Over the years, I’ve tried just about every disc burning solution for Windows there is, both paid and free. Most of the best (most reliable and core-feature rich) have traditionally been retail titles like Nero. And Nero is still a perfectly fine choice. But over the last few years – mostly to justify perennial paid upgrades – these titles have been loaded up with feature-list-lengthening bloat I imagine few people ever need or use.
My burning needs are simple: file storage, the occasional music CD, and ISO burns. iTunes is just fine for burning music, so all I really need is software to burn files to a disc. And for this purpose, the best solution I’ve found is ImgBurn.
ImgBurn is a small, lightweight, and free application that allows you to do several basic, but important things: burn files for folders to disc, burn image files (.ISO, etc.) to disc, create an image file from files or folders, and create an image file from an existing disc.
I prefer ISO Recorder for disc-to-image conversion, so I mostly skip that feature. But the other major features – file/folder burning, file/folder image creation, and burning ISOs to discs – are frequent activities in my work, and ImgBurn excels at each.
Burning Files/Folders to Disc
This is my most frequent ImgBurn task, and the software couldn’t make it easier. Just open the application, select the Write files/folders to disc option, and drag-and-drop the files you want to burn into the Source window (you can also add them manually using the built-in Explorer option). There’s progress-bar type tool on the right to show you how much of the blank medium in your optical drive will be taken up by the files you’ve selected (to activate this tool, just check the Auto box shown below).
Once you have the files/folders you wish to burn listed in the Source window, click the burn button and you’re done. You can choose to verify the disc with the source files, but I usually turn this off to save time. There’s also an Advanced Layout mode if you want precise control over the file structure on the disc if it differs from the source(s).
Create an Image from Files/Folders
Another great use for this software is creating a single image file from multiple files for folders. Similar to zipping them, creating a single image of multiple files makes it faster and easier to backup to an off-site backup service, an external hard drive, or Network Attached Storage. It also makes it a snap to burn these files to a disc for later archiving. You can extract files from the image with free software like IZArc (of course, you could also use IZArc to create a single .ZIP or .RAR archive file instead of ImgBurn’s .ISO image).
Depending on the speed of your system’s processor and several other factors, the process can be pretty snappy. With an Intel Core i7 3770k CPU, I am able to compress thousands of files totaling over 1.2GB into a single .ISO file in less than a minute.
Write Image File to Disc
If you already have an ISO file that you’d like to burn, you can use ImgBurn to do this, too. Just open the application, select the Write image file to disc option and burn away.
ImgBurn supports DVD and CD burning, along with newer 25GB Blu-ray discs (if you have a Blu-ray burner). The software also supports a wide range of drives, disc formats and disc image files. Works on all versions of Windows from Windows 95 to Windows 8.
This is one of my go-to solutions for day-to-day Windows tasks. And it’s far better than the built-in Windows disc burning utility and, for most, as good as or better than many retail offerings.
If you’re a Mac user – and your Mac has an optical drive – Burn is a similar application that allows you to burn files to a CD or DVD, though it hasn’t been updated in some time.