Friday, July 23, 2010

SpinRite 6 -- The Magic Tool -- A Tale of Drive Recovery

Over the weekend I had 4 hard drives fail , 3 different models, 2 different vendors, 4 different lots.  'Twas a very bad day!! I was doing my weekend mirror, in preparation for migrating my laptop to a new hybrid drive.  Every other weekend, I clone my working drive to a target drive.  I swap the working drive with the target, and finally do a backup to a third drive. I then carry on working with the knowledge that my laptop is very recoverable.

I fire-up my clonezilla live cd, add check my target drive, and then start my disk-to-disk clone. I go to bed, because it normally takes a few hours, and dream about my new Momentus XT.  I wake up, and HORROR!!!! it's stuck, on a couple of bad blocks!! WTF!!! I told clonezilla to continue on bad blocks, but it didn't.  SIGH!!!

OK, I chkdsk my source drive, including freespace, and it comes up clean; I try to clone again.  A couple hours later, BZZZT! Thanks for playing; fails again.  OK, I download the seagate tools, and my source drive is failing the DST (Disk Short Test).  WFT!!  OK, no probs, I'll reboot and try the Vista backup that I would normally have done after a successful cloning.

BZZZT!! Now my drive no longer boots.  I reboot the seagate tools and it's unhappy with the disk, I boot clonezilla and it lets me look at the disk so I run bad blocks and get a list of problem sectors.  Hmmm... OK

I boot an older 5400 RPM image and I can SEE all my data on the falling 7200 drive.  OK, I'll shrink the disk to before the failing blocks, and since chkdsk is telling me it can read everything no probs.  I'm now 28 hours into my weekend, and go for my 4th attempt at cloning with the reduced size disk..... BZZZT....Clonezilla is still choking neither of my 7200 rpm drives are happy (one with less than 4000 hours of service) I've lost a whack of work, and a whack of time.

Maybe I'm misreading the clonezilla skip failed blocks option, I try one more clone attempt, without success.  I loaded Ghost onto another machine to see if that will give me some love, nope.  I now remember why I stopped using Symantec products.  

I've read about SpinRite from Gibson Research, but I have never owned a copy.   After comparing all my other options, it looked like the best option for my situation.  I created a boot CD and fired-up SpinRite.

After a couple hours, it says it was successful at repairing my problem.  Low and behold, my disk boots again.  I immediately clean my second disk, and make my clone, and then a third clone to the hybrid drive. I did have to run a  Vista System Repair because, the boot loader wasn't completely happy. But I had my system back.  I grew the system back to full size, and ran another backup.

I went to run the Seagate tools so I could go through the warranty RMA proccess. WTF, now the drives pass the DST and DLT!!! DAMN, now I understand that the failed blocks could get remapped, but I didn't expect the drives to be repaired.  I won't trust these drives for anything but temporary scratch drives, or music  libraries as I burn my CDs for listening.

SpinRite lived up to it's hype and I think any systems person should have it in their kit bag.  It's now permanently on my emergency  bootable USB drive.

I've since repaired the other 2 disks as well.  I had a couple of disks in the office it couldn't recover; but no tool is perfect.

More Later....

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