SpinRite 6.0 for Linux Users

SpinRite? What is a review of a Windows application doing on the Linux Journal Web site?

SpinRite 6.0, released in June 2004, is not a Windows program. In fact, SpinRite always has run in DOS. The Windows cachet comes from the previous releases, which work only on DOS FAT and FAT 32 partitions. What is new with SpinRite 6.0 is it now can test partitions and recover data on a Linux or multi-OS drive. It also can test a new, unformatted drive.

SpinRite 6.0 now runs independently of any installed operating system and associated filesystem and can work on all Windows formats, DOS FAT and Linux. Even Macintosh owners can use it, although they need to cable the Mac drive to a PC.

Long-time SpinRite users need no introduction to the product. SpinRite is a utility for verifying, maintaining or repairing hard drives. Although Linux utilities such as chkdsk look at file integrity, SpinRite tests magnetic media for data integrity and can warn of impending failure. If SpinRite is used after data is lost, it may be able to recover data by coercing unreadable bits back to consciousness. Other handy uses are identifying partitions on a multiple OS drive and benchmarking.

What distinguishes SpinRite from some other hard-drive tools is it works non-destructively. This is particularly important for newcomers to SpinRite; unfamiliarity with the mouse-less user interface cannot cause damage to data. According to SpinRite's literature: "it first reads the data out of a region, then exercises that region with patterns of data that SpinRite has determined are the most difficult for the drive to read and write. In this way, any weak and failing areas within the region are located and removed from use while none of the drive's original data is being stored there. Only after the region has been made absolutely safe, will the drive's original data be restored to that area."

How to Get It

SpinRite 6.0 is available only by download from the SpinRite Web site. The cost ranges from $89 for a first time buyer to $29 for SpinRite 5.0 owners. Owners of intermediate releases also receive a discounted price: $69 for owners of the original SpinRite or SpinRite II, $49 for owners of SpinRite 3.1 or 4.0. You need the serial number from your original SpinRite floppy to qualify.

How to Install It

The download is a small (170 KB) Windows executable. This is a setup utility. The utility can create a bootable floppy, CD ISO or install SpinRite directly on removable media. The executable can run under WINE or CrossOver Office. I was able to run it and create a burnable ISO with Libranet 2.8.1 and its bundled WINE version.

Figure 1. Starting with SpinRite

The ISO already is bootable; it includes FreeDOS. If you use XCDRoast, simply copy the ISO to your image directory and then select it and burn the track.

I had a much harder time creating a bootable floppy. Running the setup under WINE, the utility kept complaining that the floppies were defective. Trying again in Windows 98, it finally made a floppy but only after rejecting a half-dozen other diskettes. The installer claims that it does a media test of the floppy. In fairness, I have been experiencing problems with recently bought floppies. Quality control does not seem to be there any more. The bootable CD is the way to go, however, and making one in a pure Linux environment is fast and easy. This, of course, depends on whether your particular WINE setup is up to it. YMMV.

Figure 2. Creating the Boot Image

How to Use It

SpinRite needs direct control of the system, so it must boot to a clean configuration. SpinRite installs a copy of FreeDOS on the bootable media and works without resorting to any memory managers or device drivers. Insert either the bootable floppy or the CD, and you are greeted by a splash screen.

The splash screen switches to a nostalgic DOS title screen, bearing the owner's name. Press any other key--other than Esc, which exits out of the program--and the copyright and license screen appears. Here the owner's license key is displayed. Another keystroke opens another screen that asks if you are running SpinRite 6.0 for data recovery or drive maintenance. It describes two of the five operational levels, level 2 for data recovery or level 4 for maintenance. You can select any of the other operating levels; instructions are displayed.

You can begin running SpinRite 6.0 immediately and go to the Main Menu. The options are:

1. Select Drives & Partitions 2. View or Change Settings 3. Perform Drive Benchmarks 4. Exit

If you select 1, two windows are displayed; the left side lists all of the partitions and free space ("gaps"). The right window displays system information and status; you can toggle through BIOS info, Hardware, and S.M.A.R.T. Stat for details.

Getting back to the left window, scroll down to the partition(s) you want to examine and select it(them) by pressing the space bar. Of course, you can select the entire drive, or you can test a floppy.

