Microsoft has officially revealed and blogged about native Explorer support for ISO and VHD files in Windows 8 today.

ISO refers to the International Organization for Standardization which is an international standard-setting body, and a world leader in developing and publishing international standards. While an ISO file is simply a disc image stored as a file, composed of all of the contents of a CDROM or DVD disc. You can also think of an ISO file as a full-fidelity image (digital copy) of the optical disc.

In my opinion, the ability to directly use ISO files (also known as ISO images) without requiring a physical CDROM or DVD drive was very important. Because OEMs are leaving no room for optical drives in ultra-mobile laptops and vendors also distribute software in ISO formats. To use them, users have to extract their contact or to aid 3rd party tools to see the content and I don’t like it because they use unsigned drivers and some time it may cause explorer crashes.

Now in Windows 8, you don’t need to carry bunch of discs, you backup applications also store content in the ISO format and many utilities allow creation of an ISO file from existing CDROM or DVD media.

To mount the ISO, you can either double click the file or click Mount on the Actions tab. Once you mount the ISO, Windows creates a new virtual CDROM/DVD drive seamlessly.

VHD file contains the complete structure representing a Hard Disk Drive, and is used to store or install Virtual Operating Systems and their associated programs. It is used by Virtual PC, Virtual Server and Hyper-V to represent virtual disks.

Similarly, now you can access the content of VHD files from Explorer. While native support for VHD files added in Windows 7, but you have to manage some sort of commands to get this done. In Windows 8, you are just one-click away to access ISO and VHD files now.

Here’s a quick demo to show you what it looks like to mount ISOs and VHDs on a new “Windows 8” system.

Download this video to view it in your favorite media player:
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