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IsoBuster: Easy CD (DVD) Backup and Data Rescue Recovery Tool

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Published on December 21st, 2005
Category: Utilities

Note: This article was originally written for The Information Bank. Because of the high volume of related posts, I've decided to move the articles here.

In my PC Inspector File Recovery post, I revealed how to “unerase” deleted files on rewritable media like hard disks, memory cards, and floppy disks. In part of this article, I will address how to recover corrupted files from damaged media such as scratched CDs.

IsoBuster performs two major functions: CD (DVD) backup and recovery.

Ever hear about an ISO image? ISO is short for the ISO 9660 file system, which is the standard file system for CDs. An image is almost what it sounds like: a snapshot. Basically, a disk image is a sector-by-sector exact (this is debatable) replica of a file system or disk medium such a hard disk, floppy disk, CD, or DVD. These images are stored as files. Often, these disk reproductions are so precise that they even record damaged sectors.

IsoBuster makes it easy to make ISO images. Just insert the CD (or DVD). Right click on the target – whether it be CD, session, or track – and click extract. It’s that easy. However, you may be asking, “How do I know whether to make backups as CD, session, or track?”

  • Extract CD when making a backup on the entire CD.
  • Extract sessions when you want to make a backup of an entire session. A session is one CD write. Most of the time, there will only be one session. So, it wouldn’t matter if you extract the CD or session. But there are times when manufacture burn additional information to make the CD usable (or unusable in Sony’s Rootkit Case 🙂 or when computer users burn a CD multiples of times to add more files. Really, I usually never extract a session.
  • Extract Track. Now, a track is like a session-of-a-session. Again, a session will normally have one track. But, if it is an audio CD, it will have as many tracks as the number of songs. Additionally, when you extract a track from an audio CD, it will be stored as a *.wav file, as opposed to the *.iso file. Therefore, you can play the audio tracks on any media player!

Technically, there is no separate function for data recovery in IsoBuster. It is built into the program so that anytime it reads from the CD, it will also be using measures to recover data from damaged media. This means that data access can sometimes be slow. To recover data, just rip an ISO image as outlined above and then burn that ISO onto a new CD. Or, if you are looking for one specific file, just browse though the CD/directory structure on the left until you find the file. You can then either right-click “Extract.” Or, you can just drag it outside of the IsoBuster window anywhere to the desktop or Windows Explorer.

Unfortunately, there are instances when CD and DVD media is too damaged to recover data from specific sectors. Think of a huge, deep gash on the CD. In these cases, IsoBuster will display a dialogue box asking for direction. Most of the time, just telling it to retry reading the sector will produce good results. If not, you would select one of the options.

Copy-protected Disks
When I’m faced with choices such as the ones listed above, I usually select “Replace with Erroneous Sector.” This is because copy-protected disks. Often, record companies, computer software companies, and video game companies implement a copy protection to hamper the illegal reproduction and redistribution of their software. They do this by creating special bad sectors on the disk. When you tell IsoBuster to “Replace with Erroneous Sector,” it will reproduce the copy protection to the ISO image. This allows you to copy copy-protected CDs!

ISO Browsing
IsoBuster also has a function to read ISO images. Many times, I need just one file in an ISO image. Instead of burning a disk to get that one file, I could just feed the ISO image into IsoBuster and browse it like a normal CD.

Closing Remarks
Remember that IsoBuster can read a variety of formats: CD-i, VCD, SVCD, SACD, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-MRW, DVD-ROM, DVCD, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD+MRW, DVD+R Dual Layer, DVD-R Dual Layer, DVD+RW Dual Layer, DVD+VR, DVD+VRW, DVD-VR, DVD-VM, and more. It really depends on your CD (DVD) drive. I have a Toshiba DVD drive and it has worked great for me. I’ve even heard that it is one of the best to backup ISO images! Other than a better CD (DVD) drive, another thing that will enhance IsoBuster is to use the Nero ASPI. This is a library of functions that Nero (a CD/DVD Burning application) uses to bypass Windows and directly access the CD (DVD) drive. Just put the file into the IsoBuster folder (In C:\Program Files).

Stay tuned: I’m my next article, I will reveal how to use these ISO images to emulate a virtual CD (DVD) drive.

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6 Responses to “IsoBuster: Easy CD (DVD) Backup and Data Rescue Recovery Tool”

  1. Ismael Walls Says:


  2. K.Sureshkumar Says:

    can you provide free sofware for only one cd data recovery

  3. dh Says:

    I am looking for a freeware software program that will allow my cd-rom drive to read dvd movies.

  4. the freeware review Says:

    dh, there is no program to my knowledge that will allow cd-roms to read DVDs because of hardware limitations. DVDs require a red laser. CD-rom drives only have a yellow laser. my suggestion is to just buy a dvd drive. they are pretty cheap now. you can get a DVD burner for about 30 dollars! good luck!

  5. aaa Says:

    Um.. dvd burner/reader is harware, not software! thnx for the isbuster help. I always wondered what to pick when the dialog box popped up! now i know!Replace with Erroneous Sector YAY

  6. isobuster Says:

    this is most essential for me

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