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I use SpinRite to recover hard disks and their content, and to a lesser degree for preventive maintenance.

However, if a USB drive (USB thumb drive and/or external hard disk with a USB interface) is connected when SpinRite scans for devices, then SpinRite never finishes/hangs.

The work-around is of course to disconnect the drive, but there is value in being able to use SpinRite on USB drives. Some external drives have no screws and it is difficult to take out the hard disk without damaging the casing. And for those that have it would save the disassembling time.

Is there a way to fix this problem (e.g. BIOS changes or a modified SpinRite boot CD) without resorting to floppy disks?

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SpinRite does run fine with USB connected devices. Try using real MS-DOS instead of FreeDOS.

At this time we do not claim to have "full" support for USB or FireWire devices. However, there are DOS drivers available for USB and FireWire devices that will allow you to run SpinRite. If you can get your USB or FireWire device to "seen" by DOS, then SpinRite will have no problem testing the drive.

More info:

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If you just need to clone off the data the dd command works well.

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How does dd deal with bad blocks? Will all 4096 bits in a bad sector be copied as zeros? – Peter Mortensen Aug 6 '09 at 11:09
DD is great, but doesn't work if a hard drive isn't recognized, has bad blocks, hangs on retries, or just generally hangs. SpinRite has helped me in all these cases, though not 100% of the time. – kmarsh Mar 4 '10 at 15:28
There is always ddrescue which tries to overcome bad sectors, or at least give up retrying. – Ben Lessani - Sonassi Jun 25 '12 at 13:47

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