Strategic Informatics

A blog about the strategic application of technology

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Recovering a hard driving using SpinRite on a Mac using VMWare Fusion

I recently found myself faced with a 2.5″ NTFS formatted laptop hard drive from a 5 year old laptop that wouldn’t cooperate and would constantly fail so I decided to try and recover what I could from the drive by running SpinRite, a great application from Steve Gibson of Gibson Research that I have used successfully many times in the past to recover damaged or unreadable magnetic based media.  The last time I actually used it was about 12 years ago over the course of several days to recover a failing HD.  Computing and hard drive technology has changed a lot since then but they are still very much part of our day-to-day IT lives.  When I encounter a problem that needs extensive evaluation I would just run SpinRite on the x86 based PC from which the hard drive came.  However, after creating a bootable CD and USB key with SpinRite for use on the 5 yo laptop neither one would work so I decided to take a different route.  Without another PC handy I decided to assess my options…  My daily laptop is a MacBook Pro, doesn’t (thankfully) have an internal 2.5″ SATA bay and is sealed tighter than the sub in the Hunt for Red October…  So what’s a Mac user to do with an NTFS formatted magnetic HD that can’t be read, an old Laptop that won’t boot SpinRite, and no other PC’s within easy reach?  Try to run SpinRite from a Virtual Machine on a Mac of course….

Now for those of you who don’t know SpinRite was written in assembly and does very low level reads and writes against a computers magnetic mass storage drives.  FreeDOS has been incorporated into SpinRite distribution to allow it to boot to a bare-metal PC and mount any connected drives so you can exercise the individual bits of 1’s and 0’s stored on the drive, exercising it enough to get a magnetic drive in as good a working condition as the physical hardware will allow.  With any luck it will operate just well enough to get your information to a readable state and backed up before you have complete hardware failure…   Running SpinRite from a VM was a bit more involved to configure via VMWare Fusion on a Mac and I wasn’t completely sure it would work… so I thought I would share my experiences.

 

I created a spinrite.iso file from another Windows VM I use.  I then created a new MS-DOS based VM mounting the SpinRite.iso created from the SpinRite.exe file.  It booted to a familiar screen without any issues.

SpinRite_and_Blank_website__Blank_site__Nothing_to_see_here_

SpinRite_and_Blank_website__Blank_site__Nothing_to_see_here_

Now the challenge was to get the physical hard drive mounted to the VM…  Looking through the settings there was no way to get RAW access to a physical HD.  I used a SATA to USB adapter and had to connect the drive to my Macbook Pro ensuring it was mounted to the Mac not the VM.

I needed to create a Raw Disk vmdk to make the RawDisk accessible to the VM so I did the following:

From a Mac terminal (I prefer iTerm) type:

diskutil list

In my case the 160GB HD came up as /dev/disk2 but your particular configuration may be different.

1__bash

 

Next from the terminal run the following command to list the partitions that rawdiskCreator can see:

/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-rawdiskCreator print /dev/disk#

Note: Ensure that the last entry /dev/disk# is changed to the drive you are targeting for raw access.  In my case it was /dev/disk2

1__bash

What you should see next is your drive partitions…  My particular drive was split into two partitions (#1 was very small and #2 made up the bulk of my 160G HD)

With your partitions known and visible by the rawdiskCreator tool you can create the vmdk file that refers to the physical hard disk you are trying to mount and make it available to the existing SpinRite VM you created earlier.  You will need to know the location of the Disk and the partitions you want to mount from the previous command, which in my case is /dev/disk2 1,2 which says it’s disk2 and both partitions 1 & 2.  You will also need the path to the actual SpinRite .vmwarevm Virtual Machine that you created earlier (in my case ~/Documents/Virtual Machines/SpinRite.vmwarevm/rawDiskFile).  Now I used rawDiskfile but this is the name of your vmdk file and can be called whatever you like.  Make sure to include the ide designator at the end so the VM knows how to mount the drive.

