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How to Get Nero’s Best Features with Free Alternatives

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Tired of waiting for your bloated OEM copy of Nero to open and ask you to upgrade to the latest version just to burn a CD? You can get almost all of Nero’s features with free alternatives, and here’s how.

There are numerous programs available for burning media of all types to CDs and DVDs, and many tools you need are built right into Windows—for instance, Windows 7 can burn ISO files to a disk directly or help you create a fairly stylish DVD video quickly and easily.  Keep reading for the rest.

Burn Individual Files to a Disk

It’s very easy to just burn some documents, pictures, and other files to a disk with ImgBurn. Just select “Write Files/Folders to Disk” on the front screen, then drag the files you need to the source box or browse to find them.  You can then burn your files directly to a disk, or even save it as an ISO file to burn to disk later.

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You can also burn files to a disk directly from Windows Explorer, but it doesn’t always work the best so we recommend using ImgBurn whenever you can.

Rip and Burn a Disk ISO

As you might expect from a program named ImgBurn, you can easily rip an image of a disk and then burn image files to a new disk with ImgBurn.  You can create an image of your favorite CDs so you’ll be sure to never lose them, or quickly burn that Ubuntu image you just downloaded to a disk.

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Alternately, as we mentioned before, you can burn an ISO file to disk in Windows 7 without any extra tools.  Just double-click on the file and you’ll see a basic disk burning tool.  This is a simple way to burn a Windows or Ubuntu image to disk without installing an extra program.

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Audio CDs

ImgBurn only burns files directly to disks, which works great for making a CD of MP3 songs but won’t work good if you need a traditional audio CD for your car stereo.  However, for most purposes, Windows Media Player works great for burning audio CDs.  It’s preinstalled in all modern versions of Windows (assuming you’re not using an N edition from Europe), and gets the job done.  There’s not many options, but you can add volume leveling to your tracks.

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If you aren’t a Windows Media Player user, you can use iTunes and other popular music apps to burn Audio CDs for free, too.

Video DVDs

If you’re creating movies longer than YouTube will let you upload, or want to share a video with Grandma on a real disk, you’ll need to burn it as a Video DVD.  Most geeks would prefer to get the video files on a disk, but the menus do make your video easier to use on a TV.  Windows DVD Maker, preinstalled in Windows Vista and 7, works great for this. 

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You can’t tweak every aspect of the menus, but actually the premade themes often look nicer than the included ones in Nero.  Plus, it’s the video that really counts, right?

Disk Labels

Want to make your disks look professional?  You don’t have to settle for labeling your disks with a Sharpie market.  Microsoft Office’s online templates include dozens of nice CD/DVD label and jewel case templates.  You could even open these in Office Web Apps or a competing Office suite if you don’t have Office.

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You’ll probably note that Microsoft Word isn’t free, but we figured that so many people have it already, that it’s free for most people.

Extra Multimedia Features

Current versions of Nero also include a variety of other features, including file searching and home theatre tools.  Windows 7 already includes great options for these: the built in Windows Search is fast and relatively thorough, and Media Center is a best in class home theatre solution. 

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You can easily record TV and play back the DVDs you’ve burned without leaving your TV.  Plus, if you need to edit videos, Windows Live Movie Maker is a great tool to make photo slideshows and videos.  All of these are free tools that you likely already have on your PC, so you’ll have no reason to need Nero.

But Wait … Do You Really Still Need Disks?

Netbooks have been selling great for several years now, and the latest Macbook Air has been getting rave reviews. Only thing is, neither these nor an increasing number of computer include a CD/DVD drive. You can always use an external drive, but likely you can get by without even needing to use disks today. 

Services like Dropbox make it easy to send and share files with anyone, and most of us upload videos and pictures to YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook already.  You can even install Windows 7 and Ubuntu from a flash drive, bypassing disks for installing your OS.

For the times you really need a disk, the tools above are great, but often it’s even easier and cheaper to use cloud services instead.  In fact, aside from watching DVD movies, we rarely use disks in our computers anymore.  Do you still use CDs or DVDs regularly?  Do you have another favorite free disk burning tool?  Let us know in the comments below!

Download ImgBurn

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 11/17/10

Comments (49)

  1. Juan Pablo

    Microsoft Office is free?

  2. kyle

    @Juan Pablo: well stopped lol

    ImgBurn rulez!

    thanks for the info

  3. kyle

    @Juan Pablo: well spotted lol

    ImgBurn rulez!

    thanks for the info

  4. Alexander-GG

    ImgBurn has no multi-session disk burning feature. This makes ImgBurn the application with the limited functionality. Why everyone is trying to promote this soft when there are a lot of better free alternatives?

  5. Hatryst

    @Juan Pablo

    The author wrote:
    You’ll probably note that Microsoft Word isn’t free, but we figured that so many people have it already, that it’s free for most people.

