5TB portable USB drive - possible, safe?

  • SpinRite v6.1 Release #3
    The 3rd release of SpinRite v6.1 is published and may be obtained by all SpinRite v6.0 owners at the SpinRite v6.1 Pre-Release page. (SpinRite will shortly be officially updated to v6.1 so this page will be renamed.) The primary new feature, and the reason for this release, was the discovery of memory problems in some systems that were affecting SpinRite's operation. So SpinRite now incorporates a built-in test of the system's memory. For the full story, please see this page in the "Pre-Release Announcements & Feedback" forum.
  • Be sure to checkout “Tips & Tricks”
    Dear Guest Visitor → Once you register and log-in please checkout the “Tips & Tricks” page for some very handy tips!

  • BootAble – FreeDOS boot testing freeware

    To obtain direct, low-level access to a system's mass storage drives, SpinRite runs under a GRC-customized version of FreeDOS which has been modified to add compatibility with all file systems. In order to run SpinRite it must first be possible to boot FreeDOS.

    GRC's “BootAble” freeware allows anyone to easily create BIOS-bootable media in order to workout and confirm the details of getting a machine to boot FreeDOS through a BIOS. Once the means of doing that has been determined, the media created by SpinRite can be booted and run in the same way.

    The participants here, who have taken the time to share their knowledge and experience, their successes and some frustrations with booting their computers into FreeDOS, have created a valuable knowledgebase which will benefit everyone who follows.

    You may click on the image to the right to obtain your own copy of BootAble. Then use the knowledge and experience documented here to boot your computer(s) into FreeDOS. And please do not hesitate to ask questions – nowhere else can better answers be found.

    (You may permanently close this reminder with the 'X' in the upper right.)


New member
Jun 17, 2024
I just bought Spinrite 6.1 since I have a mysteriously failing 5TB portable USB drive (WD 5TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive - WDBU6Y0050BBK-WESN). I didn't realize the problems with scanning USB drives. It is NTFS formatted. The drive shows up red in SpinRite. I even popped open the enclosure but it does not have a SATA connection, the USB 3 port is part of the board.
-Is it safe to scan it anyway?
-Is it worth it?
-Is there a different scanning tool that folks here use for USB drives?
The NTFS format doesn't pose any issue, because SpinRite 6.1 doesn't care about the partitioning nor the formatting in the partitions... it works on the device as a raw collection of LBAs. SpinRite has had its difficulties with USB drives over bad BIOS drivers and even tried to work around some of those. I think there is still some issue with a 2TB limit and USB, but don't quote me on that, as it's outside of my experience.
  • Like
Reactions: wombathood
thanks for the heads up on this type of drive. building the usb controller directly into the board is just wrong. at least with an adapter you could bypass the usb and connect it directly to sata to see if the issue was the board.

you may have to wait to sr7 to get the usb connected drives recognized. i'm sure others here will prolly have a solution.
thanks for the heads up on this type of drive. building the usb controller directly into the board is just wrong. at least with an adapter you could bypass the usb and connect it directly to sata to see if the issue was the board.

I first encountered that about 10 or 12 yrs ago. A client had his WD Elements drive tethered to his desktop when his dog ran through the room and yanked the cord sideways, partially ripping the connector off the board. He needed his data retrieved, so I thought I could just crack the case and connect the drive to a normal SATA port. Not so. I ended up using a magnifying glass and soldering iron with a needle tip to solder the connections back together just long enough to retrieve his data, then the drive was tossed.

Ever since, I've treated the WD Elements series and the like to be no more trustworthy than a USB flash stick. For my own use, I prefer to assemble units from standard SATA drives and separate external USB enclosures so that I know I have repair options should the need arise.
  • Like
Reactions: SeanBZA
-Is it safe to scan it anyway?
Your BIOS will very likely limit you to scanning only the first 2.2 TB of that drive. That can be done safely with SpinRite 6.1.

-Is it worth it?
That's a judgement call. if there is any issue in the remaining 2.8 TB, you will never know. If the BIOS cannot see that area of the drive, then neither can SpinRite 6.1