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Thread: Spinrite is similar to 'snake oil' ?

  1. #1

    Default Spinrite is similar to 'snake oil' ?

    Yesterday I powered my IBM 5155 on, played a while with programs on it, and remembered CHKDSK told me there are 110KB bad clusters.
    So I decided, regardless of the fact, that I didn't recognized so far any read error before, to try a run with SPINRITE II (= analyze and refresh).
    After waiting 4 hours, it had reached 15% and i was bored to wait so long, so I stopped it by pressing ESC (= controlled end).
    What a surprise then: Now the drive seeks unmotivated many times, and I got 250KB in bad clusters.
    Also, and this is what I didn't understand, files which could be loaded without any problems now *after* the SPINRITE run aren't loaded anymore and I got read errors. I expected not to get errors in files, which I used a lot of times 'errorfree' before.
    My impression is now, SPINRITE is like a stress test, and drives which seems to be working before using SPINRITE are after applying the software 'stressed', means less reliable working, especially if the drives are already getting (very) old. So from my expirience I made, SPINRITE turned it bad instead of good, compared to the condition the drive showed me before.
    Is SPINRITE something like 'snake oil', and should someone better copy files to an external drive for a backup, then using, if really needed, the low level routine of the MFM controller instead (which do not 'scrub' many times on the same place), and after all, copy the files back ?

  2. #2
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    Correct on all counts. Welcome to Spinrite.

    Spinrite's methodology was acceptable for a drive that has a few bad spots but is otherwise working fine. On a marginal drive that might be starting to fail for good, it is a stress test and can end up making things much worse. You are correct that the best thing to do is to back up everything, then use the controller's LLF utility to wipe the drive completely clean. Make sure you enter in any bad sectors that might be printed on the drive itself (contrary to Spinrite's claims, it cannot determine if a bad sector can be "returned to active use" better than the manufacturer can -- if a sectors goes bad, leave it bad).
    Offering a bounty for:
    - Documentation and original distribution disks for: Panasonic Sr. Partner, Corona PPC-400, Zenith Z-160 series
    - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)
    - Any very old/ugly IBM joystick (such as the Franklin JS-123)

  3. #3

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    I've used SpinRite for over 25 years and have found that it does exactly what it claims -- a non-destructive LLF.

    It won't make a bad or failing drive good again but it will take a workable drive and refresh the LLF without losing the data on it.

    There's nothing magical about it. It methodically, track by track, reads and stores the data, refreshes the LLF, and then puts the data back on the newly formatted track.

    Basically it's no different than if you backup a drive, LLF it, and then restore the data to it except that you don't need to do the backup or restore parts.
    If you're looking for DS/DD or DS/HD 3" or 5" floppy disks, PM me. I've got some new, used, and factory over-labeled disks for sale.

    There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen
    ☞ Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stone View Post
    There's nothing magical about it. It methodically, track by track, reads and stores the data, refreshes the LLF, and then puts the data back on the newly formatted track.
    For drives that are working and need an interleave change this is fine, and what I've used it for. But for drives that are marginal, it tries to write data back to the same (failing) track, and can't, or didn't detect a failure writing it back. This is likely what happened to the OP. I've experienced his behavior about 5% of the time I've used spinrite.
    Offering a bounty for:
    - Documentation and original distribution disks for: Panasonic Sr. Partner, Corona PPC-400, Zenith Z-160 series
    - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)
    - Any very old/ugly IBM joystick (such as the Franklin JS-123)

  5. #5
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    That's not what my experience has been, but it's been a long time since I used Spinrite. I've always got better results doing a LLF and then restoring content.

  6. #6
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    Spinrite's LLF is generally OK. It's everything else that the product marketed that was suspect. Here's a usenet critique from John Navas, someone who worked in the storage industry, about Spinrite: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!or...Q/_has4Hnzi58J

    Relevant portion (note the bit about what Spinrite does correctly, LLF'ing a drive+controller combo at working temperature):

    Citing Steve Gibson as a source is a bit like citing a psychic as
    proof that the spirit world exists. Here's a critique that I posted to
    Usenet some time ago:


    As I recall my first encounter with Steve Gibson was when I was
    managing development for a principal disk technology manufacturer and
    he was promoting an earlier version of SpinRite. At that time I had
    about 15 years of experience in disk technology. My sincere efforts
    to help Steve correct some of the more serious errors in what he was
    saying proved to be a complete waste of time. His subsequent "hard
    disks die!" campaign only compounded the problem. He was spreading
    hysteria then (for his own apparent gain), and he is doing it again
    now with Shields UP!


    The assertion that "hard disk die!" was based on a claim that
    magnetic patterns "weaken" over time, and that SpinRite could somehow
    "refresh" them. If this were true, then IDE drives, which cannot be
    "refreshed," would be dying all over the place, not to mention all
    the old mainframe drives that had already been running steadily for
    years. Furthermore, the embedded magnetic servo (used in virtually
    all reasonably current disk drives) can only be written at the
    factory. If it "weakened" then the drive would fail permanently --
    SpinRite could not possibly help. The fact that IDE disks have not
    been failing all over the place due to "weakening" and lack of
    "refreshing" by SpinRite is clear evidence that the claims were
    false.


