Creating bootable USB stick to run spinrite

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  • 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.

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New member
Nov 5, 2020
Yesterday I bought a copy of spinrite.
I had trouble creating a bootable USB stick to run it. I finally use Rufus to create a bootable USB stick with freedos and copy spinrite exe on it.
Is there a better way to create a spinrite bootable USB stick ?
With the technique i used, am i able to use all of spinrite features ?
The computer i am using to create the USB stick is running Windows 10.

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Hi, @francoisdelisle.

Have you ever tried Ventoy? Windows and Linux setup tools are supported. It creates a bootable USB drive that can boot other ISOs from the same storage device. All you need to do is copy a full ISO into the Ventoy USB stick, like any other regular file. When you start the computer, it will present a list of ISO files you can choose to boot from.

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Download the installer, it formats and prepares your USB device for ReadSpeed. Copy spinrite.exe to the drive and press ESC when it boots. Type sp then press F3 for it to autofill the filename.

Blissfully simple :) I've switched to this now. Two tools in one :)
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Thanks i will do this, create a readspeed usb stick and copy spinrite.

Ventoy will be usefull for other needs, i will keep the information.
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The disk formatter that was used in ReadSpeed.exe was actually developed standalone as an application called InitDisk.EXE. It will just format/blank a USB device if invoked without any command line option, but if you supply the option FreeDOS (from a command line) it will install a bootable FreeDOS image that you can then use to copy the SpinRite.EXE onto. SpinRite runs in Windows to help you format/install for DOS. The exact same executable (it's "dual runnable" under Windows or DOS) will do what SpinRite does when invoked from DOS.
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I had trouble creating a bootable USB stick to run it. I finally use Rufus to create a bootable USB stick with freedos and copy spinrite exe on it.
Is there a better way to create a spinrite bootable USB stick ?
Yes. ReadSpeed:

ReadSpeed creates a specialized FreeDOS environment for ReadSpeed to work in. This environment would be better than the more vanilla environment created by Rufus (my experience).

Just copy SpinRite.exe to the ReadSpeed created USB stick, boot from it, hit ESC at the RS splash screen to get to a C:\ prompt, then run SpinRite.

Please note: You will be subject to the various limitations of SpinRite 6.0 until SpinRite 6.1 is released. And, No, there is no specific release date for SR 6.1.
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Except that SpinRite 6 when running in Windows will only install to a floppy, whereas InitDisk installs to a USB.
I have SpinRite 6 installed on a USB key, been so long I forget how I did it
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This thread piqued my interest and strained my memory to remember how I did this a decade ago. I debated on how to share the info. I decided to copy this text from the box that pops up when I run SPINRITE.EXE in Windows 7. It speaks of how to install SpinRite on diskette, CD, or other media like a USB stick. I don't know if I've ever tried the latter. If anyone reading this doesn't know, SpinRite is commercial copyrighted software and it's serialized to the owner. So, only make copies of what you own. But, here's part of the text that popped up when I ran the program in Windows 7.

Tried to put this in a CODE section and it didn't work. So, I'm improvising.


Creating a bootable SpinRite diskette

For most users, the simplest way to run SpinRite is from a boot diskette created by this program:

Place any standard, non-write protected, 1.44 mb, 3.5 inch diskette into your system's A: drive, then click the "Create Boot Diskette" button below. The diskette will be formatted, written, and verified with all of the files required to boot and run SpinRite.

Leave the diskette in the drive and restart your computer to boot from the diskette instead of from the system's hard drive. The FreeDOS operating system will start and automatically run SpinRite.

If your system continues to boot your regular operating system, you may need to enable diskette booting in your system's BIOS, or change the boot order to place your system's diskette drive before any hard disk drives. Immediately after powering up the system, you should see instructions on the screen for entering the BIOS setup configuration. This generally requires pressing <F2> or <Del> when prompted. You should check with your computer vendor's technical support facility if you are unable to determine how to configure your system to boot from a diskette.

In case of diskette creation trouble

If SpinRite complains that it cannot get exclusive access to your diskette drive, try temporarily shutting down anti-virus software before creating SpinRite's boot diskette. If SpinRite still cannot gain exclusive access, restarting Windows (with anti-virus software shutdown) usually resolves the trouble.

