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Friday, January 7, 2011

How To Extract ISO Files With Linux

how to extract iso files with linuxYou’ve probably downloaded an image file before, and there’s a good chance it used the popular .ISO file extension. These (usually quite large) files are essentially digital optical media, and all files contained within that media are wrapped up into the .ISO archive.

Unlike Windows, Linux has built-in support for mounting and manipulating image files. This means you don’t necessarily need third party software in order to access .ISO archives and the files contained within.

There are in fact a couple of ways of going about this, so you can choose a method which suits you.


The image file format has been a popular way of distributing software online since broadband speeds allowed us to do so. Chances are you installed your Linux distribution using an .ISO file, possibly one you prepared in good old Windows.

The .ISO file format simply archives the contents of an optical media disc using the ISO 9660 file system. It is also possible for these images to use the UDF (Universal Disc Format) file system in some cases. The data within the archive is uncompressed, and an .ISO image can be made from any optical media –- CD, DVD, HD-DVD (remember those?), BluRay and so on.

It is not possible to use the .ISO file format to create an image of an audio CD as these do not use a computer filesystem. In these cases .BIN/.CUE image combinations are often preferred.

If you want to gain access to the files within an .ISO archive, first you’re going to need to mount it. You can either opt for the command-line method or you can use a program with a graphical interface if you’re not fond of text-based commands.
how to extract iso files with linux

Some distributions may have provided software so you can extract via the right click menu. Before starting out, find your .ISO image, right click and look for the Extract Here option. You might just be pleasantly surprised!

Extracting an .ISO Using the Command Line

This isn’t as hard as it sounds, it’s just a matter of getting the syntax right in the command. First you’ll need to create a folder in which to mount the image, open your command line editor and enter:
sudo mkdir /mnt/iso
Enter you password when asked, and your directory will be created. Now we can mount the file by typing:
sudo mount -o loop <image>.iso /mnt/iso
Replace <image> with the location of your .ISO file, for example I mounted a file in my Downloads folder using

sudo mount -o loop /home/tim/Downloads/image1.iso /mnt/iso
how to open iso files

Now you can navigate to the folder you created and access the files within the .ISO. If you want to grab the whole lot via the command line, you can copy the contents of the folder by typing:
sudo cp -r /mnt/iso /home/tim/Documents

This command would copy the whole lot to a separate “iso” folder in my Documents folder. The -r option instructs the operation to copy recursively, which includes folder contents.
how to open iso files

You don’t necessarily need to do this of course, as once you have mounted it you can use your file manager to pick and choose the bits you want.

Note: If the command used here to mount your .ISO fails, you might want to also try:
mount -o loop -t iso9660 <image>.iso /mnt/iso

Extracting an .ISO Using Software

If the command line isn’t for you, there’s a couple of applications that mount and allow you to extract image files. They’re all free, as is the case with most Linux software.


how to open iso files

A simple graphical interface for the GTK+ environment that allows you to mount .ISO files in a directory of your choice. Input the path to your .ISO in the Image File field and the folder in which you’d like to display the contents in the Mount Point field.

Then simply click Mount and the contents of your image will appear in the directory that you specified.
Ubuntu and other distributions that use Synaptic can install via the command-line:
sudo apt-get install gmountiso


how to extract iso files with linux

With support for a variety of image formats including .ISO, .BIN, .MDF and .NRG AcetoneISO is another powerful graphical interface for mounting and extracting.

AcetoneISO allows you to specify a folder in which your image files are located, or you can just choose Mount and point AcetoneISO to the right file.

Ubuntu and other distributions that use Synaptic can install via the command-line:
sudo apt-get install acetoneiso

Do you have any favourite image mounting programs? Do you use the command line method or a GUI? Let us know in the comments!

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