/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-rawdiskCreator create /dev/disk2 1,2 ~/Documents/Virtual Machines/SpinRite.vmwarevm/rawDiskFile ide

After you execute this command successfully you can option click the SpinRite.vmwarevm file and choose Show Contents.  Here you should see the files that makeup the .vmwarevm file including the new .vmdk file (if that’s what you named it) for each partition you listed above (1,2).  In my case it was rawDiskFile.vmdk & rawDiskFile-pt.vmdk

If you boot the VM now you won’t see the additional drive so you have to manually edit the configuration file for the VM to recognize the drive.  With the VMWare file contents still being displayed in finder you need to edit the .vmx virtual machine configuration file.  In my case it was called SpinRite.vmx because SpinRite is what I named my VM…  You should probably back up this file incase there is a problem and you need to start over.  Use your favorite editor (BBEdit, TextWranger, TextEdit, etc…) to edit the .vmx configuration file.  You want to insert the following lines to your configuration file being careful not to duplicate an existing ide#:# entry:

ide0:1.present = “TRUE”
ide0:1.fileName = “rawDiskFile.vmdk”
ide0:1.deviceType = “rawDisk”
suspend.disabled = “TRUE”

If the VM already has in its .vmx configuration ide0:1, use another port such as ide1:1.  It is also possible to use scsi#:# or sata#:# if the VM is somehow configured to use a SATA or SCSI controller.   The suspend.disabled=”TRUE” entry prevents the VM from suspending and being out of sync with the attached HD.  Important since most of SpinRite’s scans can take a long time to run.

The last step is to power on the VM and select your HD…  You may be prompted to enter your administrators password to get RAW access to the HD as the VM powers up.

Screenshot_4_30_15__4_12_PM

If you run into trouble it may be necessary to unmount the HD from your Mac by ejecting or un-mounting from Disk Utility prior to turning the VM on.

I won’t go into detail on how to use SpinRite as the tool is pretty self explanatory but the 160GB HD partition did appear in the interface ready to begin SpinRite’s operations.

SpinRite

SpinRite_and_Blank_website__Blank_site__Nothing_to_see_here_

SpinRite

 

Again this certainly isn’t an ideal setup as SMART access to the HD wasn’t available from within SpinRite menu options because, and I’m guessing here, of the SATA to USB setup but it might work in a pinch.  Hopefully it proves useful to your IT Toolkit and helps you extend the life of your SpinRite license which is worth every penny…

Update:  I tried a couple of drives and while it worked for one drive there was an error that completely stopped SpinRite and the VM in it’s tracks…   It only occurred on a specific section of the hard drive where there was clearly an issue…

SpinRite

SpinRite

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VMWare Fusion 2.0 for the Mac

About two weeks ago VMWare released the 2.0 version of their Fusion VM software for the Mac.  It is certainly worthy of a full point release with the level of integration between the host OS and the virtualized OS increased tremendously.

It is interesting to note that VMWare Fusion offers the option to install McAffee VirusScan Plus on windows virtual machines (even BootCamp) by mounting an install ISO on the virtualized Windows system.  This is interesting to note especially with increased integration and ability to access or share files from virtual to host as virus infected files can pass from one VM to the host without much effort by the user.  While it does not seem viable this could occur in a scripted way through the hypervisor from VM to the host it does have to be a consious effort by the user to move the files over so this provieds another layer of protection for the user who might not otherwise use this software on a freshly created Windows VM.

The visuals on the 2.0 version have also increased with a rather handy screen snapshot of the running VM provided in the Virtual Machine Library window.  This window is updated approximately every 10 seconds with a current view of the guest VM.

One other suprise with this upgrade occured when I tried to unzip a file on OS X and was prompted with the abilty to utilize WinZip within BootCamp to open the file.  This really starts to blur the line between the two OS’s and enables the end-user to utilize the best application for the job.  So far performance has been snappy and very responsive.  With the integration of optimized video drivers for the VM’s I tried to run Compiz 3D effects on my Ubuntu Hardy VM but unfortunately wasn’t able to get the visuals running as they do on my dedicated Ubuntu PC’s.

