I own a copy of SpinRite, a hard drive recovery and maintenance utility, that can't run under Windows because it requires such low-level access to the drive. Typically, you create a boot disc that runs SpinRite on top of FreeDOS in order to scan your drives. This means the computer is out of commission for that time. Unfortunately, theses scans can take anyware from several hours to several days depending on the size and condition of the drive and the level at which you run SpinRite.
I have an ESATA drive dock and I have been able to get SpinRite to work in a VMware Workstation VM by giving VMware direct access to the drive in the dock, thus allowing me to continue to use the host computer while the SpinRite VM cranks away. However, this only works with a drive that has not yet been partitioned. If the drive has been partitioned, Windows takes control of it and I am not able to give VMware direct access to it.
Is there some way to force Windows to relinquish control of a hard drive?