SectorSpy is basically a data recovery utility that can be useful in recovering data
from a hard drive from which you are unable to access with an operating
system. You can also examine data at the sector level. I think it might
be best left to those familiar with the workings of a hard drive, as it
does require a good deal of input from the user. In order to access the
drive at a low level, it bypasses built in safeguards designed to prevent
you from doing exactly what SectorSpy allows. The author also makes it
clear that you need to be careful, and even recommends using this tool
a last resort.
I have used another utility from Norton, Disk Edit, which is included
in the Norton Utilities Suite, that does the same things as SectorSpy,
but allows direct disk editing/manipulating at any location. This allowed
me to compare the two. The most obvious differences are SectorSpy is free
while Norton is not, SectorSpy runs from Windows, while Disk Edit runs
from a DOS prompt, and SectorSpy is aimed at data search/recovery, and
Norton is a true disk editor.
The author suggests using SectorSpy to recover potential evidence which
ostensibly could be used to prosecute someone. You would do this by accessing
the drive/disc with SectorSpy, and a search function to look for key text.
It displays whatever it finds on the target, but most of what is displayed
is in hex code, and is generally unintelligible to most people. Any useful
information can be copied to another drive/disc without contaminating the
data on the target. The
figure shows a screen cap I did on my old machine. It is typical of what
you will see with SectorSpy. Notice the number of sectors. The search function
does one sector at a time so you can see it takes awhile to completely
search a drive. This particular one is a single 8GB partition on a much
larger drive. I had it set for the default speed, 750, which searches one
sector each 3/4 second. This partition had 16, 386,237 sectors. At one
sector at a time, well. . ., you do the math. Fortunately, you can use
the keys to skip quickly from section to section, designate a particular
section, or set parameters for searching for sectors containing mostly
text. The help file is a good one, and explains the operations in plain
I did have some problems using this app; two crashes on two machines.
Since Windows is infamous for this anyway, I donít know if it is SectorSpy,
or MS. Doing some detective work, I decided it might be related to either
my anti-virus software (McAfee), or the firewall (ZoneAlarm), so I deactivated
both and tried again. This time it worked, but illustrates what I think
is the disadvantage of using this, namely that it runs from Windows. It
does work though, and I successfully used the search function to find specific
text on the drive, and append (copy) it to another drive. I also was using
Windows 98SE, which is supported by SectorSpy.
You obviously understand it only works on a drive that is functional
mechanically, as no software recovery application is capable of repairing/recovering
data from a mechanically dead drive. If you do need to recover data from
a drive that does not have a functioning OS, there are better applications.
By better, I mean they are more automated, and require less skill from
the user. Two that I have tried that are specifically made for this are
SpinRite 5 from Gibson
Research, and EasyRecovery DataRecovery by OnTrack.Norton
Utilities Disk Edit does much the same as SectorSpy, I think is more
capable, but is more difficult to use, and can REALLY cause trouble if
not properly used. These also have the same feature I like, which is they
all boot off a disk and do not depend on a functioning operating system.
SectorSpy does work, is relatively easy to use, and is freeware. The
author, Nick McCamy, has done a good job, and this is a useful tool that
you should have in your tool box. Before you use it, be sure you read and
understand the instructions. You should look around on his web site, as
he has other programs available that you will probably find useful.
The only requirements are Windows 95 or newer, and whatever computer
hardware will run the OS.
You can reach the author,
and check out or download the program from LexunFreeware.