This independent review of SpinRite 5.0 originally appeared on, and was written for, the "Accountant's Ledger" web site. After that web site was taken down, we retrieved the page from the Internet's amazing Webarchive project.

If you wish to verify the authenticity of our local copy of the review, this offsite link will take you to the original archived review.

SpinRite 5.0 - one-of-a-kind hard disk utility

by Bob Wolff, BSBA, MBA

The hard fact is that no other disk utility does what SpinRite 5.0 does - period! And it costs only $89 ($39 to upgrade from SpinRite 3.1 and 4.0).
Feature overview
What does this software do?

SpinRite 5.0, a 95,872 byte program written in assembly language, operates on fixed and removable disks to make them run perfectly. This is not disk partition software or a super Windows ScanDisk program. SpinRite does things that few, if any, other utilities can: It scrubs your drive surfaces, finding and fixing any problems it encounters. If data is unreadable by DOS or Windows (or other utilities), SpinRite recovers the data and makes it readable again. In addition, SpinRite performs preventive maintenance to help ensure your disk drives and data are safe.

Selected SpinRite features include:

  • No technical knowledge required.
  • Works directly on the hardware, not through the operating system, thus accessing controllers and drive technology (IDE, EIDE, SCSI).
  • Operates on DOS and Windows 12-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit file allocation table (FAT) partitions of any size.
  • Compatible with Windows 95 and 98 long file names.
  • Compatible with, and aware of, popular disk compression technologies.
  • Highly accurate drive performance benchmarking.
  • Supports Iomega Zip and Jaz technologies, the LS-120 SuperDisk, other removable media drives, and SCSI and other device-driven drives.
  • Formats each cluster in place after moving data to a safe location, then puts it back.
  • Flux Synthesis surface analysis scrubs hard disk surfaces, detects defects, and removes unsafe regions from use.
  • DynaStat data recovery performs deep statistical analysis on unreadable sectors to recover all or most sector data.
  • Drive fingerprinting for rapid SpinRite startup.
  • Remembers drive parameters in the event that the BIOS loses them.
  • Dynamic suspend and resume of SpinRite.
  • Runs 10 times faster than earlier versions.

What any particular feature will mean to an individual user will vary widely. Explanations of many features would rapidly zip across the top of our heads – flux synthesis, DynaStat data recovery, dynamic servo thermal re-equalization. Frankly, none of these make any difference except to engineers and others who have to know and understand how things work (see the documentation).

Using SpinRite 5.0
For the rest of us, all that really matters is that SpinRite works and works very well.

Using SpinRite is simple and straightforward. First, you spend about 5-10 minutes creating a clean DOS boot disk. There should be no terminate-and-stay-resident programs or other non-essential stuff. Only the drivers used to access your hard disk and removable storage drives, and any disk partition software you normally load with DOS or Windows, should be included. For example, if you use an Iomega Jaz or Zip drive via a parallel or SCSI connection, you need to insert GUEST.EXE into the AUTOEXEC.BAT file on the boot disk. Metaphorically, this raises the Jaz or Zip flag for SpinRite to see. (GUEST.EXE is located in the folder containing Iomega tools.) Be sure to put SpinRite on the diskette too. (The manual provides good instructions for creating a SpinRite boot disk.)

Note: A new feature in SpinRite 5.0 is the ability to start the program from within Windows. However, removable storage, disk partitioning, and other drivers may be controlled by Windows, and thus, be invisible to SpinRite. A clean SpinRite boot disk is the best way to ensure access to everything.

SpinRite displays letters for each drive it finds. Choosing which to check is easy and quick. SpinRite can check diskettes, removable storage like Jaz and Zip, and virtually any fixed hard disk. The first time you run SpinRite on a drive, it performs diagnostics and gathers drive information. This is saved as the drive’s fingerprint to speed up future SpinRite sessions.

