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SpinRite – Repair hard disk failures and recover your data

I have a file in my docs that I cannot delete. The error message that comes
up says “cannot read from source file or disk”. Problem is that backup is not
able to get beyond the folder where this file sits. What can I do?

“Cannot read from source file or disk” is often an indication that your hard
disk has a bad sector and is quite literally unable to read some, or all of the
file. Another error that you might encounter is the dreaded “CRC Error” which
means effectively the same thing: a problem with the data on your hard
drive.

Hard disks are fairly cheap these days and replacement is often a practical
solution.

However, if the data that you can’t get to is important, or the time and
hassle of replacing the hard disk is too daunting, SpinRite
could well be the answer.

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SpinRite works at the physical level of your hard disk. It’s specifically designed to work on your hard drive’s magnetic media in two ways:

“SpinRite works at the physical level of your hard drive, and knows nothing about files, folders or even disk formats.”
  • To rewrite data on your hard drive so as to make sure that the magnetic signals used to encode data are as clear and crisp as possible. This makes them easier and faster to read, as well as maximizing the lifespan of the data encoded.

  • To recover data on your hard drive where those magnetic signals have become weak or corrupted. SpinRite will go through exhaustive lengths to recover data when it encounters a sector that for some reason cannot be successfully read. Once it has done so it will either rewrite the recovered data to the sector, or it will relocate the sector to another physical location on the disk.

In other words, it has two primary uses: maintenance and recovery.

You can guess which one gets used most often. Smile

What’s interesting is that physical failures like CRC errors aren’t always reported as such. If your hard disk is struggling and things seem slow, it could be a bad sector that’s causing your computer to try, try again until the data is successfully read. Occasionally, if your computer suddenly won’t boot – perhaps “no operating system” or “ntldr missing” or any number of initial errors on start up – it’s because there’s a bad sector that the boot loader doesn’t report as such.

If you listen to the Security Now podcast you’ll hear SpinRite’s creator, Steve Gibson, present a testimonial each week of how SpinRite saved the day (and data) for someone. His stories of recovery run the range from the simple “it won’t boot” scenario to the complex and even the extreme.

It’s important to realize what SpinRite is not.

SpinRite works at the physical level of your hard drive, and knows nothing about files, folders or even disk formats. That’s one of the reasons that it can work not only on FAT or NTFS formatted drives, but also drives formatted for use with Mac’s and Linux. It’s not trying to understand the data on the hard drive at all – it’s simply looking at and repairing each sector, regardless of its contents.

So that means it won’t repair data that was improperly written. It doesn’t replace chkdsk, or undelete utilities, or file recovery utilities like Recuva. These tools all operate on the data stored on your hard drive.

What SpinRite does that no other tool does is work to repair and recover from physical errors on the hard drive like bad sectors, CRC errors and the like.

A couple of final caveats:

  • SpinRite’s can work on external USB drives if your computer’s BIOS supports it (and many do not). Regardless, running SpinRite over USB makes it extra-slow. If you’re really facing a problem with an external drive it’s often better to remove the drive from its enclosure and connect it to a computer directly via internal PATA or SATA interfaces.

  • SpinRite can be slow. Depending on the level of work you’re asking it to do it can take a few hours on a drive with no problems. If the drive has problems, it will then vary dramatically depending on how many problems and how successful SpinRite is at correcting them. It could add next to no time at all, but most often it adds minutes or hours to the process. (Extreme testimonials I’ve heard have SpinRite successfully repairing a disk after working on it for days, weeks, and in at least one case – a few months.)

  • SpinRite can occasionally have issues with some SATA controllers. It crashes on my desktop, for example, when attempting to recover a bad sector. The same drive connected to my laptop was repaired without incident.

  • SpinRite cannot recover from extreme hardware failure. If the disk doesn’t spin, if the drive’s circuit board has been damaged, if the disk read/write heads no longer read/write, that’s beyond SpinRite’s abilities.

Support for SpinRite is excellent.

SpinRite is not free. As I write this it sells for $89. Two important points about that:

  • 100% guarantee. If you don’t like it, they’ll refund your money.

  • $89 is often significantly less than the expense of losing, recreating or recovering data. (In fact, many data recovery shops begin by running SpinRite, and then charge you a premium for the service.)

Bottom line is that SpinRite is an extremely valuable tool to have in your arsenal.

It’s in mine.

I recommend it.

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17 comments on “SpinRite – Repair hard disk failures and recover your data”

  1. I’ve had the “chance” to have to repair many hard drive failures and my experience is that all of the tools in the above article work to a certain extent.
    The one I personally swear by, simply because after trying the above tools (including spinrite) and others, it was the only one that got the data back, is GetDataBack.
    My two cents 🙂

    Reply
  2. My God !! Didn’t realise SpinRite was still available. Used it at work many years ago, usualy to fix bad interleave problems etc. When hard drives improved we stopped using it. Will give it a look

    Reply
  3. I agree with Vincent Lievens. I bought many other programs but the one that saved all my pictures was Get Data Back.

    Reply
  4. To the question about the backup cannot get beyond that bad file. First, I would chose another backup program, one that skips bad files/folders and then tells you about it when complete. Second, boot to safemode to see if you can delete it. If not, while still in safemode, go to a command prompt and see if you can DEL the file. Write down the path first.

