Getting SpinRite to start working is really easy. With the burnt CD inside the CD drive, all one has to do is turn the computer on, with the intended hard drive to recover connected, and wait some time. A welcome screen with clear options tells you what you need to press for which operations, and off you go.
SpinRite has different “levels” of operation, for different functions. The default and recommended level is level 2, which will scan the contents of the disk and attempt to recover whichever sectors are damaged or unreadable. I chose this option and let it go. At first, the scan seemed to go quite fast. Obviously the scanned parts were healthy and were duly being skipped. After about 12 hours of operation, the screen was telling me it was 2.89% done, trying to repair the first bad sector… at which point I understood it was going to take a while, lost interest, and turned the screen off. I let it work for around 12 hours before I checked on it again.
It was still stuck at 2.89%. After a couple more hours and no progress, I decided to restart the computer and try with a lower level of scanning, which is something I should have NOT done because SpinRite can change the level of operation on the fly without any need to restart.
For my next attempt I downgraded to Level 1, hoping it would recognize the bad sectors and block them off altogether. All I wanted after all was to access whichever data was left on the good sectors, not really recover that which had been lost.
After a while of running it got to the dreaded 2.89%. I was beginning to lose hope since it was stuck at it again. After long hours, success, it was past the previous mark and scanning many good sectors. When a bad sector did appear the program would slow down and get to scanning it.
All in all I think I let it run for a week. After so much time, it reached a point where it seemed to be stuck again, at 82.49%. I armed myself with patience and let it run and run, however, for a whole week it was stuck at that point. It was clear that the program would either take too much time for it to be worth it, or there was something deeply wrong with the hard drive and it would not finish anyway.
I rebooted the computer and logged into Windows, just to check if the completed repairs had done any difference, but it would still be inaccessible, freezing my whole system while I tried to open the drive.
So there you have it. No success at all on my first attempt.
I will try again with a very small, very old hard drive I have laying around, a 4.3 GB drive from my first computer, in 1999. I’m hoping something with a very small capacity will take a lot shorter, but I’ll leave that for another time.