Bin, Cue, Img and Iso files explained

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 23, 2007
Updated • Apr 13, 2014

Bin and Cue, Img and Iso files are disc image formats that store all the information of a CD, DVD, Blu-Ray or other optical disk type as a file image.

An ISO file contains all sectors of the disc from position 0 to its end.It is probably the most common format you come across on the Internet these days.

Bin and Cue files on the other hand work hand in hand. The cue file is a metadata file that defines how optical disc tracks are set up while the bin file contains the actual data that is burned to disc.

The img file type finally refers to binary files that store raw information. It is a sector-by-sector binary copy of the source optical disk or hard drive. As far as optical disc are concerned, they contain all track information but often also error correction information and control headers.

Users come across them on many occasions such as Linux distributions, Open Source software distributed on CDs or DVDs, and of course when downloading files from P2P networks, FTP, IRC or the Usenet.

All formats can be burned to CD, DVD or Blu-Ray depending on their size using a DVD burning software like Nero or my personal favorite ImgBurn for instance.

Another method favored by many is to mount those images as a virtual drive instead. This allows you to access the contents as if a disc would be in the drive, but without having to burn it first. This also improves access speed as data is loaded from the computer's hard drive and not a optical drive that is slower.

Pretty good if you just need to install something or watch a movie that was distributed as a bin, cue, img or iso file.

Several software programs exist that can mount those file types, one is named Daemon Tools but there are many more.

You simply create a virtual drive using your program of choice, browse to the location of the image file on your hard drive and select it from there. The disc will be mounted and is from then on accessible under the virtual drive letter in Windows.

This is an excellent way to store CDs and DVDs on your computer. Great if you are traveling and do not want to take the original discs with you or to save power when using a notebook. It essentially means that you do not need to use the installed CD or DVD drive which saves the power.

Microsoft is offering a free unsupported software as well that is able to mount those files if you are using Windows XP.

Update: The Microsoft program is no longer available at the Microsoft Download Center. We suggest you use a third party alternative such as Isodisk or Virtual Clone Drive which both provide you with the same functionality.


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  1. richard wicks said on May 11, 2018 at 4:08 am

    I’m looking for enough information to convert a bin/cue combination to an iso.

    It’s simply stupid to have multiple formats of a PHYSICAL medium.

  2. Lee said on April 23, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I Downloaded A Windows XP MCE 2005 OEM That Was .IMG Files 1 And 2. Is .IMG Better Than .ISO And Does It Speed Up The Install, Running Of MCE 2005? I Have At One Time Downloaded Windows XP Pro Corp SP3 And Did Something To Make It Faster Than The Others I Downloaded Before, What File System Or Settings Using IMG Burn Can Speed Up Windows XP Like A Modified Copy But Not Using Any Tweaks Or Such?

  3. Fat Jay said on October 28, 2007 at 1:00 am

    Um, the unsupported window program (ironically) doesn’t support cue or bin. It supports iso, and a .rock or something but not the ones you said it did.

  4. Jerusalem Joe said on October 24, 2007 at 8:44 am

    I agree with the second commenter – an explanation would be welcome.
    Come on Martin – educate the unwashed masses!

  5. Benóný (Iceland) said on October 24, 2007 at 8:38 am

    Streaker I disagree with what your saying about Daemon, I’ve been using it for a very long time and have never noticed any Adware or anything unusual. I tried Magicdisk and can’t say that it beats Daemon Tools.

  6. Martin said on October 24, 2007 at 8:16 am

    duryodhan, you are right of course. Let me give a basic explanation..

    Bin and Cue: Bin holds the raw data of the disk including metadata while the Cue file describes that data. It contains track information for instance.

    Iso: Iso is probably the most used format these days. They hold all data of a disk plus metadata including boot code and structure.

    Img; Img files are raw dumps of disks.

    I think all formats can also be unpacked using archivers like IZArc.

  7. duryodhan said on October 24, 2007 at 4:51 am

    Also, ISO Images are more friendly in linux… they are as easy to mount as a simple :
    mount .iso -o loop

    and creating ISO images in linux is :
    dd if=/dev/dvd of=image.iso

    So I recommend people to stick to ISO, you never know you might work on linux some day.

    Also, where in this article are you EXPLAINING ISO CUE BIN ? The whole article just manages to say that all these formats are cd images and that to mount them you need some software! I was really excited when I saw the heading but this was a letdown.

  8. Streaker said on October 24, 2007 at 3:40 am

    Daemon Tools comes bundled with Adware. You should use MagicDisc instead-

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