    Reply
  5. Someone should mention that spinrite is for hard rives with spinning platters, not usb flash drives. I believe Leo said that a few years ago.

    Correct. SpinRite is for magnetic media only. Using it on flash-based technology like solid state drives will shorten their lifespan considerably.

    Leo
    19-May-2010

    Reply
  6. I will be downloading and purchasing a new copy soon (I have to fix my Sister in law’s laptop drive). I used an earlier version 10 years ago on my children’s computer and it recovered 95% of all files! I swear by it to all my customers and friends who have hard drive problems. It is a bargain at this price!

    Reply
  7. SpinRite literally saved my ass a few years ago when I coudn’t boot up my primary computer. It found the corrupted sectors (something like two out of 500,000), fixed them nicely and this computer has been doing fine ever since.

    However, I do have a replacement internal HD sitting in a closet just in case.

    And I back up everything on external HDs.

    Anyway, thank you SpinRite for doing an excellect job. I would recommend this product to everyone.

    Reply
  8. I have purchased and used PowerData Recovery. It works wonders, even on reformatted drives. Read:Power Data Recovery is easy to use. You could choose one of the modules below to recover your data.

    Undelete Recovery
    module could recover data by accidental deletion.
    Advanced Recovery
    module could recover data from most of the data lost reasons including accidental formatting, fdisked or inaccessible drive and deleted partitions. Even you reinstalled your system, you still have a chance to recover your data by using this module.
    Deep Scan Recovery
    module will scan the device by manufacturer’s data format. It is powerful and could recover what ever left on you device. It support popular data format including MS Office files, graphic and picture files, audio and video files. For complete file formatting list, please visit http://www.eofsoft.com/deepscan.htm

    *A license key is required to recover data over 640K. To purchase a license key, please visit http://www.PowerDataRecovery.com/pdr_buynow.htm

    Reply
  9. “Hard disks are fairly cheap these days and replacement is often a practical solution.”
    Better check that! Hard drives have skyrocketed in price after the Thailand floods!

    Reply
  10. I bought SpinRite but don’t use it, at least to test a disk. I started it on a 1 Tb disk using maximum depth and let it run overnight. In the morning, it had finished only 1% of task. A 100-day test is too slow.

    Reply
  11. “If the disk doesn’t spin” agitate it. I returned from vacation and my computer wouldn’t boot. So I opened it (what did I have to loose?) and tried again. Dead silence & no vibration from the hard drive. Removed the drive and rotated it left-right-left-right for a few seconds — like an agitating washing machine. Reinstalled it and it has been working fine for several years now.

    Reply
  12. SpinRite works fine on my IDE-based systems but not on the SATA system. SpinRite Support told me to look for a BIOS setting that makes the SATA interface appear as an IDE (I don’t have such a setting). In other words, they are telling me that “SpinRite works on all SATA drives” (that’s what their website claims)–so long as the BIOS can make the SATA interface appear IDE, that is.

    Steve Gibson is a smart guy, but I wish he wouldn’t let stuff like this languish. SATA is NOT a novel interface: SpinRite should fully support it.

    BTW, SpinRite Support’s final suggestion to me was to boot my system from a Windows 98 CD (that didn’t work either). Give me a break!

    Reply
  13. Same experience here as Don. I bought Spinrite and nowhere on the website does it say that it does not work with SATA. I tried on 2 computer: 2007 Dell running Windows XP and a 2010 Sony Vaio running Windows 7. Never device allows the SATA to be run as an IDE. I spent all day trying work arounds including the Windows 98 boot CD mentioned above that did not work. It seems to me that this program is only good for old technology….

    Reply
  14. SpinRite has worked on my 2011 Windows 7 Acer laptop SATA drive and on my 2009 Acer EasyStore Windows Home Server SATA drives just fine without changing anything in either BIOS. The only thing that SpinRite can sometimes not access is the SMART data from a SATA drive if the motherboard and BIOS do not forward the information in a manner that SpinRite understands. This is the case for my laptop, but in the BIOS on my laptop I am able to change the SATA setting to “legacy” (IDE) mode and it will then also have access to the SMART data.

    But do note that SpinRite performs *just fine* on SATA drives without the SMART data, it simply cannot do any benchmarking of the drive’s performance without it. But it will perform as advertised just fine.

    I suppose YMMV but the posts from Don and londoj01 are the first ones I have seen that claim that SpinRite does not work at all on a SATA drive.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  15. Dear Leo
    following your post I have researched the spinrite soft ware and it looks very good so I have purchased it
    my problem is however even though I have gone through the steps as laid out in the information provided on the web site which is install initially on a second laptop then install to a drive this to get the software onto a USB stick I have also set the boot section to USB as primary boot but the machine still by passes it and boots into windows
    the laptop is an HP pavilion dv6 purchased in the US last year I have also looked into the bios to see if I can change it to Ide compatible ( but from what I see you cannot ) I can get the laptop to boot into windows but she freezes or take forever to get any further into the programs
    I work in Africa and we have a lot of power spikes which I think may be the initial onset of the problem the big issue however is getting the data off do you or any of you guys out there have any suggestions on what I should do next or should I wait until back in the uk and use a docking station (toaster) to get the data off any ideas would be appreciated
    thanks

    Reply

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