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Virtualization on the Mac with VMware Beta 2

I am a big proponent of virtualization in the enterprise and it has come in quite handy on my primary PC for virtualizing development environments for some of my .Net development as well as hosting several LAMP stacks running atop of Linux.  VMware is my application of choice on the desktop and on the server.  I’ve run VMWare for well over 6 years now on XP, Windows Servers, Linux, and now OS X and have had solid performance with consistent updates from what is now a property of EMC.

The first release of VMware fusion left a bit to be desired but I jumped on it none-the-less because of the portability of existing VMware appliances and machines.  Within a few months another point release was issued that made it an almost daily utility for me.  Now with the upcoming release of 2.0 VMware has added several features I think feature-for-feature will give other competitors, even the open source Zen, a run for it’s money.

Here is a snapshot of what is anticipated in the 2.0 release:

  • Multiple Snapshots
    • Save your virtual machine in any number of states, and return to those states at any time
    • Automatically take snapshots at regular intervals with AutoProtect
  • File and URL Sharing
    • Share applications between your Mac and your virtual machines
    • Finder can now open your Mac’s files directly in Windows applications like Microsoft Word and Windows Media Player
    • VMware Fusion can configure virtual machines to open their files in Mac applications like Preview and iTunes
    • Click on a URL in a virtual machine and open it in your favorite Mac browser, or configure your Mac to open its links in a virtual machine
    • Map key folders in Windows Vista and Windows XP (Desktop, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures) to their corresponding Mac folders (Desktop, Documents, Music, and Pictures)
    • Greatly improved reliability of shared folders—now compatible with Microsoft Office and Visual Studio
  • Experimental Support for Mac OS X Server Virtual Machines
    • You can create Mac OS X Server 10.5 virtual machines (experimental support). Due to Apple licensing restrictions, the standard edition of Mac OS X 10.5 is not supported in a virtual machine
  • Display Improvement
    • Improved 3D support
    • Use 1080p full high definition video in Windows XP or Windows Vista
    • Freely resize your virtual machine’s window and enter and exit Full Screen view while playing games
    • Run Linux applications directly on your Mac’s desktop under Unity view
  • UI Improvements
    • The New Virtual Machine Assistant has Linux Easy Install in addition to Windows Easy Install
    • Cut and paste files up to 4 MB, including graphics and styled text
    • Status icons glow when there is activity
    • A screen shot of the last suspended state of a virtual machine is displayed in Quick Look and Cover Flow
    • You can remap keyboard and mouse input
    • Keyboard compatibility between the Mac and the virtual machine is improved
    • The vmrun command line interface is available for scripting
  • Broader Hardware and Software Support
    • VMware Fusion supports Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron
    • VMware Fusion supports 64-bit Vista Boot Camp; handles activation for Microsoft Office 2003 and Office 2007
    • Experimental support for 4-way SMP (note: Windows Vista and Windows XP limit themselves to two CPUs)
  • Support for Virtual Hard Disks
    • You can mount the virtual disk of a powered-off Windows virtual machine using VMDKMounter (Mac OS X 10.5 or higher)
    • You now have the ability to re-size virtual disks

All of these features are worthy of an upgrade in and of itself but VMware is offering this as a free upgrade to current Fusion customers – even better.

Source: VMware

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VMware exec says Windows days are numbered


Seriously, and what will replace it? Would you believe a VMware exec saying it will be virtual applications running on… Linux? Believe it.

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Sun offers Free alternative to VMWare Fusion and Parallels


Virtualization continues to be a big topic among Mac users with Intel-powered Macs. Products from Parallels and VMware allow you to easily run many different operating systems on your Mac, each within its own protected virtual environment. Recently, a third player entered the market—Sun, with its VirtualBox product.