Next, go to 2. View or Change Settings and change the operational level of testing if you want. You can select logging either to a floppy or a connected printer. Other settings concern the log format and content. The five operational levels, in order of increasing intensity and time required, are:

1. Examine surfaces. This is the fastest test and is useful for checking out a new hard drive if time is short. 2. Recover unreadable data. 3. Refresh the surface. 4. Locate surface defects. 5. Restore good sectors.

Figure 3. View or Change Settings

These tests are cumulative; for example, level 5 includes all of the tests, level 4 includes level 1 through 3 tests and so on. For a more detailed description of the various SpinRite tests and the technology, please visit the SpinRite Web site.

While SpinRite 6.0 is running, you can toggle through seven displays:

1. Graphic Status Display: shows the progress and condition of the medium under test. Any bad sectors detected are coded. FAT partitions display used and unused sectors; NTFS and Linux partitions do not distinguish between used and unused space, however.

Figure 4. Graphic Status Display

2. Real-Time Activities

Figure 5. Real-Time Activities

3. Detailed Technical Log: accumulates all of the results and can be copied either to a floppy or to an on-line printer. SpinRite is DOS, so don't expect it to work with a Winprinter.

Figure 6. Technical Log

4. S.M.A.R.T. System Monitor: includes temperature monitoring for those drives that support it. Not all drives I tested reported temperatures. My Seagate 80 GB Barracuda reported temperature but not my Maxtor 20 GB or Western Digital 80 GB "Jumbo" drives. I performed all of the tests with ATA 100 hard drives.

Figure 7. S.M.A.R.T. System Monitor

5. DynaStat Data Recovery: the jewel in the crown. If SpinRite detects possible data in a defective location, DynaStat goes to work to coax the data, bit by bit, out of hiding.

Figure 8. DynaStat Data Recovery

6. Change Operational Level: here you can change from among the five test levels at any time.

7. Screen Blanker: a small window dances slowly around the screen that indicates SpinRite 6.0 is running and lists the completion percentage of the partition under scrutiny.

You can suspend or cancel any operation and resume later from where you left off. SpinRite 6.0 reports progress as a percentage with four decimal places; you can note exactly where you left off and resume later. Because drives are big and getting bigger, and because the time to run SpinRite 6.0 can be considerable, this feature lets you examine the drive progressively, over several sessions, if necessary.

How long SpinRite needs to perform its tests depends on your hardware. From my tests with various computers and hard drives, a level-2 test run on a 10 GB partition can take from about four minutes to over 30 minutes. What determines how fast the test runs depends on, in descending order of influence: the motherboard, BIOS settings and interface; the hard drive; and the CPU. For example, my Compaq 5151 Presario, upbrained from a K6-2 350MHz to K6-III+ overclocked to 500MHz, ran the tests faster than my Celeron 1GHz. The Presario has an add-on Promise ATA100 PCI interface card, while the Celeron box supports only ATA66. The hard drives in both are of equivalent performance. At level-4 testing, CPU power becomes more important, because more SpinRite operations are in play. My Presario with the 500MHz K6-III+ needs 59 minutes to complete a level-4 test on a 10GB partition, while my P4 2.2GHz system can do the same job in 18 minutes.

SpinRite 6.0 is a new product, so new in fact that there is no documentation for it yet. Check the SpinRite Web site for further developments. Because SpinRite 6.0 is an evolutionary development, previous users should feel right at home. For newcomers, the extensive downloadable documentation for the previous release will provide useful help until the new user's guide is posted. As mentioned earlier, SpinRite is simple to use, and it has no hidden barbs or traps.

From the SpinRite newsgroup and confirmed in a private e-mail from Steve Gibson, any future dot updates to SpinRite 6.0 will be available to owners at no additional cost.

Spending $89 for a measly 170KB of code may seem extravagant, but you need to lose data only one time to realize the real cost. For previous SpinRite owners, the update is a double good deal: a SpinRite you can use on your Linux system with no learning curve and at a prorated discount to boot.



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Are you guys all thick? Shiel

Anonymous's picture

Are you guys all thick? Shields Up and LeakTest and all the rest were projects with John McAfee to push ZoneAlarm. With over 60 hyperlinks to ZA, hell their own forum and their own rep hanging out in there, with only one link to any other PFW despite numerous mentions - are you guys thick or something?

