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Mounting an ISO and extracting files from it. Command line techniques.

Loopmount an ISO Without Administrative Privileges

Users seeking to view the contents of an ISO file or copy a file from it are frequently advised to mount the ISO with

  mount -o loop example.iso /mnt

There are two aspects of this advice to consider:

The following programs allow loopmounting without administrative privileges.


Install udisks2:

  apt-get install udisks2

If a desktop environment has been installed from the installer or after the installation udisks2 will already be on the system.

The package contains the udisksctl program. The command

  udisksctl loop-setup -r -f example.iso

attaches the ISO to a loop device in /dev. Logging out and back in again might be necessary to have success with this command as a user.


  ls -l /dev/loop*

might show

  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   0 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop0
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   2 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop0p1
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk 259,   3 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop0p2
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   1 Nov 16 15:19 /dev/loop1
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   2 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop2
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   3 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop3
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   4 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop4
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   5 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop5
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   6 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop6
  brw-rw---- 1 root disk   7,   7 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop7
  crw-rw---- 1 root disk  10, 237 Nov 16 15:14 /dev/loop-control

The ISO's main partition can be mounted and unmounted with the commands

  udisksctl mount -b /dev/loop0p1

  udisksctl unmount -b /dev/loop0p1

The mount point is at /media/$USER.

Unmounting still leaves example.iso associated with /dev/loop0. To unattach the device do

  udisksctl loop-delete /dev/loop0

udisks2 appeared in Debian 8 (Jessie).


Intended as a udisks2 replacement but udevil can co-exist with it and will work to mount an ISO with or without its recommended packages.

  udevil mount example.iso


  udevil unmount example.iso

work out of the box. The mount point is in /media.

udevil appeared in Debian 8 (Jessie) but has been backported to Debian 7 (Wheezy).


Mounting an ISO with pmount requires (at present) the experimental version. Alter the loop_allow directive in /etc/pmount.conf to yes and uncomment loop_devices before mounting the ISO in /media with

  pmount example.iso

Unmount with

  pumount example.iso


archivemount is a FUSE based file system which supports reading from (but not writing to) ISO 9660 images. Create the directory isomount in $HOME and mount with

  archivemount example.iso isomount/

Unmount with

  fusermount -u isomount/


fuseiso9660 is a module for the FUSE kernel service.

Create the directory isomount in the home directory ($HOME) and mount the iso with

  fuseiso9660 example.iso isomount/

Unmount with

  fusermount -u isomount/

fuseiso9660 deals only with the basic ISO9660 format (see the manual) so filenames are limited to uppercase and 11 characters in an 8.3 format.

Viewing the Contents of an ISO

Mounting the ISO and following up with

  ls -l <mount_point>

is one method of seeing what the structure of the ISO is and what it contains. However, there is a number of programs which will allow examination of the contents of an ISO archive without having to mount it and without administration rights.

A Jessie netinst ISO will be used as an example image in what follows.


bsdtar is a tar implemenation which can view the contents of various archive files, including ISO 9660 images. It can also extract files from the image. For a basic view of the contents of an ISO image do

  bsdtar -tf debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso

A detailed view would be obtained with

  bsdtar -tvf debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso

To look at a particular directory in the archive there is

  bsdtar -tf debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso pool/main/a


xorriso is a versatile program which manipulates ISO 9660 filesystem images. It can also extract files from the image.

Commands which correspond to the ones for bsdtar are

  xorriso -indev debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso -ls

  xorriso -indev debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso -lsl

  xorriso -indev debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso -ls pool/main/b


isoinfo is included in the genisoimage package and is able to list and extract files in an ISO 9660 image. The listing is of all files in the image.

For basic listing:

  isoinfo -J -l -i debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso

For long listing:

  isoinfo -J -f -i debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso


The 7z utility comes in the p7zip-full package. It packs and unpacks 7z archives and has ISO 9660 as a supported format for unpacking.

  7z l debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso

gives a file listing of the archive.

Extraction of Files from an ISO

If debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso has been mounted and it is desired to have all the deb and udeb files copied to other media it should be sufficient to do

  cp -a /media/<mount_point>/pool/main DESTINATION

Without mounting, all the programs mentioned above are capable of extracting the same files. The relevant commands are:

  bsdtar -C DESTINATION -xf debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso pool/main

  xorriso -osirrox on -indev debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso -extract pool/main DESTINATION

  isoinfo -J -x /pool/main/a/adduser/adduser_3.113+nmu3_all.deb -i debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso > DESTINATION/adduser_3.113+nmu3_all.deb

  7z x -oDESTINATION -i\!pool/main debian-8.2.0-i386-netinst.iso

  • isoinfo only extracts single files and will display a file on stdout (possibly the screen) if it is not redirected somewhere.
  • 7z doesn't like spaces between an option and its argument. Also, the bash shell sees ! as having a special meaning to it. This meaning can be removed by preceding ! with a backslash.