I have some older game CDs. Even though they are copyrighted, I understand that I am allowed to make a copy to back them up in case one gets worn out or damaged.

Does anyone know of any software that will make a bit-for-bit copy of a CD?

  • Is the CD copy protected in any way?
    – rrirower
    Dec 16, 2014 at 19:12
  • Yes, the CDs have various copy protection schemes. I was thinking if a bit-for-bit copy software existed, It should also copy the copy protection. I am not sure of how these various schemes work.
    – timf
    Dec 16, 2014 at 20:19
  • Try CDBurnerXP. I had great success with it, although my CDs were not copy-protected.
    – ComFreek
    Dec 16, 2014 at 20:48
  • Nero can also make copies. I'm not sure if it can handle the protection.
    – rrirower
    Dec 16, 2014 at 22:54

2 Answers 2


I would use Nero or a similar program to make an .iso file that should be exactly what is written on the CD, then use Virtual Clone Drive to run that .iso file from your hard drive, emulating a CD.

This can be useful when they intentionally make a CD have an non-standard section as a copy-protection mechanism. This has worked for me on CD's that I could not burn a new copy (either disk-to-disk or from the intentionally malformed .iso). It seems like the burning software chokes on writing the malformed section, but the CD emulator reading the .iso doesn't care.

If there is a flaw in this approach, it would be a question of whether the software was willing to write the malformed .iso file. I think it works based on my experiences, but you will have to see for yourself.


With copy-protected CDs this will generally be impossible because the copy protection schemes were designed specifically to make it impossible. Examples of things they did:

  • The simplest trick was to include some bad sectors on the disc, and refuse to run if reading those sectors succeeded. Consumer CD burners generally don't support writing bad sectors.

  • CD-ROM includes a scrambling step where the raw data is xored with pseudorandom bits in order to minimize the chance that the data actually written to disc will include certain bit patterns that were difficult for consumer drives to write. Since the pseudorandom bit sequence is always the same, you can construct sectors that always scramble to those bit patterns, so burning a copy on a consumer drive is likely to fail.

  • I think some schemes used the timings of sector reads to measure the relative angle of certain sectors on the disc. With recordable CDs you have no control over the angular placement of the sectors.

Your options in these cases are probably limited to finding a cracked ("No-CD") executable, re-buying the game on GOG if available, or using an emulated CD drive.

  • In the old days, Daemon Tools was a widely used CD-ROM emulator that had built-in support for widely used copy protection schemes. However, it may have evolved into creepy spy/adware in the >10 years since I last thought about it.
  • AlternativeTo lists some alternatives to Daemon Tools but I wouldn't be surprised if many of them lacked the copy protection support.
  • Your best (and safest) bet may be to run the games in DOSBox or another emulator. Working around the copy protection would still have to be done on a game-by-game basis but there's a sizeable retrogaming community that can help with that.

In some cases making physical copies may be possible:

  • When CD-ROM drives first came out, a typical hard drive size was 40 MB and CD-R didn't exist, so there was no practical way for people to copy the CDs. Being too big to copy might have been considered "copy protection" at that time, but it's no obstacle now.
  • Later games might have used simple schemes like nonstandard CD-ROM sector encoding, multiple tracks, or subchannel data, all of which are supported by consumer CD burners. The "ISO" file format doesn't support them but you can copy them by ripping to a more full-featured format like CUE+BIN or NRG.

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