How To: Run SpinRite on a UEFI-only machine (Part 2A of 5 - Windows as base OS)

  • SpinRite v6.1 Release #3
    Guest:
    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.
    /Steve.
  • 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!

    /Steve.
  • 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.)

Scott

Well-known member
Sep 18, 2020
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NOTE 1: Many Thanks to TheBigBear (username here unknown) who reported success with this approach while I was working through the details. I've compared his steps to mine and they are mostly the same, though I have a bit more detail on virtual machine setup and physical drive mapping and unmapping in this article.

NOTE 2: These steps will create a portable Windows environment on a USB flash drive that can be moved from machine to machine as needed. Nonetheless, from Microsoft's standpoint, you should be purchasing a license from them and Activate this instance of Windows. My preliminary testing is that all runs fine without Activation, but I can't speak to what, if anything, happens in the long run if you do not Activate this instance of Windows. If you intend on using this beyond the experimentation stage, I'd suggest purchasing a license.

As noted in Part 1 of this series, one can create a VirtualBox environment suitable for SpinRite within a Windows OS environment. That Windows boot drive must be setup in a particular way. This article will outline how to setup that drive, and how to run VirtualBox and then SpinRite from that drive.

This article is split into multiple parts:
  1. Using Windows to Go as the base OS for your bootable VirtualBox system (split into multiple parts):


On your Prep PC (which is running Windows 10 or 11):​

  1. Download and install (or use Portable) version of Rufus:
    1. https://rufus.ie/en/
  2. Download the current Win 11 ISO from Microsoft:
    1. https://www.microsoft.com/software-download/windows11
  3. OR, download Tiny11, a legitimate but "decrapified" install ISO
    1. Microsoft provides tools to customize the Windows installs, and someone used those tools to remove as much as possible. It's not a "cracked" or illegitimate copy of Windows; it still requires Activation to be fully functional and legal just like a standard Win 11 installer
    2. Info: https://www.thurrott.com/windows/windows-11/294806/hands-on-with-tiny11-2311
    3. https://archive.org/details/tiny11-2311
  4. Insert your USB drive (as a reminder, it MUST be tested to be fast (finishes ValiDrive in 10 seconds or less), or this will take hours to days to finish!!)
  5. Use Rufus with the following options:
    1. Main screen
      1. Select your flash drive and your Windows ISO
      2. Image Option: Windows To Go
      3. Partition Scheme: GPT
      4. All other options default, press Start
    2. Next screen (not shown if using Tiny11)
      1. Which version you want; select Windows 11 Pro
    3. Customize Windows Installation screen:
      1. Check ALL boxes
      2. VERY IMPORTANT TO HAVE CHECKED:
        1. Prevent Windows To Go from accessing internal disks
      3. This is because those drives will be accessed by SpinRite, so they should be Offline as far as Windows To Go is concerned
    4. Rufus will now make your flash drive
  6. Now, go to GRC.com and download your personal copy of SpinRite
  7. Run the SpinRite executable
  8. Use the option to create an IMG file.
  9. By default it's called SpinRite.img, change the name to SpinRite-FD.img
  10. Copy that file to your 2nd flash drive and put it aside, you'll use it later

On your Target PC (on which you will eventually run SpinRite against its drives)​

A. Getting the OS up to date​

  1. Boot your PC from the USB using your particular PC's boot option key
  2. You should see at least one entry for the USB
    1. If two entries, they might be Windows Boot Manager (from the USB) or EFI (from the USB). Either will work to boot the system
  3. Your system will now (slowly!!) prepare devices, then go to a screen asking to connect to WiFi. Connect to your network
    1. Windows has many drivers built in, but it’s possible it might not have your WiFi card. If that’s the case, you’ll need a USB to Ethernet adapter to use (temporarily) and plug into your router. You do need Internet connectivity!!
  4. You’ll eventually get into the Windows desktop
    1. If using Tiny11, your system may pop up a box that says the paging file is messed up. I haven’t figured out a way around this yet, it will just pop up on every boot. Just dismiss it.
  5. In Settings, go to Time & Language, Date & Time, and ensure the Time Zone and other time settings are correct, and if needed click on the "Sync now" button
  6. In Settings, go to System, then Power & battery
    1. Go to Screen and sleep
      1. "When plugged in, turn off my screen after" set to "Never"
      2. "When plugged in, put my device to sleep after" set to "Never"
  7. Run Windows Update. This will accomplish two things:
    1. Download and install updates for Windows itself, AND
    2. Download additional drivers for the system you are currently using
  8. Windows Update notes:
    1. This will take a while, AND there’s a good chance that only some of the drivers will install on the first try. Retry as needed, and eventually you’ll reboot
    2. Note that every time you reboot you'll have to use your target PC's boot option key to ensure you boot from the USB drive
    3. Upon reboot, you’ll have to provide a password for the Admin account
    4. Keep running Windows Update until such time as there are no more updates to install
    5. If your WiFi card did not natively have a driver when you started, after running Windows Update more than likely the correct driver has been installed and you can remove the USB to Ethernet adapter and continue via WiFi.
  9. Turn off Hibernation
    1. By default, Windows will create a hibernation file that’s the size of the RAM from the Prep PC on your USB drive. That’s taking up a lot of space and you’ll never use it, so turn off hibernation via the command prompt
    2. Open an Elevated command prompt
      1. That means right click on Terminal, then on pop up menu, right click on Terminal again and Run as Administrator
    3. Run the following command:
      1. powercfg.exe /hibernate off
    4. That’s it! That’ll turn off hibernation and delete the hibernation file
  10. From the Microsoft Store app, update all apps.
  11. If using Tiny11, it doesn’t come with Microsoft Edge (or any web browser). Use Winget to add a browser
    1. Open an Elevated command prompt and run:
      1. winget upgrade --all
    2. Once that’s done, install the browser of your choice (MS Edge is NOT installed by default). I went for Firefox.
      1. winget install Mozilla.Firefox
    3. Open Firefox and ensure it’s working
  12. Download and run the GRC utility "Securable", which will tell you if your system has a Virtualization capability and if it's enabled:
    1. https://www.grc.com/securable.htm
    2. Virtualization MUST BE ENABLED in order for VirtualBox 7.x and higher to run


B. Installing VirtualBox on Windows​

  • Download the VirtualBox Windows installer from
    1. https://www.virtualbox.org/
  • Run the installer
    1. By default, Networking Support and Python Support are Enabled
    2. You should DISABLE them (choose don't install), they are not needed
    3. There is also an optional download for the VirtualBox Extension Pack; do NOT download this, it's not needed
      1. VirtualBox versions prior to Version 7 needed the Extension Pack for USB support, but that's now built into VirtualBox
      2. And we're not using USB support within VirtualBox anyway!
  • Once VirtualBox is installed, ensure that it's always started as Administrator
    • Go to the C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox directory
    • Right click on the VirtualBox.exe file
    • Select Properties
    • Go to the Compatibility Tab
    • Click ON the checkbox for "Run this program as an administrator"
    • Click OK

C. I have a Mac, is there anything else I need to do?​

My limited testing is that Macs can work from the base Windows drivers, but you may want to install the drivers that Apple provides in their BootCamp package. That additional installation is complicated enough to be it's own article:

Most folk can just proceed here:
 
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