Microsoft Details New Storage Features In Windows 8

Microsoft has offered a look at part of its storage strategy for the upcoming Windows 8 operating system in a blog post outlining how it will handle the access of data in ISO and VHD files.

Rajeev Nagar, principal group program manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday that his company is adding native Explorer support for both ISO and VHD files in its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

The first format, ISO, or International Organization for Standardization, stems from a series of standards describing how photos, video, applications, documents, and other content other than CD audio are organized on CD or DVD optical discs, Nagar wrote.

An ISO file is an image of a CD or DVD disc that is stored as a file, and customer interest in storing such files is growing as ever-cheaper hard drives make it possible to carry the content of multiple discs on a single device, Nagar wrote.

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Those files, which include personal and business digital media as well as applications, currently have to be burned to a writable optical disc or made available via third-party applications in order to be shared, downloaded, or stored, Nagar wrote.

"With Windows 8, we have eliminated this last step – you can simply access the contents of the ISO file without needing either needing to burn a new disc or needing to find/download/install additional software just to logically access the ISO," he wrote.

Windows 8 does this by seamlessly creating a "virtual" CDROM or DVD drive when an ISO file is accessed by double-clicking or right-clicking it in Explorer, he wrote. At that point, the ISO file is seen as a removable drive with its own drive letter. When no longer used, the virtual drive can be "ejected" like any storage media, he said.

Windows 8 has also simplified the access of virtual hard disk (VHD) format files, Nagar wrote.

VHD is the format used with Microsoft's Hyper-V and Virtual PC software when all the information on a virtual disk is encapsulated into an individual file. That VHD file can then be used by the operating system as a virtual disk in the same way physical hard disks are used, including booting a system, migrating system settings, or recovering a snapshot of a system, he wrote.

Accessing a VHD with Windows 8 is as simple as accessing an ISO file, but with one difference. "Rather than appearing as a removable drive (as is the case with ISO), VHDs appear as new hard drives," Nagar wrote.

Like an ISO file, a VHD can be virtually "ejected" as if it were a removable storage device, he wrote.