    Last 2 lines under the heading “disk labels”.

  6. Hatryst

    And if you’re one of them who don’t have MS Office, the Author has given the solution to that as well…

    “You could even open these in Office Web Apps or a competing Office suite* if you don’t have Office.”

    *Competing Office Suite = Open Office = Free !!

    Please FULLY READ the article before commenting, lol :) No offenses !

  7. The Geek

    @Juan

    There’s no reason to be trolling, especially when you didn’t bother reading the article, where we clearly mentioned that fact.

  8. Hatryst

    Well done with the article, Mathew. Looking forward to more similar articles… ;)

  9. Ivan Kolevski

    “ImgBurn only burns files directly to disks, which works great for making a CD of MP3 songs but won’t work good if you need a traditional audio CD for your car stereo.”

    Well, I have been using it for burning AudioCD’s for a while now.
    In fact it does support quite a bit of formats too and does proper redbook audio, even gapless.
    Here’s how: http://forum.imgburn.com/index.php?showtopic=5555

    For easy all in one you may want to have a look at burn aware free.

  10. LoverBoy

    @ The Geek Is it possible to make a iso or anyother image with the windows dvd maker ? I tried but cant find can you please try it

  11. piotre

    CDBurnerXP is my choice with Multisession and audio CD support.

  12. Matthew Guay

    @LoverBoy – No, you can’t make an ISO image with the Windows DVD Maker as far as I know.

    @Hatryst – Thanks … we’ll try to keep it up :)

  13. Matthew Guay

    @Alexander-GG – Do you have a better alternate?

  14. Colshy

    I still use CDs and DVDs for data a lot at work, but we’ve got to think of network security and the like so USB drives are disabled by default.

    At home however, I rarely use them unless I’m making audio disks for my CD player or for the car. I also use Dropbox.

    Colshy

  15. Matthew Guay

    @Colshy – Good point … when USB drives are restricted, disks are still the best way to move files.

  16. Terry Chen

    @piotre – CDBurnerXP is also my choice!

  17. paul

    I’m not sure if the newest Nero also is able to mount an ISO, but could you please suggest a free program that can?

    thank you

  18. Gouthaman Karunakaran

    Great article. You could have formatted it properly.

  19. Matthew Guay

    @Paul – Virtual CloneDrive is the best free tool for mounting ISO files, and it’s free too – http://www.slysoft.com/en/virtual-clonedrive.html

  20. Ivan Kolevski

    @ admin,

    can you please undelete my useful post. If you have issue with me posting comments here PM me directly with a valid reason.

    Thanks.

  21. Ivan Kolevski

    “ImgBurn only burns files directly to disks, which works great for making a CD of MP3 songs but won’t work good if you need a traditional audio CD for your car stereo.”

    Well, I have been using it for burning AudioCD’s for a while now.
    In fact it does support quite a bit of formats too and does proper redbook audio, even gapless.
    Here’s how: http://forum.imgburn.com/index.php?showtopic=5555

    For easy all in one you may want to have a look at burn aware free.

  22. Ivan Kolevski

    “ImgBurn only burns files directly to disks, which works great for making a CD of MP3 songs but won’t work good if you need a traditional audio CD for your car stereo.”

    Well, I have been using it for burning AudioCD’s for a while now.
    In fact it does support quite a bit of formats too and does proper redbook audio, even gapless.
    There is How to guides @ImgBurn forums that explain every burining mode in detail.

    For easy all in one you may want to have a look at burn aware free.

  23. Ivan Kolevski

    ImgBurn does burn Audio CD’s. I have been using it for a quite a bit of time.
    In fact it does support quite a bit of formats too and does proper redbook audio, even gapless.
    There are detailed guides @ ImgBurn forums that explain every burning mode in detail.

    For easy all in one you may want to have a look at burn aware free.

  24. michael

    cdburnerxp is my fave…works…and they have a portable version…

  25. Kemi

    I prefer the free ashampoo suite, it is the best replacement i’ve used for nero and it burns iso files..
    http://download.cnet.com/Ashampoo-Burning-Studio-Free/3000-2646_4-10776287.html

  26. Susrich

    Besides cdburnerxp, which is really great, there is now BurnAware for free (again)
    http://www.burnaware.com/index.html

    But I prefer like michael cdburnerxp :-P

  27. Matthew Guay

    @Ivan Kolevski – Very interesting. Last time I tried burning a Audio CD with ImgBurn, I couldn’t find an option and ended up just burning a MP3 CD. I’ll have to look at their forums…

  28. sid

    I prefer Foobar and GOMPlayer myself than WMP

  29. lyates

    What about ripping/burning Blu-Ray?

  30. Alexander-GG

    @Matthew Guay – Ashampoo Burning Studio 10 Advanced (it’s free), Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 (older version, but it’s also free and has all of the needy features), BurnAware Free is very nice burner, CDBurnerXP etc.

