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ISO Files, Ubuntu Linux and You

written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 9/30/2011

We've all seen them. ISO Files. What are they and what can we, as Ubuntu Linux users, do with them? Lets take a quick look at the history of the ISO File format and what it is used for in modern day computing.

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    ISO File Basics

    Optical Media An ISO file in it's most basic form is simply an archive of multiple files. ISO files can contain text, audio and video and are, in most cases, disk images of an optical disk. ISO files are not compressed and any optical disk can be archived to an ISO file. ISO files are truly a byte-by-byte digital image of the original disk. One of the most common uses of an ISO file is to create a disk image of an original disk so you can burn it to another CD, DVD or Blu-ray in the case of damage to the original disk.

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    Mounting ISO Files

    The two common ways of mounting ISO files in Ubuntu Linux are the command line and a GUI front-end to the command line such as Gmount-iso. I recommend all Ubuntu Linux users become familiar with basic commands from the command line so lets take a look at how to mount an ISO file in Ubuntu Linux from the command line (CLI).

    sudo mkdir /media/iso (creates the directory to mount the ISO into)

    sudo mount exampleISO.iso /media/iso -t iso9660 -o loop (mounts the ISO)

    This command will mount your ISO file (exampleISO.iso) into the directory called /media/iso allowing you to access the files in the ISO archive without having to burn it to CD, DVD or Blu-ray disk. When you are ready to unmount the ISO file execute the following command:

    sudo umount /media/iso

    If you are not comfortable using the command line you can do the following to install and use Gmount-iso:

    sudo apt-get install gmount-iso

    You can then access Gmount-iso via the Applications > System Tools menu. Basic use of this program is very simple. You are given a box to choose the ISO you would like to mount and then asked to input a directory into which to mount the ISO file. Once these two input fields are satisfied you click "Mount" and your ISO file should be mounted and ready for you to use.

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    Burning ISO Files

    In some cases you will want to burn a previously created ISO file to optical media. With Ubuntu Linux this is also a very simple process. In this example we will assume you already have your ISO file created and you've named it "exampleISO.iso". If the ISO file contains 700MB of files you will need to insert a CD capable of holding this amount of data. If the ISO file is more than 700MB you will need a higher capacity optical disk such as a 4.7GB DVD or a blu-ray disk.

    When you insert your blank disk Ubuntu Linux should automatically detect the blank media and launch a helper application asking you what to do with the blank media. If you are using a 3rd party program to burn your ISO image you can select that program here. If you are going to use Ubuntu Linux to burn the ISO image you can close out this initial window. Once closed you will want to open your file manager and locate your ISO file (exampleISO.iso), right click the file and select "Write to Disk". At this point simply select your CD/DVD drive, burn speed and go ahead and start the burning process. After a certain amount of time, which will depend on the size of your ISO file and the optical media being used, you will have a byte-by-byte digital copy of your original disk.

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    As you can see, mounting or burning an ISO file in Ubuntu Linux is a simple process. The methods discussed here are by no means the only way to mount, burn or use an ISO file in Ubuntu Linux, just the methods I have had success with. I encourage you to become familiar with ISO files as well as using them from the command line and a GUI (Graphical User Interface) as it is a frequently used file format and this knowledge will serve you well.


  • Author's own experience.
  • All images courtesy of Stock.Xchng.