Re: What a nice advertisement for a shyster*not*

Anonymous's picture

grcsucks site does not appear to be offering software written in assembly that will recover your hard drive.
I have found spinright from grc.com great.
One guy I know has allowed grc to post his testimonial.
Unlike some, i have no web site, i am not promoting my site. I am just a content software user.

You make it sound like writin

Anonymous's picture

You make it sound like writing in assembler is something good. It's not. You can't get a job anywhere in IT writing in assembler. So this guy is so good? Then why has he never but never used anything else? What suckers you are.

Can't get a job for writing in assembler?

Mram's picture

You guys are insane. I program in PERL, vb, PLSQL various batch scripting languages on *nix and Windows. I can also run both *unix and Windows servers and desktops without problems - and yes I even have Windows servers that haven't had to be reboot in 3 years despite the inability of some to do so because they were set up correctly. I a company and make very good money doing everything from coding to server setup/maintenance. Most IT people I know consider me among the best they have ever met and guess what? I envy Steve's skills and wish I had spent 20 years to get to the same level myself. Once you start looking at how familiar he is with the low level workings of a computer you will wish you had those Assembler skills too.

He is the man and a true wizard unlike the script kiddies who post here in between downloading "haxor" tools other people have written. Respect your elders and you might learn something - they were around long before you kiddies could sign on to your AOL accounts to post kleet using words you learned in some awful movie with Angelina Jolie.


John Bokma's picture

You probably mean Perl as in the programming language Perl. Someone programming in that language should at least know how to write its name, especially if you're considered to be "among the best".

Assembly is for engineers

Anonymous's picture

Assembly is for engineers - not IT weenies (apologies to IT weenies everywhere). Ever heard of Embedded Programming. That nice Blackberry or Palm Pilot in your pocket. Your cell phone... Where do you think they would be without low-level programming like C and Assembly?

Without assembly, where would your high-level languages be? When you "compile" your code - what do you think happens to it? CPUs run on assembly code - not magic - and certainly not ignorance.

Assembly is alive and well, but not suited to everything

Anonymous's picture

Assembly IS good ... for the right job. For size and speed critical applications it's great, and there are still plenty of people making good livings as assembly language programmers. Have you seen what an experienced BIOS, XROM, or embedded systems programmer commands in terms of salary?

Steve is a creative guy, and he writes great code. Sure he's excentric (if you've been to the old building off Pacific Parkway in Aliso Viejo you know this), but if you've ever worked in high tech (as opposed to being a dockers wearing associate degreed network admin flunky with an attitude, and not enough smarts to know that using the software that someone else wrote doesn't make you their intellectual or technical equal), he doesn't stand out much.


Anonymous's picture

I'm pretty much such a flunky (at least started that way) but agree totally. I write gui apps like news readers, windows services and *nix daemons and automate pretty much anything now which puts me above most IT flunkies but I remember my roots and still have a long way to go before I get to the level of these guys.

Re: What a nice advertisement for a shyster

Anonymous's picture

Whatever problem you may have with SpinRite and its producer, kindly refrain from drawing me into it.
You are labeling me the exponent of "cheap advertisement crap."

My review is a description and evaluation of a program I have used since its second release with satisfactory results.

I am not associated with Gibson Research in any way , other than as a user of Spinrite. I receive no compensation from Gibson Research for this report. I paid for the copy of SpinRite 6.0 I reported on.

I review the Linux products (Libranet, WordPerfect) I use.
No one pays me to do so.

Leon A. Goldstein

Right. And Gibson never got a

Anonymous's picture

Right. And Gibson never got a penny from McAfee either.

It's a very honest world we live in.


0x20's picture

Hello, idiot. McAfee doesn't make ZoneAlarm. McAfee makes McAfee Personal Firewall. So could you explain why McAfee would pay Gibson to pimp a competing product?

Here's my own theory: some people just like to yell about whichever stupid rumors they buy into, because it gives them something to act superior about.