    (Most problems with older MFM/RLL drives that SpinRite claimed to fix
    were the result of drives not being properly low-level formatted at
    working temperature on the actual controller in the end user's
    computer. This problem was easily solved by using the standard
    low-level format in the actual controller. That SpinRite could also
    correct the problem meant nothing, since all it was doing was using
    the same controller.)


    Worse, Steve encouraged people to use SpinRite to "recover" areas
    that had been detected and marked as defective at the factory, a bad
    idea that leads to more failures in the long run, since end user
    controllers are not as sensitive as factory test equipment -- they
    are simply incapable of the kind of thorough testing done at the
    factory. Then of course SpinRite would be "needed" again to "fix"
    those failures, a self-fulfilling prophecy.


    As for the people that swear by SpinRite, there are lots of people
    that believe in astrology, but that doesn't make it any more valid.


    I suggest that those with a technical bent visit the SpinRite website
    and see they can swallow such things as:


    * "prevents mass storage systems from crashing" (nothing can do that)


    * "sophisticated magnetodynamic physics models" (pseudo science)


    * "weakest possible magnetic signals" (not real)


    * "we doubt whether anyone but Steve and a handful of aliens would
    even know what all this is" (no argument there)


    * "Weak Bits" (no such thing)


    * "gradual evolution of the drive's storage surfaces through physical
    and magnetic stresses" (mumbo jumbo)


    * "SpinRite is actually able to lower the amplification of the
    drive's internal read-amplifier" (impossible, and after all this time
    Steve apparently still does not know that data is recorded on
    magnetic disks with flux reversals, not "amplitude")


    * "mass storage systems need periodic preventive maintenance"
    (nonsense)


    * "yeah, we know, Steve's a magician with his code" (how modest)


    As for all the "exclusive" SpinRite features, many if not all of them
    are anything but exclusive; for example, testing disk surfaces with
    worst-case data patterns goes back many years before Steve ever
    thought of SpinRite. SpinRite is 80% hype, 10% dangerous, and 10%
    real substance.
    Offering a bounty for:
    - Documentation and original distribution disks for: Panasonic Sr. Partner, Corona PPC-400, Zenith Z-160 series
    - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)
    - Any very old/ugly IBM joystick (such as the Franklin JS-123)

  7. #7
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    I agree with the opinions above about it being nothing more than a glorified LLF.

    It never ceases to amaze me that people would risk their beloved (and valuable) data on dodgy drives. For me, if a drive shows the slightest hint of failure, I clear it and bin it (because we all have backups, don't we??)

    The only exception to this is of course vintage drives, where replacements are hard to come by. But I wouldn't ever store essential data on them anyway.

  8. #8

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    Hello People,

    Thought i'd just add my bit about my experiences with Spinrite. I've owned and used Spinrite from version 2 to version 5 and have never had any issues with it losing data from very dodgy disks. I think it would be stupid not to save any data from a drive that was obviously in trouble first (no matter what you are going to try with it). On early versions of Spinrite for a full, thorough test and return bad patches, it could be running for many hours, but at the end you would have the same result as a low level format, test and re-install of all the original software in one go. As the version numbers go up, so the program becomes better at recognising and working with more drives, also a bit quicker.
    I am currently using V5 which is very much faster and efficient and has worked with even the most difficult (old) drives and has done so reliably and without any data loss at all.
    I can only, personally recommend Spinrite as an excellent program that has served me well over the years.

    Alan.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trixter View Post
    The assertion that "hard disk die!" was based on a claim that
    magnetic patterns "weaken" over time, and that SpinRite could somehow
    "refresh" them. If this were true, then IDE drives, which cannot be
    "refreshed," would be dying all over the place, not to mention all
    the old mainframe drives that had already been running steadily for
    years. Furthermore, the embedded magnetic servo (used in virtually
    all reasonably current disk drives) can only be written at the
    factory. If it "weakened" then the drive would fail permanently --
    SpinRite could not possibly help. The fact that IDE disks have not
    been failing all over the place due to "weakening" and lack of
    "refreshing" by SpinRite is clear evidence that the claims were
    false.
    Regarding this part, IDE drives ARE dying all over the place. I have encountered way more dead IDE drives than I would have thought. They just become completely inaccessible. Even DBAN can't access them.
    If you're looking for DS/DD or DS/HD 3" or 5" floppy disks, PM me. I've got some new, used, and factory over-labeled disks for sale.

    There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen
    ☞ Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bobba84 View Post
    I agree with the opinions above about it being nothing more than a glorified LLF.
    Isn't that exactly what it's supposed to be?
    If you're looking for DS/DD or DS/HD 3" or 5" floppy disks, PM me. I've got some new, used, and factory over-labeled disks for sale.

    There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen
    ☞ Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

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