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Why is my Hard Drive Clicking?

What does it mean when my hard drive clicks? Find out below.

There are a few signs of hard drive failure besides the obvious error screen and failure to boot. A persistent clicking noise, sometimes called the “click of death”, is one indication that hard drive failure is imminent. The technology within hard drives has improved substantially in recent years. They now boast larger storage capacities, faster speeds, more compact sizes, and all for less money. Most (80%) hard drives last four years or more. With frequent use though, the possibility of damage always looms.

What’s Clicking?

Computer users first noticed the clicking sound as related to hard drive failure in the 1990’s. While there are many possible causes, a hard drive clicking noise often results from the defective movement of the disk’s read-write actuator. During regular use, a disk head moves smoothly to track data on a disk. If these movements become erratic and unexpected, the disk controller tries to reset its position by bumping back to the home position repeatedly. This bumping causes an audible “click” and the noise will continue as the process repeats itself. There are several reasons a hard drive makes a clicking sound. In older hard drives, the clicking noise is usually related to a problem with the disk head. In newer models, however, clicking could be the result of either a software or hardware problem. In either case, the data from a clicking hard drive can be recovered.

Causes of Clicking

The type of clicking helps experienced hard drive recovery technicians know which solutions to pursue based on the probable cause of the problem. Try your ear at the different hard drive failure sounds. The type of hard drive clicking helps experienced recovery technicians know which solutions to pursue based on the probable cause of the problem. They aren’t easy to differentiate but we do understand the major causes. There are several likely causes of a clicking hard drive:
  • Physical damage to a hard drive
    • A hard disk failure may occur due to external factors such as exposure to fire, water or high magnetic fields, or suffering a sharp impact or environmental contamination, all of which can lead to a head crash.
    • A hard drive has moving parts, and during the course of normal operation, these parts will experience normal wear and tear, resulting in a natural failure and clicking noise.
  • Insufficient Power
    • Defective PSU (Power Supply Unit) could lead to creating noise on the hard drive
  • Damaged / Glitching PCB
    • Power surges can damage both the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) and the HSA (Head Stack Assembly)
  • Service Area (SA) Issues
    • The Service Area, which stores manufacturer specific data required for HDD operation. It could become corrupted/damaged through errors during module reading or bad sectors that result in an inability to translate the information on the drive.
  • Read/Write Heads Misalignment
    • Components such as the heads or spindle arms are out of line if the hard drive is dropped or handled roughly.
  • Weak/Damaged Heads

How to Fix Your Clicking Hard Drive

There are a few simple fixes if your hard drive is making noises. First, ensure your hard drive is getting enough power. A single socket can be overwhelmed if several devices are plugged in at once so plug your hard drive directly into a single power source. If that doesn’t work, check to see if those cables are intended for that hard drive and computer or replace them if necessary. If the drive is still clicking, there will be a small window of time to back up your data. Your best chance at saving your data is to immediately complete a full backup. These are straightforward troubleshooting options that will give you the best chance at fixing the hard drive issue and recovering data from your hard drive.

Myths About Recovering a Hard Drive With a Clicking Sound

  • Using data recovery software to obtain the files and transfer them to a new drive.
    • In most cases, a clicking hard drive indicates a physical or mechanical issue with the drive. Software will not work in this instance and continuing to operate the drive can cause platter damage and only make data recovery more difficult
  • Putting your hard drive in the freezer to constrict the mechanics and free up disk space
    • This outdated technique will only cause corrosion on the platters and electrical components when the water vapor inside the drive freezes and is then thawed
  • Replacing a Control Board inside the hard drive
    • This may only work for an electrical failure, but is a lot more in depth than just swapping out the controller board. Also a clicking hard drive is very rarely ever caused by a PCB or controller board.
  • Opening the drive to attempt a recovery or replace heads
    • NOTE: We do not recommend this method. Opening the drive to repair read/write heads requires a Cleanroom facility. Without this environment, dust will settle on the drive platters, making the recovery situation much harder or damaging the information beyond recovery.
    • Recovering data from a clicking hard drive requires expertise, proper tools, and appropriate hardware and software to retrieve the information.

We Are Experts at Dealing with Clicking Hard Drives

Many people notice a hard drive clicking noise only after their device has failed, in which case you will need the service of a professional data recovery company. For professional assistance in recovering data on a failed hard drive, submit a HELP ticket.
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