No Optical Drive for Windows? No ProblemI recall a time when running software and playing video or music from an optical drive was the norm and considered state of the art. In years that have gone by I, like many of you, have found the loud whirring noise of an optical drive extremely annoying. When our optical drives approached the speed rating of 52x, the shaking and rattling brought a whole new meaning to objectionable noise on our desktop and laptop computers.

As we entered an era when some of our laptops or notebook computers came without optical drives, we needed a way to mount optical media. In stepped the virtual drive that enhanced our Windows systems and lent a helping hand to provide access to media files with little or no effort. There are plenty of popular tools that you can use to help Windows operate with virtual drives, and here I have listed some of the most popular tools you can try on your own personal computer.

Virtual CloneDrive is free software that is simple to use; it can save you time without the hassles of a physical optical drive of any kind. You are only limited to how much hard drive space you have and any copy protection that will limit the media you wish to use. The software works with CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs with equal ease and plays the content of these discs directly from your hard drive without using the discs themselves. For any of us who have misplaced a disc, we know that using a virtual drive can eliminate this problem for good. In addition, using Virtual CloneDrive also eliminates the chance of damaging your expensive discs. The software provides access to multiple virtual disks at once.

DAEMON Tools Lite comes in two flavors: a free version and a paid version. I have only tried the freebie and found the product, over all, to be satisfactory. The limitation is that the freeware supports only four virtual drives, but for many of us, four virtual drives is plenty to accomplish what we wish. One word of caution: be careful and read what DAEMON Tools Lite wishes to install on your system. Uncheck the box if you don’t want to add a toolbar to your browser.

Alcohol 52% is the free edition of the popular Alcohol 120% commercial version. This free version, like most free versions of any software, is for the private user and not for commercial endeavors. For a freeware product, this will do the job for you on your Windows machine with very little effort. Alcohol 52% also has a box to add a toolbar that needs to be unchecked before installation (that is, if you don’t want the toolbar. Some might). I personally believe that Alcohol 52% is the easiest of the three for beginners to use.

So there you have it. Three free software tools that you can use on your Windows personal computer to create virtual drives within certain limitations.

What software do you use to create virtual drives, and why do you use it?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by walknboston