UtilityIf you've ever waited for a CD-ROM to catch up to the action while you play a game on your PC, you'll appreciate Farstone Technology's CD emulator, Virtual Drive 6.1. A CD emulator copies data from a CD to a virtual CD-ROM drive on your hard drive and then plays back the data, making the CD-ROM unnecessary and game play much quicker. This is handy if you travel: you can have your CD-ROMs available without having to tote the actual discs.
Virtual Drive works in all flavours of Windows except 3.1 and costs $US40 downloaded (I saw a shipping version). It creates up to 23 virtual CD drives on your computer and assigns a drive letter to each. When you copy a CD, the software creates a virtual CD, and you "load" and "eject" it via the program's Virtual Drive Manager. A virtual CD can contain any kind of data, including music files and databases.
You'll need plenty of space on your hard drive for Virtual Drive, as a virtual CD can easily take up 1GB. And not all CDs can be copied. Although the software worked well in Windows 98, on a PC running Windows 2000 it had problems with Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 2 - the game wouldn't start because of the copy protection encoded on the original discs.
Farstone claims that Virtual Drive can give you an effective CD speed of up to 200X, and in my informal tests, game play was indeed a great deal smoother. Virtual Drive 6.1 isn't essential software, but it's worth your attention if your aim is convenience or better game performance. If you want to take it for a test spin, we have included a trial version on this month's cover CD.
Virtual Drive 6.1
Distributor: Farstone Technology; Price: $US40 for download version; URL: www.farstone.com