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ISO 9660

ISO 9660, a standard published by the International Organization for Standardization, defines a file system for CD-ROM media. It aims at supporting different computer operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and systems that follow the UNIX specification, so that data may be exchanged.

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Levels and restrictions

There are different levels to this standard.

Level 1File names are restricted to 8 characters with a 3 character extension, upper case letters, numbers and underscore; maximum depth of directories is 8.
Level 2File names may be up to 31 characters.
Level 3The third level allows files to be fragmented (used on CD-Rs written by the software "Direct CD" for Windows, for example).

All levels restrict names to upper case letters and underscores ("_"). Some CD mastering applications allow the user to use almost any ASCII character. While this does not strictly conform to the ISO 9660 standard, most operating systems that can read ISO 9660 file systems support the use of most ASCII characters as an extension.

Disk image appearance

Disk images of ISO 9660 file systems often have the extension .iso, but not necessarily.


There are extensions to ISO 9660 to deal with the limitations. The most common ones are Rock Ridge and Joliet:

Rock Ridge supports the preservation of Unix permissions and longer ASCII coded names, while Joliet supports names stored in Unicode, thus allowing almost any character to be used, even from non-roman scripts.

ISO 13490[?] is basically ISO 9660 with multisession support.

Operating system support

Most operating systems support reading of ISO 9660 formatted discs, but only a few support the extensions such as Rock Ridge and Joliet. Operating systems that do not support the extensions will usually show the basic (non-extended) features of a plain ISO 9660 disc.

Here are some operating systems and their support for ISO 9660 and extensions:

  • MS-DOS: access with MSCDEX.EXE (Microsoft CDROM Extension)
  • Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME: can read ISO 9660 Level 1, 2, 3, and Joliet
  • Microsoft Windows NT 4, Windows 2000, Windows XP: can read ISO 9660 Level 1, 2, 3, and Joliet
  • Linux and BSD: ISO 9660 Level 1, 2 (I'm not sure about Lvl 3, someone update this please), Joliet and Rock Ridge
  • Mac OS 7 to 9: ISO Level 1, 2. Optional free software supports Rock Ridge and Joliet: Joke Ridge (http://www.alex-castro.com/jokeridge/) and Joliet Volume Access (http://www.tempel.org/joliet/).
  • Mac OS X: probably the same as BSD.

P.S. Since the burning software K3b allows the creation of ISO Level 3 disks on a Mandrake 9.0 machine, I'd say that Linux (at least with kernel 2.4) supports that format correctly.

External link

See the CD Recording FAQ (http://www.cdrfaq.org/)

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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