SpinRite's diskette creator uses some of SpinRite's surface analysis technology to be rather critical of the quality of the diskette. This is what you want if your system's hard disk gets in trouble and you need your SpinRite diskette to boot reliably. Retrying the creation with the same disk will often work to push past a problem area, but please try using another diskette if SpinRite continues to stop part of the way along to complain about the diskette's recording surface.

If SpinRite continues to refuse to create a diskette, you might try reformatting the diskette first with Windows before giving it to SpinRite.

If you are still having trouble, you can use the "Install SpinRite on Drive" action with a formatted diskette rather than the "Create Boot Diskette" action.

Please check the GRC Web site SpinRite FAQ and Usage Tips page (Frequently Asked Questions) if you are still having trouble with diskette creation.

Creating a bootable SpinRite compact disc

SpinRite may also be booted and run from a compact disc (CD), which is useful for systems without a diskette drive. SpinRite cannot, itself, "burn" compact discs, but it creates a standard-format ISO "image" file that should be useable with any compact disc recording software to create a bootable SpinRite CD-R or CD-RW disc.

As with a bootable diskette, if your system's BIOS is configured to boot from its CD-ROM drive, restarting the system with the SpinRite boot CD in the drive should automatically boot the FreeDOS operating system and start SpinRite. If this does not happen you may need to change your system's BIOS settings to boot from the system's CD-ROM drive before hard disk drives. Your computer vendor's technical support facility will be able to assist you if you cannot determine how to do this yourself.

Creating a bootable SpinRite diskette image file

If this computer does not have a diskette drive, you may create a diskette image file containing the "image" of a bootable SpinRite diskette. This file may be moved to a machine running Linux or any other non-Windows operating system and, with the use of a diskette imaging program for that operating system, a boot diskette can be created on that machine.

Installing FreeDOS and SpinRite onto any other media

If your system's BIOS supports booting from other media -- such as a USB flash drive, a Zip, LS-120 drive, or anything else, SpinRite's "Install SpinRite on Drive" option can be used to make any media bootable with FreeDOS and SpinRite.

When instructed, depress and hold down the keyboard key corresponding to the drive letter onto which you wish to have SpinRite installed.

Note that anti-virus programs operating in the background of the system can become quite upset when they see programs changing boot sectors and modifying system files, as these functions of SpinRite were designed to do. If you encounter problems installing SpinRite to other media, a temporary shut down of any anti-viral watchdogs will usually resolve any trouble.


If I were going to put SpinRite on a USB stick, I'd probably use something I can write protect, like they have here:

That company also has lots of cool secure memory products.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
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@AlanD You have a point. I've always run SpinRite from CD so I never could write to that anyway. I always check the SpinRite log before shutting down and I always run only 3 partitions or gaps at a time so the log doesn't overfill. (Something @Steve has said he'll fix.) That log might be more useful on ReadSpeed, and I have that on a USB stick. Easier to share here, etc.

The idea of using writable media to troubleshoot a potentially defective or breached or infected computer has always made me nervous. I realize that, with SpinRite and ReadSpeed, only DOS is running. I don't know if a rootkit could be operative in that environment. But, if you put your diagnostic USB stick in while windows (or Linux or Mac OS) is booted, even briefly, it could be attacked. So, I tend to use write protected diagnostic media.

That's why I still shop for laptops with optical drives. ;)

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
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The idea of using writable media to troubleshoot a potentially defective or breached or infected computer has always made me nervous. I realize that, with SpinRite and ReadSpeed, only DOS is running. I don't know if a rootkit could be operative in that environment. But, if you put your diagnostic USB stick in while windows (or Linux or Mac OS) is booted, even briefly, it could be attacked. So, I tend to use write protected diagnostic media.
Whilst I have many of my diagnostic tools on USB, I also have the "master" copies safely stored on my PC. If I have any doubts about whether a USB stick has been "attacked", I can wipe it and put fresh copies of the tools back.
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From Win10, did you double click the spinrite exe? It will guide you through the next couple of steps for your USB creation.
For me the biggest issue was that the SpinRite created USB Formatted Boot disk didn't work in my ASUS MOBO (I'm not sure why).
I had the following issues:
1. I wasn't positive that the USB drive that was created by SpinRite was a bootable OS.
2. I wasn't sure how to configure the ASUS MOBO so it would boot from a USB drive. With SecureBoot enabled this hampered my success.
3. I wasn't sure if my 10 year old USB drive's too old for this to work? Later I found a 2 year old one (haven't tried it yet).

