High Desert Homesteading

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High Desert Homesteading > CD3WD Library

The Alcatraz Library from the Book of Eli

If you read this on Peak Prosperity, scroll down for the instructions and videos.

For those who have not seen the highly recommend post-apocalypse movie The Book of Eli, or as a reminder, near the end of the movie Eli finally completes his journey west to Alcatraz island.

A handful of survivors and scholars have converted Alcatraz into a vast library of books from the “before times” with the goal of making that all that invaluable information available to those who wish to rebuild society.

In 2010, I was contacted by a man named Alex Weir (1948 – 2014) who had dedicated his life to helping the poor in Africa raise their standard of living. One of his efforts was the CD3WD library of public domain and donated digital publications. A description from Wikipedia:

CD3WD was a project that focused on assisting in third world development by making technical documents and other relevant information easily available to all people. Created by Alex Weir in 2003, the concept was to share useful DIY guides and technical information for free using CDs. The name CD3WD comes from "CDinstructions for the Third World Development".

Alex was starting to get requests for his free 4 CD-ROM collection from the U.S. and wanted to know if my software company might be willing to help him distributing such. As synchronicity would have it, I had started to collect such information in earnest for my own “survival library”. When I saw the vast array of knowledge he had put together, I willingly agreed.

By 2012, the CD3WD had grown for 4 CD-ROMs to 6 DVDs containing approximately 26 Gigabytes of core publications. The amount of knowledge contained in the CS3WD is staggering and covers a multitude of subjects that anyone who thinks we may end up in a type of a World Made by Hand (James Kunstler, published in 2008) would find of great interest. Again, from that same Wikipedia page:

"CD3WD was focused on gathering and spreading information to assist third world development, but the project got much of its attention from survivalists. The information in the archive handled a widespread area of practical topics relevant to preppers. This, the structure, and the offline nature of the CD3WD archive made it ideal for survivalists. In 2013 author Annalee Newitz wrote about humans surviving a global extinction event, saying, "If we're lucky, the hangers-on will have access to a repository of human knowledge called the CD3WD database."

The breakdown by percentage of the general topics covered in the collection is:

  • APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY (dozens of subjects including Solar Cookers, Solar Water Heaters, DIY wood Stoves, Pottery, Gasification, Biogas, Soap Making, Pedal Powered Devices, etc, etc, etc) - 22%
  • HEALTH - 22%
  • WOODWORK - 3%
  • FISHERIES - 2%
  • FORESTRY - 2%

Unfortunately, Alex passed away in 2014 and his cd3wd.com domain name expired and was taken by an unrelated party and the CD3WD collection was almost lost to time although a few unscrupulous players have been selling the data for a tidy profit which is diametrically opposed to Alex’s stated directive that the data always be distributed for free.

Fortunately, recently someone put forth a tremendous amount of effort to resurrected most of the CD3WD data to continue Alex’s work and has made it available online as individual documents in the form of structured web pages.  Additionally, Archive.org has the complete 2012 six DVD collection available as ISO files that can be extracted to DVDs, USB flash or USB external drives.

The remainder of this article will explain various methods the average “non-computer geek” can use to save the individual documents for offline use or extract the ISO files to other offline sources.  If you are computer savvy, you can probably skip the below and go to http://www.cd3wdproject.org/ and click on the link to access the 800 individual documents or to https://archive.org/details/2012_cdw3d_dvd_set to download the ISO files. If you are really computer savvy, you can also download the entire collection as a single Torret file from that same page.

Saving Individual Web Page Documents for Offline Use

You can view or download a list of all the publications contained in the core CD3WD documents as a plain text file.  This should help you browse through if you are only interested in a few or want a single list of all the docs in the ISO files. Clicking the link below will probably display the plain text in a new browser tab/window. You can Save As a text file via your browser.

List of CD3WD Pubs.txt

If you are just interested in a handful of the available topics or don’t wish to download the 26 gigabytes of ISO files, you can use a free website downloader to create a local copy on your computer.  Fortunately, each document is structured as simple HTML pages and graphics which make creating a working local copy easy.

There are numerous freeware website downloader programs available for Windows and a few for Mac and even Linux.  I’ve been using Windows since the 3.1 version so I’ll cover that option. I just tested several of the currently available programs and can highly recommend Cyotek WebCopy (https://www.cyotek.com/cyotek-webcopy). It worked like a charm with the online CD3WD pages and even rewrote the table of contents links so they work with the local copy.

I did a video showing how to use Cyotek to grab copies of the CS3WD documents. You can go full screen with this once you start playing or click the link to watch directly on YouTube.

