Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When Your C: Drive Sends Out an SOS Respond with Spinrite

First, and with good reason, you may suspect your computer has been infected with a virus that is chewing up all your CPU cycles. The PC is crawling, apps take 2 minutes to open, even booting up is significantly slower, and it all seemed to happen overnight. That's exactly what happened to one of my desktop machines this last week. I checked for virii first, even doing a boot-time scan, but that didn't turn up much significant. Next suspect was my OS drive, usually C: in Windows.


Rather than use the meager built-in disk checker under Properties in the right-click menu, I used a tool I have found invaluable, namely Spinrite Hard Disk Diagnostics. I have version 5.0 with which I have no complaints, but I see there is a v. 6.0 out now. Don't let its seemingly clunky looking interface fool you, for therein lies its strength. It is a bootable DOS program and it is just what the doctor ordered for any ailing hard drive you have. Put it on a bootable CD, insert in your PC's CD/DVD drive, make sure that that drive is the first device in your BIOS boot list (can't help you there, as there are so many BIOSs with their own methods for doing this), and restart your PC.


I think the menus are self-explanatory enough that you won't have problems navigating the program. You'll probably want to start with Option 2, which will analyze and repair problems on your hard drive without pushing it over the edge if it's getting flaky already. I can't count the times I've had one or two up to many sectors that were fizzling out on my OS drive causing the system to slow way down as it fetched and re-fetched data from those bad spots. This tool has always come to the rescue. It takes time, maybe several hours or more depending on the size of your drive, but it always comes through.

Ideally, before your drive starts to flake out on you, you should avail yourself of another tool, called XXClone, to make an exact copy of your OS drive (or at least the partition that holds the OS) as backup. If you didn't do this previously then do it as soon as possible after SpinRite has cleared up the disk. There are other tools for cloning, but XXClone for me was the easiest and most fool-proof program I've come across yet. It is not cheap to buy, even for the Home version (40 bucks), but they have a fully functional 30-day trial you can download in a pinch. 


The program has an extensive Help section and lots of pop-up dialogs to get you through your first Clone (and written with humor too, I might add). I don't think it's at all necessary to walk you through it here. Be sure that after you make the disk clone that you also go to the Cool Tools tab and make the clone version bootable. Takes just a few seconds to write the MBR, etc., so that should your first C: Drive fail all you have to do is swap in the clone and voilá! your PC will boot again, all apps and your documents intact.
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