Some people also seem to hate Gibson for his salesmanship skills, which probably surpass his programming skills. Nonetheless,

1. SpinRite works. I've used it since the first version.
2. To suggest that TLJ is also in on your little conspiracy idea is just beyond dumb.
3. Did I say you're an idiot yet? Let me say it again.
4. It's called assembly. The assembler is not the language, it's the program that turns the assembly source into object code. And yes, there are plenty of jobs for assembly programmers - they usually make their own employment - they're just not down there in the same low-level IT / pizza delivery tier that you dwell in.

More Fool You...

Spam Filter's picture

What a twit. Is that 0x20 between your ears? :D

John McAfee's investment of money in Zone Labs is a matter of public record. There's even a press release on the Zonelabs web site announcing it. Or do you consider the company's own press releases to be 'stupid rumors'? LOL!

Did nobody tell you that John McAfee is no longer associated with the McAfee brand name? Yep, he was forced out years ago. Hmm, guess you aren't as well informed as you thought. ;)

Assembler vs Assembly? Are you going to start correcting spelling errors next? Here, wanna borrow my red pencil?

"SpinRite works. I've used it since the first version."
Well gee, that's convinced me. An anonymous stranger who displays a surprising ignorance of the subject he's discussing, and likes to call people idiots because they disagree with him? Couldn't ask for a better recommendation for a Steve Gibson product!

"To suggest that TLJ is also in on your little conspiracy idea is just beyond dumb."
I agree 100%. Too bad the rest of your remarks are not as sensible.

John McAfee's history of hucksterism and skullduggery is enough to make me question the ethics of Zone Labs right off the bat, but that's a side issue. Gibson and McAfee have been stroking each others' egos for years. Gibson's history of using hyperbole, exaggeration, and techno-babble in his product promotions is remarkably similar to John McAfee's febrile doomsaying over mutating virii, and makes me skeptical of all of his products, including Spinrite. I've seen first-hand how Steve Gibson uses deceptive language on his web site to promote his products. Does that mean he doesn't know how to code? Of course not. But it doesn't make me trust his word either.

Meanwhile, back at the topic...

I've seen a lot of positive comments about Spinrite. Folks say it has found and fixed problems. That's fine, but there are plenty of other programs that do the same thing. What makes Spinrite better? Unfortunately the usual response is "it's too complex, you wouldn't understand."

Curiously, I've never heard that from anyone who actually DOES understand. They've all been told it's too complex too, and they just pass this along like those religious tracts people hand you in airports.

If it's really over my head, then I want to hear a lucid, independent evaluation of Spinrite's process by an experienced engineer with proven credentials in the field and a demonstrable understanding of both the physics and protocols involved in hard drives. I don't want to hear "Rah Rah" recommendations from someone who writes software that gets installed on hard drives, or someone who knows how to install hard drives, or someone who used to work on an assembly line making the damn things.

What is your issue, Spam Filter?

Anonymous's picture

First of all, I don't like your style. Because, even if your right about all your claims, talking this way is not going to help you.
Second, you claim: "there are plenty of other programs that do the same thing"
Which programs then?


Haha's picture

You idiot. Go and read the documentation on the site. I found it, understood it, and know WHY SPINRITE is better than any hard drive tool out there. Its written in ASSEMBLY because he couldn't otherwise use his knowledge of hard drive controllers. HE USED TO WRITE SUCH EMBEDDED CODE. ON HARD DRIVES FOR IBM MORON. F$#@ some people are thick, go read and research before you come bad mouthing an EXCEPTIONAL product. Its all there in the documentation. The secret to recovering data is by amassing many samples of an incomplete sector structure (from hitting the sector at different speeds and angles). With enough samples, even a nearly completely destroyed sector can be predicted. Its complex maths, executed brilliantly, in the HEART of a hard drive. Its freaking brilliant, and until you use it you dont really know. Understanding the documentation, I HAD to get a copy and did. One day it paid off, bigtime. Its even better than I thought.

I recently had a DEAD hard drive recovered (couldn't use the PC with it as a slave, it brought the whole system to a standstill). It worked for about 4 more months before finally dying. 4 months of free use and knowing that it was going to die soon. Spinrite resurrected it again for a little while and then it appears to have had a spindle/motor failure :D quite amusing because I KNEW it was going to happen.

You on the other hand wouldn't have a clue.

