GRC SpinRite 6.0
So your hard drive bit the dust before you got around to creating that backup you've been putting off for, oh, a year or so? Download a copy of Gibson Research's SpinRite 6 drive recovery and maintenance software, and it might be able to bring your data back from the brink.
Version 6, the venerable application's first overhaul since 1998, comes through with improved functionality and much-needed support for the NTFS file system: It finally works with Windows XP. Like its predecessors, it has the unique ability to access the surface of a hard drive (or other magnetic drive) without engaging the OS. As a result, it can manipulate data at lower levels than can other maintenance programs such as ScanDisk, enabling it to perform more-rigorous maintenance, to predict failures, and even to recover data from badly damaged drives.
I downloaded the $89 full version--upgrades run from $29 to $69--and installed it on a bootable CD (alternatively, you can put it on a USB key flash drive or a floppy). The new edition launches from within a self-contained version of FreeDOS, and navigation is fairly straightforward.
In my tests, performing basic maintenance on a 31GB partition took about 6 hours and returned a seemingly clean bill of health. The software fails to explain most of its results, however; and as we went to press, GRC was still finishing the documentation.
Fortunately, SpinRite 6 is less ambiguous when it encounters a distressed drive. I put the app to work on four magnetically damaged floppy disks, and it lit up the screen with flashing graphics as it worked to recover my data. It saved three of the four.
SpinRite 6 is no substitute for regular backups. Still, having the software around for maintenance--and knowing it's there in an emergency--makes it worth the price.
GRC SpinRite 6
Savvy disk saver gets the job done, but cryptic results and a lack of documentation make it less than perfect-for now.
Price when reviewed: $89 first-time purchase, upgrades from $29 to $69
Current prices (if available)
GRC SpinRite 6.0