TL; DR: If you’re wondering what’s on those old CD-i discs stacked in the back of your junk drawer, there’s a way to get to the content without hunting down a relic that supports the outdated format. Born from Peter Van Hove’s desire to preserve data from a dying medium, IsoBuster displays all the file systems located on optical media, giving users complete access to everything housed on a disc. It’s not just old-fashioned CD-i discs IsoBuster supports, however. The tool works with a multitude of media, from CDs and DVDs to hard drives and SSM, among many others. IsoBuster offers effective data recovery at a low cost of entry, which is why the solution is being used by consumers, businesses, and hundreds of law enforcement forensic divisions worldwide.
As an avid Monty Python fan, Peter Van Hove found himself with a dilemma. He had stacks of old CD-i discs containing MPG streams of some of his favorite sketches from Flying Circus, but he couldn’t play them on his Windows PC. Peter wanted a way to view and extract the content from the discs, so he did what anyone else in his position would do. He clipped on his cape and became a superhero.
“It actually all started after I bought the book Teach Yourself C++ Builder in 21 Days,” Peter said. “I took 21 days off from work to go through a chapter every day.”
The result of Peter’s labor was IsoBuster, and the superhero on the IsoBuster logo says it all. His program effectively comes to the rescue of stored data by surpassing Windows to mount CD-i and open image files.
IsoBuster quickly grew in popularity and became one of the leading solutions for recovering the data hidden within optical media. Today, IsoBuster supports multiple media formats, including CD/DVD, BD/HD DVD, hard drives, SSM, USB, ZIP, and JAZ drives, among others.
Individuals, businesses, and hundreds of law enforcement forensics divisions around the world are now using the data recovery solution. Peter’s no-bloat approach removes marketing and personnel expenses, making IsoBuster’s full functionality available at a very low price point.
The Demise of Optical Media and the Call for a Global Data Recovery Tool
There are a few possible ways to view data on optical media. Most often, the image itself, which has been burned onto the disc, is listed simply as a single ISO file.
“An ISO file is a block-per-block copy of the entire CD. Block 0 through the last block of an entire disc is read into an ISO file. IsoBuster can open ISO files and treat them like actual CDs — just as it would address the actual CD drive with the disc inside,” Peter said. “The same approach is true for all other types of image files.”
Optical media began losing popularity after the push to digital. First, MP3 files became popular, rendering audio CDs all but obsolete. Meanwhile, video streaming services, like Netflix and digital video game downloads, were beginning to replace traditional optical storage media as the preferred method of obtaining large files. As manufacturers gradually reduced or even halted the production of discs, the need to recover the dying information from increasingly out-of-date formats arose.
“IsoBuster started out as an optical disc (CD, DVD) data recovery tool,” Peter said. “So, from my perspective, the biggest need for the tool came from the gradual demise of optical media.”
Originally used for CD-i, IsoBuster has been employed on data contained in multiple image formats. All files, while digital, must still be stored on some form of media, whether it be a disc, flash memory, or an HDD. Even files stored in the cloud are based on servers running on physical equipment. No physical medium has an unlimited lifespan, which is why backups are essential.
Providing Peace of Mind Through Specialized Recovery Mechanisms
IsoBuster has been providing peace of mind through data recovery since its inception. Data loss can be catastrophic, even when routine backups are made. Depending on the use case, data loss can have financial implications for businesses, cause emotional stress for people who’ve lost personal photo files, and can even affect the outcome of criminal investigations.
In fact, IsoBuster is well-known in the law enforcement forensics space as a valuable data recovery tool with hundreds of departments using it to retrieve evidence from various media formats. IsoBuster’s programming allows for the discovery of “hidden” data tucked away in file systems unseen to even the OS itself.
Although files appear to be within a singular space through the OS, the reality is that files are fragmented across the hard drive. A single picture, for instance, appears as an entire file to the end user, while the actual data comprising the picture could be scattered across multiple sectors, which IsoBuster is can detect.
This is especially useful when hard drives begin to fail or the file system structure becomes corrupt. Files not normally viewable can thus become recoverable through a deeper analysis of file signatures and raw data.
IsoBuster is a leader in the data recovery space due largely to its positive cost-benefit ratio.
“With IsoBuster, you get the complete picture fast and quite easily compared to other, huge and very expensive packages,” Peter said.
IsoBuster is capable of opening multiple image files, regardless of OS. Not only can IsoBuster view ISOs, it can also open VHDX, VDI, and DSK files. These formats are commonly used in virtual machines, and files can be viewed on guest systems as well as the main host system. This makes backup and recovery possible on multiple levels. Information from these images can be viewed without the need to mount them using expensive third-party virtual drive software.
A One-Man Show Enables a Fair Price for Big Power Under the Hood
Given that IsoBuster is essentially a one-man show with Peter at the helm, a laser-focused approach to data recovery means powerful solutions at a reasonable price.
“This is a one-person company,” he said. “I do everything myself.”
Peter told us he takes a no-bloat approach to his business, removing the need for expensive marketing and a large team of employees trading lines of code for sizeable salaries. Peter only needs to pay himself — and he achieves this by selling a large number of cheaply priced licenses.
IsoBuster is a shareware program, meaning it may be downloaded for free with basic functionality. Advanced features, such as HFS and UDF, are available with the paid version, the price of which is deliberately kept low so recovery options are accessible to anyone who needs them.
IsoBuster’s independence also results in a reliable and large user base. When customer support issues arise, users know exactly who they will be speaking with — the Founder and sole programmer of IsoBuster.
“There are no layers protecting the developers from outside interruptions,” Peter said. “The support people know the deep mechanics very well, because, well, it’s all me.”
Version 4.0 — A New and Improved Engine and GUI Coming Soon
Peter is committed to perfecting IsoBuster as the ultimate data recovery tool.
“Focus is entirely on producing very stable software, and new features are added at a constant pace,” he said.
Version 4.0 is on the horizon, featuring added support for new file systems. Peter has also improved the GUI, making the experience more user-friendly, and he’s revved up the engine for increased performance.
With IsoBuster’s recent revisions, users can define their own file signatures (as of version 3.9), and take advantage of the added support for compressed system files and full hard drive cloning. In version 4.0, IsoBuster will include more search features and will support new file systems associated with the latest operating systems, including Windows 10.
“IsoBuster’s features have always been quite innovative,” Peter said. “It features quite a lot of functionality that was first of a kind.”
Peter and IsoBuster will continue to lead the charge in the data recovery space. Teaching yourself C++ in 21 days is the kind of motivation that kindles forward thinking and innovation, and that spark shows no signs of being extinguished any time soon.