Oh and another thing in the documentation is that it makes hard drives BETTER than they were. This is true, your drive works better because each and every sector is.. to make things simpler for your feeble mind, CALIBRATED to give a perfect 1 or 0 signal. Not a weaker read, strong every time. It also can test if a sector is capable of this, then update the SMART data to mark BAD SECTORS AS GOOD. Fixes them, tests them and then tells the drive hey sorry you're wrong buddy. LOVE IT. HATE DICKHEADS ON THE INTERNET.

...notes from the airport

Anonymous's picture

OK, it boinks the head around until it finds a readable edge.

The magnetic flux may have been degraded, but at some area within, around, or near the damaged media surface area the flux level may still be discernable. Usually a little off the track.

Try reading Peter Guttman's "Secure Deletion of Magnetic Media" to get a good intro to what's going on at the atomic level (edge effects). Then warm up your side scanning electron microscope.

I think you get variable boinking by starting a seek at various distances away from the desired track. And then doing it many times while varying those distances. You'll get varying bounce and vibration, remember, we're talking nanometers here.

Then, voila, data recovery.

By the way, what are the competing products?
Can comparison tests be done?

(BTW, McAfee products still don't work.)

competing products?

Anonymous's picture

> By the way, what are the competing products?
> Can comparison tests be done?

Here's the one I heard of:
hdd regenerator

HDD Regenerator does NOT recover failed sector data.

Anonymous's picture

HDD Regenerator does NOT recover or even attempt to recover any data from failed sectors but simply forces a drive controller re-map an already failed sector address to one of the spare sectors so the next access to that LBA sector transparently maps to the new physical sector.

In fact in most cases one can use scandisk to identify which files are affected by bad sectors and where possible obtain clean originals to restore from afterwards and simply delete all the damaged files so that the bad sectors reside in free space on the drive, then use any of those windows based free space wiping tools to forcably write to all the sectors as fast as possible. That alone will perform everything HDD Regenerator will do and do it within windows using UDMA speeds too!

None of this is comparable to what SpinRite is designed to do.

I have yet to find any software other than SpinRite that will attempt to and in many cases recover every byte of a cluster that contains a failed sector. The best the others do is recover the surrounding sectors in the cluster by replacing the bad sector with a blank fresh remapped one.

Physical Level Mythology

amatot's picture

Many claim the answers are in the ATA/ATAPI spec; others claim this guy sells snake oil and even more claim this guy is practically god!

Let's make one thing perfectly clear, guys, no software package on earth is going to get down to the physical format of the drive - this is left up to the mfg's factory diagnostics. The physical domain, so to speak, stops at the drives controller chip/firmware and is far from being reached by the outside - logical domain of DOS or any other OS.

Stop dreaming guys, stop wishing for a savior; go out and invest in Raid 1 setups and backup your system at logical points in time - then just get on with living life and stop with the nonsense. If you don't believe it - get a job at a hard drive company and see for yourself.

Get on it!


Anonymous's picture

SpinRite gets as close to the physical media as it is possible to get - the level of raw device access.

In reviving weak clusters, it uses clever manipulation of write operations to slowly build a more definite 'value', working to align the physical cluster with the precise location the drive will try to read each bit from.

This isn't new technology though - the old DOS based Norton's Utilities (when they were actually written by Norton himself), and other tools also provided some similar functionality - and many BIOS' of yore supported drive optimization. The difference with SpinRite is that it does it non-destructively - which means it can be run on a drive that has already been formatted and used. In addition, SpinRite 6.0 works hand-in-glove with the SMART capability of modern drives, keeping the internal tables synchronized with any changes made - an important improvement.

RAID-1 is not the be-all and end-all of data redundancy. Even RAID'ed drives require maintenance, and suffer failure. In fact, I'd recommend running SpinRite on each RAID drive regularly, which will keep them in prime condition - helping to ensure your data integrity and improving speed of operation.

Physical Level Mythology

Anonymous's picture

Further more, check out Seagate drives...

Ever wonder why there are extra pins located near the master/slave jumper positions? Better yet, Seagate SATA drives have 4 pins independant of the SATA interface and SATA power connectors, have you ever seen these?


Serial port.

The only way to remotely get down to the physical layer; where head meets disc! Even then, modern day recording schemes randomize data and play all kinds of tricks to make record density reliable. It's not as simple as just 1 and 0's morons, leading and trailing edges anymore and it hasn't been for years.