SpinRite offers five operational levels. Each represents a deeper level of analysis. The base levels (1 through 3) examine drive surfaces, recover unreadable data, and refresh drive surfaces by reading and writing each sector and electronically realigning the data underneath a drive’s read/write heads. At Level 4, Deep Defect Analysis, SpinRite performs deep surface analysis and defect scrubbing operations, analyzes the entire drive surface to certify its data storage integrity, and performs full data recovery. The deepest operational analysis, called Restore Good Sectors (level 5), does everything above plus it returns previously marked bad areas to use if they pass the tests 100%.

The first time you use SpinRite, I strongly recommend level 4 or 5 analysis. Then every 3-4 months run a surface refresh (level 3). Each year thereafter, run a level 4 or 5 analysis. Of course, if your drive starts to act peculiar, pull out the SpinRite boot disk and run a level 5.

Testing SpinRite 5.0
If you’re wondering how fast SpinRite completes its tasks, let me put this way:
  • Plan a long lunch or a round of golf for a fixed hard disk (depending on its size)
  • Go home and forget about it when analyzing a removable drive (Zip disk or Jaz cartridge)
  • Get coffee and a cinnamon roll for a diskette

SpinRite was run on a 3 year old Pentium 133 PC with a 2.1 GB fixed hard disk drive, an internal Iomega Jaz 1 GB drive, an Iomega ZipPlus drive, and a 1.44 MB diskette drive. Running Level 4, Deep Analysis, on my fixed hard disk took 2 hours 31 minutes. (A larger drive would take longer.) By comparison, in 1988 SpinRite 1.0 took over 12 hours to perform similar tests on a 120 MB hard drive. Gibson Research’s claims of speed improvements is no exaggeration. My fixed hard disk was pronounced very healthy no defects, no bad spots, etc.

Operations on the internal Jaz drive with a SCSI connection took 14 hours 48 minutes. Again, a clean bill of health. Level 4 tests on the ZipPlus drive with a parallel connection and a diskette drive took 4 hours 48 minutes and 6 minutes, respectively. Both came through beaming with health.

One reason SpinRite is able to perform such deep analyses and obtain an accurate picture of fixed or removable storage is because it does not depend on your operating system or hard drive control mechanisms. It bypasses features like read/write caches, which are tricks used to make disks appear faster than they really are. It works with the disk controller. In short, it digs down into the guts of the drive and controller to do its job. No other utility program does this.

Iomega Zip and Jaz
A small percentage of Zip and Jaz drive users experience a phenomenon called the Click of Death. While sounding dramatic, it simply means a Zip or Jaz drive stops reading/writing a particular disk or cartridge, or stops working with media. The cause is suspected to be unreliable writing to the removable media.

Gibson Research, the maker of SpinRite 5.0, is working on solutions. First, SpinRite 5.0 can recover some Click of Death disks and cartridges. The likelihood of success depends a lot on specific technical characteristics of the disk or cartridge involved. But, SpinRite does work often enough to be a useful tool.

Second, Gibson Research is now working on two additional programs for removable media. A utility will check drives to see if they are unreliably writing to disks and cartridges. Another program, Windows-based, is being designed to fix a removable disk or cartridge (if possible) after the Click hits it, or possibly, through regular monitoring, before it hits. If you have an Iomega or another brand removable media device, check out Zip & Jaz Drive Click Death Research and join Gibson’s mailing list to receive announcements. Also, contact Iomega and suggest they provide Gibson Research more open assistance in this effort. It will benefit them and you.

Conclusion
In the last 10 years, I have found no other utility program that makes me feel safer about the deep down workings of a hard disk drive, a critical component of my computer. Too few accounting firms and corporations use SpinRite, and all seem to experience some type of time-wasting, frustrating, expensive hard disk problems. SpinRite is far less expensive than data loss and hard disk replacement, especially as the disk ages. SpinRite is the only product I have and continue to recommended to anyone and everyone using a PC.

For more information, visit the SpinRite web site.



SpinRite Overview Screen Shots Documentation
Defect Detection Data Recovery Reviews
Exclusive Features Feature Summary SpinRite Q&A
Version History Notify me of important news!


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Last Edit: Aug 08, 2006 at 20:25 (3,847.52 days ago)Viewed 12 times per day