Content of the 6 ISO Files Available for Download

Just for reference, the ISO files are name 1001 – 1006. Their contents are as follows:

#1001 – medicine, health, water, sanitation (includes PDF versions of Where There is No Dentist/Doctor, emergency medicine, herbal medicine, - literally hundreds of topics)

#1002 – material from practical action, ITDG, appropedia, etc..

#1003 – vocational education, construction, metalwork, electrical trades, auto mechanics, woodwork, metalwork etc

#1004 – agriculture

#1005 – more agriculture and also all Portuguese titles and most French and Spanish titles

#1006 – the upgrade disk – material additional to the cd3wd release of 2011/12, plus the rest of the French and Spanish titles

Burning the ISO Files to DVD-Roms


The ISO files contain all the documents in their original PDF format. Regardless of which method you use below, please see the section near the end of this article on Working With the Extracted Files.

If you are like me and have stacks of old CD/DVD-ROMs lying around from the golden oldie days and want to use them for the ISO files, I have always used the free ImgBurn software (https://www.imgburn.com/) to extract the data from ISO files. I also did a video (3 minutes) for this method using ImgBurn which you can watch below or directly on Youtube.

Burning the ISO Files to a USB Flash or Hard Drive

This is probably the preferred method for creating offline copies of the 800+ documents. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first requires 6 flash drives of at least 8GB capacity. Using a free program such as ISO to USB (http://www.softsea.com/download/ISO-to-USB.html) you would simply burn each ISO to a different flash drive. You can buy flash drives in bulk (5/10 packs) from your favorite online store but I would stick to well-known brand names for any important data. Contrary to all the fake reviews, the cheaper foreign made drives have reliability issues.

By their very nature, an ISO file requires that the new media be formatted as part of the burning process. Therefore, if you wish to have all the data from all 6 ISO files combined to a single USB drive of 32GB or higher capacity, or to a folder/sub-folders on your hard drive or backup drives, you can do so with a single 8GB flash drive, and a little more time and effort.  

It is best to create a new sub-folder for all the files from each ISO as each one has files with duplicate file names such as the index.htm and others that are specific to that ISO.

Usually an ISO file is used to create a bootable CD/DVD/Flash drive. With these particular ISO files, the burning process simply extracts all the individual files to the new media. For the option of a single collection, you would simply extract each ISO to a flash drive, copy all those files to new sub-folder on a new larger flash drive, USB external drive, or a new folder on your primary hard drive and then reuse the original flash drive for the subsequent ISO files – rinse and repeat.  

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a vast difference in speed between a USB 2 and a USB 3 drive/port. Either one will work, but using a USB 3 drive/port will greatly expedite the burning/transfer process.

If you prefer either of the ISO to USB methods, then watch this video (10 minutes) for how to use it specifically with the CD3WD files.

Working With the Extracted Files

Alex compiled all these files over 10 years ago. He went to a lot of work to make them easily accessible, easy to navigate and even included a bunch of Freeware utilities. However, 10 years is an eternity in the software world.  If you are on Windows, you are welcome to browse through the software under the \software_\ folder – but it will obviously be outdated.

DO NOT use any of the Copy_to_X_Drive.bat files.  They do not work on Windows 10/11. It is easier to just copy all the extracted files on the flash drive to desired folders on a hard drive.

The index.htm file created from each ISO file is just a list of all the PDF files linked to each file in the same folder as the index.htm.

Alex also included a bunch of .csv files that can be opened in Excel, notepad, notepad++ or similar programs. The cd3wd_listing_thisdisk_pdf.csv file contains the same listing of PDF files as the index.htm.

I created an Excel file with 6 sheets, each with the listing of files from each extracted ISO. I also combined all 6 sheets into a 7th sheet to make it easier to keyword search.

If any of the above is confusing, or you are a visual learner such as me, you can watch this short video (9 minutes):


You can view or download a list of all the publications contained in the core CD3WD documents as a plain text file.  This should help you browse through if you are only interested in a few or want a single list of all the docs in the ISO files. Clicking the link below will probably display the plain text in a new browser tab/window. You can Save As a text file via your browser.

List of CD3WD Pubs.txt

Reference Links:

CD3WD on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD3WD

Access to all the documents in Web Page format - http://www.cd3wdproject.org/

ISO file downloads of the 6 core DVDs - https://archive.org/details/2012_cdw3d_dvd_set


Freeware Software Used:

Cyotek WebCopy Freeware - https://www.cyotek.com/cyotek-webcopy

ImgBurn Freeware - https://www.imgburn.com/

ISO to USB Freeware - http://www.softsea.com/download/ISO-to-USB.html


Tutorial Videos for All the Above:

Using Cyotek WebCopy to download local copies of the individual CD3WD documents.


Using ImgBurn to Extract the ISO files to DVD


Using ISO to USB to Extract the ISO files to USB Flash or Hard Drives.


Working with the Extracted Files.