Get on it!

Re Spinrite and SATA extra pins

med007's picture


Does that mean the SATA drives can simply be plug in to a PC via the extra connector? Have you tried that? I was wondering since I'm migrating to SATA drives and I was wondering a) whether Spinrite or HDD Generator supports SATA and how they need to be connected to a PC which I need to buy for this purpose only. Currently I would only want to pretest SATA drives, but I do have one huge problem firewire drive:

I'm trying to recover a Mac drive (actually a LaCie D-2 400GB firewire 800/400USB drive), which actuallt contains two ATA drives. Both internal drives spin, but the drive does not mount!

Any advice would be great!

Sure Gibson seems colorful! Frankly, I don't mind whether Gibson is an angel, a wizard or the devil himself, all I want to do is get my data back W/O paying $1500 or more to some recovery service!



can also mail suggestions to med007(insert "at" symbol)(insert ".")com

hard drive

joe73's picture

There are a few things to know about hard drives.
1) There is a limit to what software can do. Beyond a certain point, it cannot fix physical problems with a hard drive. This should be common sense.
2) Look at the symptoms, feel the hard drive, listen to it, can you read any data. This will lead you in the right direction.
3) You can plug in the SATA drive using a SATA to PATA converter. It will read it then as a PATA device in dos.

In general, a drive where you can read some of the data is working well enough mechanically to use a software program. If the drive refuses to read anything, then the controller board might be shot. (circuit board on hard drive) Replacing this can be done, but only with an identical hard drive and revision number.
If you hear squeeks, pops, clicking, or other noises, SHUT THE DRIVE DOWN NOW. Keeping it going will only do more damage, you will not be able to read anything at this point. $500 is minimum for repairs for small drives. $1000 is typical. The motors, spindles, heads will need to come out, platters (look like a small record) read by a machine and transferred to DVDs. This is done in a no dust environment. A tiny dust particle is a giant boulder to a hard drive.

For some shops, they have a controller card + specialized software with specific firmware knowledge of each drive, and can access manufacturers diagnostic modes. This equipment runs a few thousand dollars. It can bypass bad controller cards and some areas of physical damage. It is much more advanced than any software, but even it cannot fix those hard drives that make the loud noises!

Joe's advice is this: buy your hard drives in twos. Image one drive every so often on to the other. Keep that one turned off.
Even raid arrays fail.

Data Recovery

Anonymous's picture

The hubris that these psuedo-experts are yelling is very impressive however having experienced this technology and its development as a R&D Scientist over the last 35 years, (the stories I could tell) I would advise you for whatever it is worth to consult with Steve Gibson. He is technically very correct. We have used his product since 1991-1992 and have saved a great deal in time and money. Our main interest in doing so was to use it to restore the low level format on our MFM, RLL, ERLL,and ARLL drives with all our data in place. This was quite an achievement in those days. The alternative was to backup the data and then run the BIOS managed Low Level format or use a utility like OnTrack or such other, and then run the FDISK dos utility to partition and then run the High Level DOS FORMAT utility on each partition, then restore our DATA and Applications software. As you might guess it was a very time consuming and tedious process. With the advent of SPINRITE we saved tremendously. Steve almost became a Patron Saint of the industry. Several of the Commercial GURU’S tried to copy him but soon gave up. One of the most notorious was the NORTON package by Symantec who has ruined almost every good application they ever touched. I purchased it and almost fell off my bench when I first used it. It was a big JOKE in fact they very quickly released another version of their utility and promptly refused to support the wannabe Spinrite clone. In fact it took them less than a month to deny any and all support and later existence of this clone. I later found out that they had tried to secretly purchase SPINRITE from Steve and he refused supposedly because he knew what kind of hack job they would make out of it, like most everything they have gotten their incompetent hands on. They are strictly a marketing group run from the top down as a marketing group with very little technical understanding or apparent skill. The almighty dollar is the only goal and quality be dammed. Try getting effective support from them and then from Steve. Night vs Day. Unless you speak Hini, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Sanskrit, or some other Indian dialect accompanied by a thick English accent you probably won’t get much constructive or timely help from Symantec. Some of the finest pieces of software written have disappeared down their black hole. On the other hand Steve puts the light on the spot where it does the most good.