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