  31. Joe

    Windows 7 Search ? Isn’t that what is called an OXYMORON? Kinda like BING being a search engine. Get what you are looking for on page 768595……pages of the search after every hit on Microsoft Servers First ! I wait forever and it NEVER finds what I am looking for. I end up hand searching and finding it on my own.

    Is there something that can search for Files, Folders and Text on MY computer without starting in the Clouds? Maybe something with DOS parameters (or installable little cavemen with chisels) ?

  32. sut

    IMGBurn burns audio CD’s. You have to create a cue file first before burning.

  33. Phuctifino

    ImgBurn does what it does very well especially in conjunction with DVD Flick.Other great similar software is DeepBurner(multi-session option),Burrrn & CDBurnerXP.

  34. Ushindi

    Maybe I’m by myself here, Matthew, but I still use DVDs constantly. I have an Epson MovieMate projector along with 100s of DVD movies I’ve collected over the years, and enjoy watching them projected onto a large white screen (approx. 6′ X 8′) – I wouldn’t be without it. It’s also great for showing CDs of images lifesize (it’s an older model and doesn’t have a USB port for a flash drive). Until I upgrade, tho, I have to watch my BluRays on my flat screen TV. Still saving up my pennies for a new Epson I can watch Blu Ray with…

  35. delukze

    i download torrents to my laptop then share it with my ps3 and watch movies on my tv from the ps3

  36. venky

    True burner is best
    try it
    it’s freeware………

  37. Ivan Kolevski

    True Burner is based on the BurnAware GUI/SDK no point using it, better of with the original, BurnAware.

  38. nonosh

    I love CDBurnerXP. I switched to it for good after debating between ImgBurn and InfraRecorder. CDBurnerXP just had all the features, minimalism, and quick access that I was looking for.

    I use WinCDEmu as an alternative to discs and flash drives (the open ISO, NRG, and other disc image files that weren’t often compatible with the free Virtual Clone Drive).

    I use DVD Flick for creating DVDs (master encoder into DVD, plus the minimalist menu design is a snap to prepare).

    Exact Audio Copy for ripping CDs into FLAC and V0 VBR MP3,

    winLAME for converting WAV, FLAC, and OGG into V0 VBR MP3s.

    Handbrake for converting to MP4 and MKV container files (be sure to change the aspect ratio trim settings to maintain the original video frame).

    DVD Fab free version for backing up encrypted DVDs: copy-pasting the VIDEO_TS folder into my hard drive, or using Handbrake to create MKV videos with menus.

    Windows Live Movie Maker for quick video edits.

    Audacity for quick audio edits and recordings.

    Combined Community Codec Pack for DVD and video playback.

    I have more to add to my free software alternatives list. I would like to thank How To Geek and Wikipedia for helping me discover all this great software and allow me to research their reviews (I’ve compared a lot of similar free software, and I have made my final decision for most application categories).

    Cheers.

  39. nonosh

    By the way, feel free to ask me what else I enjoy using.

    For the sake of very specific/exclusive features, the only software that I have paid for are Windows 7, Microsoft Office, and WinRAR.

  40. Jakeu1701

    Correction: marker, not market.

  41. uttaradhaka

    You mentioned a true fact. Today, you can easily go without CDs or DVDs and go completely ‘in disk’, by utilizing the cloud and the ubiquitous USB stick.

    I have a netbook and honestly have never been in a situation where I thought that it’d be nice to be able to insert DVDs into it.

    With the explosion of the internet everywhere, the CDs and DVDs are going to way of the diskettes.

    Great article by the way.

  42. Matthew Guay

    @uttaradhaka – Yup, I’ve never needed to put DVDs in my netbook, either. Even on my desktop, I likely only use disks once or twice a month. Digital downloads FTW :)

  43. Umut

    I had tried a lot of alternatives and ImgBurn is really the best. However, I whidh they add copy a disk another option at some time. I know, I can create and iso then burn it but it should be wonderful if it is automatic. :)

  44. GooglyMonkey

    @Ivan Kolevski
    Does ImgBurn support burning audio CDs?

  45. An M

    CD Burner XP is an invaluable tool that should’ve been reviewed : )

  46. Mike Hogan

    @JOE
    “Is there something that can search for Files, Folders and Text on MY computer without starting in the Clouds? Maybe something with DOS parameters.”

    Agent Ransack for Windows does exactly that and is free, uses DOS wild cards like *, etc.

  47. Jean-Paul

    IMGburn is a cool one but he doesent copy dvd’s

  48. dadwhiskers

    Have a look at StarBurn. Does a lot, and works well.

  49. Dono

    Just moved to win7 pro
    Ive had no luck burning anything with Win live dvd maker.All it gives after hours of decoding is messages not recognising the disc,try new disc etc:
    never had any of this on the old xp version.Friend of mine having same problem on his win 7 machine.

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