What to Do After Downloading ISO Files from Microsoft

This article tells you what ISO files are and how can you use them to install your nonprofit's or library's Microsoft software with them.

When you download the Microsoft software you've requested through TechSoup, you'll usually download an ISO file, not an executable file. This means you'll need to perform additional steps before you can use the file for installation. What's an ISO file? Most simply put, it's a single file containing all the data from a CD, DVD, or other disc, all in one.

Fortunately, working with ISO files isn't difficult once you learn how to use them.

Overview of Installation Choices

An ISO installation file is a collection of all the individual files and folders that would be on an installation DVD, merged into a single file. You have three main choices for making these files and folders accessible:

  • Create installation discs by writing the installation files to a DVD
  • Mount the ISO file as a virtual device
  • Extract the installation files to your hard drive

Note: There are special requirements for installing Get Genuine Windows Full PC Operating Systems and for a clean installation of a Windows upgrade operating system. See Clean Microsoft Windows Installations with ISO Files for details.

Installation Choice: Create Installation Discs

If you're installing software on multiple machines and have access to at least one computer with a DVD writer, creating installation discs might be the best option for you. Most Microsoft applications don't fit on a CD and require a DVD.

If you have a computer with a DVD writer (a DVD "burner") and Windows 8 or later you can simply double-click the ISO file you downloaded and follow the steps in the Image Burner Wizard. Read more about this process.

After you burn the ISO file to DVD, just insert the DVD to start the setup.

Installation Choice: Mount the ISO as a Virtual Device

If you're just installing the software on one machine or don't have access to a DVD writer, you can "mount" the ISO file as a virtual device. A virtual device created by mounting an ISO file is known as a virtual drive or virtual disk.

Note that you can't use this method for installing an operating system, only for installing applications like Office.

When you mount an ISO file as a virtual drive, it looks like a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc drive in Windows Explorer or the Computer folder. The contents of the drive are the files and folders that make up the ISO file.

If you have Windows 8 or later, you don't need any additional software to mount an ISO file as a virtual drive. You can simply right-click the ISO file to open the context menu and select Mount. Then, start the installation by clicking the file called setup or setup.exe.

If you don't have Windows 8 or later, you need to download additional software before you can mount an ISO file. Here are some mounting tools you can use that are either free or have free versions available:

Installation Choice: Extract the Installation Files to Your Hard Drive

If you need another installation option that doesn't require a DVD writer, you can extract the installation files to your hard drive using file compression software.

After you extract the files to a new or empty folder, the folder will contain the same files that would be on an installation disc for this product. You can open the folder in Windows Explorer and double click the file called setup or setup.exe to start the installation.

Many applications that can be used with ZIP files can also be used with ISO files, so you may already have such an application available. Your application might use the word decompress rather than extract or unzip, but the result is the same.

You need additional software to extract an ISO file. Here are some file compression applications you can use that are either free of have free versions available:

Note: Although file compression is the common term for this type of software, ISO files are actually created without compression and so take up about the same amount of disc space after they are extracted.

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This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.

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