Burning an ISO is easier and cheaper than it once was, thanks to the prevalence of free utilities. This should come as by no means groundbreaking news. However, if you happen to be like me and switch computers with some frequency, you have likely been in the situation of needing to burn an ISO, and not had the utility installed on the computer in front of you – let alone been able to remember the name of the utility so that you could easily find it on the web.

Commercial programs like Nero and Easy CD Creator often offer ISO image burning support and, historically, this is their strongest selling point to system administrators. But, if you don’t have to, why pay for something that an intelligent and benevolent software writer has made available for free? Why not get your mother something nicer than a pair of wool socks this Mother’s Day, instead?

But, I digress.

My favorite disc image burning utility is ISO Recorder. ISO Recorder runs on Windows XP, Server 2003 and the latest iteration, for Windows Vista, supports DVD ISO burning. Once you’ve downloaded and installed ISO Recorder, you can right click on an ISO file and see the Copy Image to CD in the menu that pops up. ISO recorder then starts a basic wizard that ends with the ISO image being burnt to a CD. Pretty handy, low profile, and free!

An added bonus of ISO Recorder is that it is packaged as an 320kb MSI file (Windows Installer File). MSI files can be published or assigned to users or computers via group policy. (More on this in later this week.)

I should mention that ISO Recorder leverages the CD/DVD burning capabilities that Microsoft has incorporated into Windows XP, 2003 and Vista. (If you’ve ever dropped a blank disc into a writeable drive you’ve probably noticed one of the options that Windows offers looks like it can do its own writing.) It’s possible to use Windows to burn ISO images, but you have to get the tool first from the Resource Kit and then use the command line. Smartly, ISO Recorder wraps all these commands up in a nice presentable way.

Another popular freeware tool is CDBurnerXp Pro 3. The CDBurnerXP Pro 3 download weighs in at 11MB, but the program is more capable than ISO Recorder. With CDBurnerXP Pro 3you can burn DVD images on XP, and create your own ISO files.

For both of these programs, I like the straightforward, intuitive approach that is taken. Unlike the heavy GUIs in Nero and Easy CD Creator, I can easily figure out what is going on and what my options are at each stage of the project.