How To Mount an MDF File in Windows
An MDF file (files with the file extension .mdf) is a disk image file format that was originally developed for Alcohol 120%, which is an optical disc authoring tool for “burning” disks and DVDs.
Burning disks with Alcohol 120% creates an MDF file with a disk image frequently accompanied by one or more MSD files containing metadata about the disk image on the MDF.
When burning a disk creating a .mdf file, it’s optional to create .msd files of metadata so you may get MDF disk images with or without accompanying MSD files.
If you create your own programs or author your own DVDs or CDs, you will have come across MDF files. If you download programs from the internet and they are in the form of images, you will also have come across them.
Having .mdf files is one thing but what do you do with them once you have them? You have to mount MSD files in order to access them. This TechJunkie tutorial will show you how to access MDF files on a Windows PC.
Mounting MDF files on a Windows PC
You can burn or mount MDF files and what you do depends on what you want to do with the file and whether you have a DVD burner or not. Image files were originally designed to be written to disc and used as you would normally use one but virtual disk drives soon took over and how burning is purely optional unless it’s an operating system you have as an MDF.
There are a few products around that will mount MDF files. Windows 10 has the ability to mount them built in but I recommend to use a dedicated product.
Look for Disc Image Tools in Windows Explorer if you want to use the image tools built into Windows.
If you want to use a dedicated tool for disk imaging then read on.
DAEMON Tools Lite
DAEMON Tools Lite is my personal tool of choice for disk imaging. I have used it for over a decade in its many forms and it has never let me down. DAEMON Tools Lite free to use but does have a premium version if you will use it often.
Install it and it will ask to install virtual drivers, let the install process do so and you will be able to mount your MDF file virtually.
Once installed, it’s easy to access MDF files with DAEMON Tools Light:
- Right-click your MDF file and select “Open with.”
- Select Daemon tools from the options and the image will mount as a DVD.
- Windows Explorer will pick it up and you will be able to run or explore the disk just as you would if it were a real DVD.
Virtual CloneDrive is almost as good for disk imaging as Daemon Tools and just as easy to use. It also sets itself up as a virtual disk drive and can mount MDF files as well as other file types.
It also adds itself to the right-click dialog so you can use it in the same way with “Open with…”
There is also a free and a premium version but the free version of Virtual CloneDrive should have everything you need to mount your MDF files and use them.
WinCDEmu is my final suggestion to mount virtual drives to access your MDF files. It works pretty much the same as the other disk imagining packages.
WinCDEmu installs as a virtual drive after installing its driver and adds a right-click dialog. This program also lets you create ISO images, too.
Unlike the other two programs, WinCDEmu is free and open source. It is regularly updated and works will all versions of Windows.
Burning an MDF file in Windows
If mounting virtually isn’t enough and you need to burn the image to disk, you can. It is a little more involved but with a couple of minutes, we can have the image running on a disk as if the manufacturer put it there themselves.
We will need to burn your MDF file to ISO and then burn the ISO to disk for you to be able to use it. Even though MDF is a type of image file, it needs to be converted into the universal ISO format before it can be used as a standard CD or DVD. Fortunately, there are more free tools you can use to perform these tasks.
ImgBurn Burning Application
The one I suggest using is ImgBurn. It works with MDF files and can convert and burn in one process. It is a dated program but works well in Windows 10 and is safe to download and use from the link above. Install the program, allow it to work with the default file types when prompted.
If ImgBurn recognizes your MDF as an image, you can select Burn to write it to disk. If it doesn’t recognize it as an image, select “Build” to create an image and then Burn to write it.
If you liked this article, check out How to mount and burn an ISO image in Windows 10.
Do you have any experience reading MDF files on a Windows machine? If so, tell us about it in a comment below.