For this you will need to download the following free software:
Infrarecorder (if you don’t already have CD burning software) – http://infrarecorder.org/
Daemon Tools lite – http://www.disk-tools.com/download/daemon
VLC Player (if you don’t already have DVD playback software) – http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
Firstly make an ISO image file of the CD or DVD in question. I use Infrarecorder for this. If your DVD is copy protected I am not going to tell you how to get round this or break the law, I am using one of my organisation’s promotional DVDs for this purpose.
I am using a nice Dell Latitude X1 laptop, its oldish machine but small light and has an external DVD burner. I did this as I was setting the computer to play a looped DVD film for a conference. There is not much space in the booth at the conference on the table to set up the external DVD drive.
I like Infrarecorder as its simple and free & open source. I don’t care much for Nero as it make images into its own .NRG format rather than more common .ISO file. Nero comes bundled with all kinds of extra bloated stuff most people don’t want.
Transfer the ISO file onto your laptop via network or USB drive.
I would suggest you copy your ISO file on the the root of C:\ drive of your laptop or make a folder lets say, C:\films or whatever. This was they can be read by different people if you have multiple log in profiles on the computer.
Install Daemon Tools on the laptop. When you do this, don’t go through the installation too quickly. The makers of this application bundled some annoying form of search toolbar, which could be a mild spyware app. Just make sure you untick this before doing the installation. Once installed it will need to install some drivers to make it mimic a standard CD or DVD drive. You will need to reboot.
Once rebooted your PC will show and extra optical drive in My Computer, I would recommend that you not leave it mapped to D: or E: or whatever as it could get confusing, if you later plug in an external DVD drive. So, go into Start, Settings, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, on the left hand side click Disk Management. Here you can rename the drive letter of the pseudo-optical drive. I have chosen V:for virtual DVD.
Install VLC player if you haven’t already done so. VLC or Video LAN Player is way better than Windows Media Player, Real Player and Quicktime, and it plays DVDs. Note it isn’t perfect (although I have been at presentations and see the three above application crash or refuse to play video properly) Sometimes VLC may start playing the main part of the movie rather than the main film menu. Having said that, I love VLC’s vast choice of format support, simple non-gimmicky interface and fast start up time, which other mentioned apps do very poorly. Without hidden extra bundled software VLC is my choice for corporate use and at home.
Ok, you are almost done. On your Windows task bar (bottom right hand corner near clock) click the silver icon with the lightning flash. From here you can select the ISO file and VLC or whatever your main choice of media player should choose to play the film straight away. From this icon you can chose to dismount the disc or insert another one. Windows will think its just a normal CD, it all works totally transparently. You can even make this pretend DVD drive sharable if you wish over your network. I have done this with some awkward applications that might not install easily over a network, gives me the advantage I can remote in (using Remote Desktop or VNC viewer) to my own PC to pick and choose the right ISO file.
This is also great if you want to go away somewhere with your laptop and not bring bulky films with you. Ought to save battery power by not using a real DVD drive too.
It should be noted that ISO files get very big (DVDs are ~4.7Gb) so make sure you have enough hard disk space. Recent netbook computers like Dell’s Mini 10 which might have a small SSD hard disks of 16Gb or so should definitely bear this in mind.
Enjoy watching movies whilst in bed/whilst camping/on a plane!