled FreeNAS as a great solution in this regard) This will cost an lot less than all those flash drives.

Okay, back to the main event
1. ISO: This process creates a compressed image of the disk which you can either mount and access directly or you can extract back out to the original media format. This should work in most cases. This is a method commonly used by software publishers who allow you to download their software instead of waiting for a disk to be mailed, etc. The down side to using ISO's is that you have to either extract them or mount them in order to access the files/software.

2. Use a zip utility like the most excellent free open source program 7 Zip. Zipped files are slightly more accessible than ISO images and are, of course, compressed.

The compression you get from ISO's and zip files may not do you a lot of good here as most installation files are already compressed.

Finally, in most cases you can usually simply copy all of the files directly from the original media to the new media, being sure to put each new "installation disk" in it's own directory and keeping any subdirectory structure. Because of the way I work this has been my preferred method of storing software installation files. I have a directory off of the root titled "installs" and each publisher has their own directory under that with a sub-directory for each product/version. - license key included of course, where applicable. This is then shared on the network or stored on a NAS.

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Belarc Advisor
www.belarcadvisor.com will copy all that information and let you print it out and even save it to another computer.
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Most will work fine

Most older CDs can be moved to a flash drive with no problem. For each app/program: create a folder on the flash drive, and then copy all folders from the CD to the new folder. Also take a photo or scan of all important info on the CD boxes or envelopes, such as the product key(s). Then put this image file into the new folder. There's occasionally a wrinkle installing an old program on a newer Windows, but my own experience is to answer "Ignore" whenever the software alerts you to a problem. You can also research on google how to make your program "compatible" with the newer Windows if need be.

Share these old programs with others by zipping the folder and copying it to the cloud. Sounds crazy to share old programs, but for example a friend of mine has a very old program which can interpret handwriting better than any current software. So there are times. . . .

For years I've kept a "setup" folder with subfolders on a flash drive (backed up on my desktop PC) which contains all the stuff I need to set up a new PC. For example the desktop shortcuts to Control Panel, My PC, Create Restore Point, etc. Plus a few programs/apps including a copy of MS Word 2000 install software, and a copy of the Microsoft upgrade software to upgrade to Windows 2007. (My desktop PC does have a newer edition of Windows! The other PCs have the old version for occasional use only.)

But as others have said, perhaps only the most useful programs need to be moved to a flash drive. The rest can be popped into a book box or two and kept in the garage. Anything not used in another few years can then be safely thrown out!

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Correction

When I said "Windows 2007" above I misspoke, meaning MS Word 2007.

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It's possible but it all depends...

It is certainly possible to do this but it depends on a number of things.

Firstly what type of software you intend to copy to flash drive. Utilities like Microsoft office don't tend to put any protection onto the discs relying mainly on the disc being there and the right serial code being inserted into the product, where as many games (and some utilities) actually have some form of protection on the disc which might be tricky or impossible to replicate. Also in the case of games bear in mind that even though the game appears to work fine after using a copy of the disc it might trigger the anti-piracy parts of the game which might not appear very clear - for example Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's - US) Stone had protection to stop you completing the wand levels to the percentage required if it detected an invalid disc but the rest of the game appears to work fine - I know that cos a few years ago I tried to do the same thing to keep my original discs safe and many other games do the same. So if you are backing up games to pen drive make sure they work first!

Now if your one about games rather than utilities another solution might be too have a look at Steam. Steam is an online platform that stores any game purchases (and some utilities) in the cloud. With some games if you've already purchased the game and have a serial code Steam allows you to add it to your account by just using that serial code. That game will then be available in your library for you to siwnload and install at any time, it'll be a cd-less version of the game that can be backed up and copied to pen drive or reinstalled at any time from Steam. Steam verifies the purchase to stop piracy so no CD verification is required. Not all games are on Steam but there is a large number of them, done of them you can add using an original serial code, others you might have to buy again to add them to the library.

Now onto backing the CDs up. If it is just utility discs you might be able to just use any CD burner package to create an ISO file of the disc. An ISO is like a large file containing an exact bit by bit copy of the CD (unless the CD was copy protected which in that case it might differ and that's how packages realise it's been copied). Once you've got it into an ISO you can then copy that ISO to the flash drive and just mount it as a fake CD drive when you need to use the utility. To mount the ISO you will probably need extra software - there is plenty of both free and commercial software out there to do that, one I tend to use is called Gizmo Drive there is also Alcohol 120% which can be quite useful when dealing with protected discs.

If the disc is protected to create an ISO of the disc you might need special software, and in some cases a certain optical drive. There is plenty of software out there that allows you to backup protected discs like Blindwrite, Alcohol 120% (please note though this software must only be used to backup software that you legally own), in some cases you might also need specific hardware for example a number of Plextor optical drives were well known for there ability to copy discs with protection on them using tools like Alcohol 120% and Blindwrite where other drives would fail mainly because Plextor would read unreadable sectors and return them to the software as unreadable where as other drives would attempt to correct the information - this was one of the methods used to protect discs and verify it was the original. Also using these tools to copy protected discs can take a number of hours depending on how well protected the disc is. Alcohol 120% does also include a CD emulator so you can mount the resulting file after its completed, Blindwrite though needs something like Gizmo Drive to mount it. Both Blindwrite and Alcohol 120% can also copy non protected discs so it can be quite useful to use them even if your unsure whether or not a disc is protected.

The resulting files can be stored anywhere you want, if you don't want to keep reinserting the flash drives for certain program you could always store them on the hard drive instead.

There are also some websites out there that offer "patches" to allow things to run without the original disk - many of these patches were "legally" designed for occasions when you might not have access to the original disk or a computer with a CD drive although they could be used also to circumvent copyright protection for piracy (in the same sense that a VCR could be used to copy home movies, but it could also be used to copy copyrighted recordings)

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Keep the disks, ditch the packaging

Making ISO files and mounting them as a "virtual drive" should be safe, depending on how the code is written to look for the drive when it needs to read something. You should test them before ditching the disks.

But if you're that attached to these programs, you should just keep the disks. You don't need to save the jewel boxes or packaging. Makes sure you have correctly copied any product keys. 250 CD's in envelopes that you can get from an office supply store shouldn't take up that much space, certainly not several large tool boxes. You could scan or photograph necessary documentation or serial numbers and keep them in files somewhere. While going through them and organizing them in this way, you may discover many you can live without after all. That's the most effective way of all to save space. What you chose to carry around with you for the rest of your life is entirely up to you!

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