SpinRite v5.0

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Boston

Published by: Gibson Research Corporation
Requires: IBM Compatible personal computer systems equipped with at
least one diskette drive, 350K of free RAM, Monochrome, EGA or VGA display adapter and DOS version 2.1 or later

MSRP: US$89.00

Are you looking to keep your hard drive in the best shape possible? If your data is important to you, the condition of your hard drive should be as well. The best product I have seen for maintaining hard drives and recovering data from failing drives is SpinRite by Gibson Research Corporation.

SpinRite can be used in three ways: as part of your ongoing hard drive maintenance program; to test drives that are having problems; and as a data recovery program that will recover data that has become unreadable by the operating system or other utilities.

The technical details of SpinRite's operation is far too complex for many of us to understand (I read the manual and was somewhat lost). So what I want to cover here is a basic overview of how to use the program. I believe that the best way to use SpinRite is as part of an ongoing maintenance program for your hard drive(s). SpinRite can be purchased and downloaded directly from the Gibson Research web site at http://spinrite.com. In fact, it can only be purchased directly from Gibson Research. Just go to the web site and if you already are convinced that you want to purchase this great program, click on the "Purchasing Info" link. From there you simply call the 1-800 number to purchase the program over the phone. When you purchase SpinRite, you will be given a nine-digit order number that is used when you download the software.


Once you have SpinRite on your computer, you need to do a little prep work before you can actually run the program. Since SpinRite works all by itself, you will need to create a clean Boot disk. This is easily done by inserting a blank diskette into your A: drive, clicking on "Start", "Run" and then typing the following command:


Windows will format the disk and ask you to give it a name. I named mine SpinRite, but that is optional. Now copy the downloaded file "SpinRite.exe" to the same floppy disk, and you are ready to roll!

Turn your computer off, insert your clean boot floppy into your A: drive, and turn the computer back on. When you have booted to the A:\> prompt, type spinrite and press (enter). From here, the program will walk you through its operation. All I had to do was read each screen and follow the directions. There are many options that are useful to the advanced user, but running the basic program was pretty straightforward.

One word of warning, on today's huge hard drives, it will take hours for SpinRite to analyze your drive(s), so be sure to do this at a time when you won't be needing your computer for a few hours. I often ran it overnight. The screen displays both the elapsed time and time remaining for the drive you are testing. Convenient if you are wondering if you can fit in a nap during testing.

While it is running, SpinRite will read and re-write the entire surface of the drive, reporting everything it finds. By doing this, it is able to provide early warning of increasing numbers of regions that are becoming troublesome for the drive. With this warning, you can back up your data and remove the drive from service before a complete catastrophe results in loss of any data. If SpinRite is not used until after a crash, it skillfully picks up all the pieces, recovers your data, and puts everything back together again.

Since I repair computers and see a fair number of failing hard drives, I held on to the program long enough to test a few drives that came in. On several of those drives, SpinRite assured me that the problem was not with the drive itself. One drive could not be seen by the computer at all due to hardware failure. And on one drive (that another program had diagnosed as hopeless), SpinRite not only recovered the data, but when I ran it a second time using operating level 5, it fixed the bad sectors and returned them to use.

I was impressed with SpinRite. In spite of the fact that is technical in nature, it would be well worth your time to learn how to use it. Running this program on a regular schedule (once every month or two) will keep your hard drive running smoothly, and warn you in advance when it is time to purchase a new drive.




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