At the time I'm writing this I haven't yet gotten a BOOTABLE USB drive working. Nothing to do with SPINRITE but needed to run SPINRITE.

I was convinced that the USB drive didn't have a bootable OS. And if it doesn't have CONFIG.SYS and KERNEL.SYS then it doesn't (I'm pretty sure).
I created a bootable USB drive using the InitDisk download at Only to realize that I couldn't just right click on it and say Run as Administrator because by default it only formats your USB drive.
To make it bootable I needed to pass the freedos argument to the application.
1. Open cmd.exe shell as Administrator,
2. Run initdisk freedos
3. Follow instructions

This seemed to work.

Next, I need to verify that the USB drive was formatted with a bootable OS. I see the following files:
dir /a:h
Volume in drive E is SPINRITE V6
Volume Serial Number is 0000-0000

Directory of e:\

04/10/2022 03:06 PM <DIR> System Volume Information
06/06/2004 06:00 AM 45,908 KERNEL.SYS
06/06/2004 06:00 AM 39 CONFIG.SYS
06/06/2004 06:00 AM 11,438 SRSPLASH.SYS

NOTICE: KERNEL.SYS and CONFIG.SYS files, I'm pretty sure they need to be for the USB drive to be bootable. It also needs to have a MBR (master boot recrod), keep going.

I then used to verify that the drive was bootable. That link says:
1. Open Disk Management (Windows+R diskmgmt.msc) (as Administrator).
2. Right click on USB drive, and select properties.
3. In USB Properties dialog, click on hardware tab (Kinston Data Traveler 3.0 USB) in my case, and then click properties.
4. In new "Kinston Data Traveler 3.0 USB Device Properties" click on Volumes tab.
5. Click Populate button, and view

Partition Style: Master Boot Record (MBR)

So... after doing all this I couldn't believe Steve (from GRC) would make it this hard and I went through the steps for using SpinRite.exe (in Windows) and clicking on the button labeled "InstallSpinRite on Drive", and found that SpinRite did make the USB Drive bootable.
What I'm not sure of is if one of the previous steps put the MBR on and it was never wiped out so it appears bootable but it wasn't set as bootable by SpinRite.
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I'm guessing that says that the device is bootable (has a MBR).

Way harder (NOT hard) but way more than I expected I would need to do.

I thought "Install SprinRite on Drive" would be all I needed. I spent a hour or more trying to boot from the drive to realize that there was no OS on the USB stick!
InitDisk FreeDos will create a bootable USB stick with FreeDos OS on it.

Are you, by chance, trying this on a UEFI machine? If so, it will not work. Given the difficulty you have had, I suspect your machine is UEFI boot. If so, you will not be able to boot and run SpinRite on it as is.

A bootable USB stick created by InitDisk needs a BIOS-DOS boot environment to work.

Consider this: Go into the BIOS setup: Look for UEFI boot, Secure boot and CSM. If they are all there, you could try disabling UEFI and Secure and then enabling CSM (legacy) boot.

If your PC is UEFI boot and CSM is not an option (or if it is present but does not work - I've seen this), then you will have to wait for SpinRite 7.0, which will boot on UEFI machines.
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Press Windows-X and then select the option for Command Prompt (Admin). You may need to provide credentials. At the command prompt type msinfo32 and a window will pop up with all sorts of useful info. In there you can see model information about your PC and whether or not it's boot UEFI and also if secure boot is enabled. (If it is, you definitely are booting UEFI and you definitely will not be able to boot a legacy OS like DOS without making BIOS changes.)

Not all modern machines can enable support for legacy booting (by enabling the CSM.) If your machine is one of these machines, then you will be out of luck running SpinRite 6.x and will need to wait for version 7. The best way to know is probably to check your machine's motherboard/BIOS/UEFI manual and search for phrases like legacy and CSM.
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