Fix A Clicking Hard Drive

Hard Drive Clicking – How To Fix, What To Look For

It is not a friendly sound by any means. The sound of a clicking hard drive is probably one of the scariest things that anyone can deal with. A hard drive that is clicking can emit sounds that are anywhere from a constant ticking to a high-pitched buzzing, all the way to a low thud. This is not a “normal” hard drive hum, and is something that most users can tell right away is not a sound that their machine has made before. And if you use your hard drive like most people do, that is to save pretty much all of the important data in your life, that clicking noise can signal what may be possibly be an imminent hard drive failure.

If you’re suddenly hearing some strange sounds coming from your hard drive, the best thing to do is to get the issue checked to find out if it is still fixable with data recovery. You’ll want to know if it is a hard drive problem that can still be safely ignored or if you can fix it DIY or if calling in the professionals is the best thing to do.

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But what exactly can you do about your hard drive clicking issue?

Hard Drive Clicking FAQ

What causes hard drive clicking sounds?
Is hard drive clicking normal?
Can Hard Drive Recovery Group fix a clicking hard drive?
Can I fix a clicking hard drive on my own?
My hard drive was clicking and now it won’t boot. What should I do?

The Causes Of A Clicking Hard Drive

Typically, but not all of the time, the clicking noise that you are hearing coming from your hard drive has to do with the fact that you have a misaligned read write head. If you want to know more about how hard drives function in general, you may want to check out an article here that describes exactly how the spindle and platter hard drive system works. But basically, your hard drive stores data on a platter, and the hard drive arm (with the head at the end of it) moves across this platter in order to read the data contained on your hard drive. This clicking sound is bad news, and can be the result of a variety of issues.

Every hard drive has what is called a read-write actuator which interprets, and inputs and outputs data from the hard disk. Typically, when the disk head moves smoothly, the actuator performs its job, reading and writing data fluidly and without difficulties. When the actuator is having trouble, it repeatedly tries to reset itself, which can result in a persistent clicking noise.

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Misaligned Drive Heads

Typical laptop drive with a typical problem.

Now, when you have a misaligned drive head, you are going to get the hard drive clicking sounds. This is typically the sound of the drive head scraping across the platter (which can be a head stack assembly issue as well), which as you would most likely expect, is not good. When you have a situation like this occur, your first move should always be to power down your computer (and thus, the hard drive). You have to remember that if this hard drive head is misaligned a great deal, it can actually cause an incredible amount of damage to your hard drive, including hard disk failure. The more that you use your system with a misaligned disk head, the more likely it is that the data contained on the hard drive platters becomes unrecoverable to even the best data recovery specialist. Writing data with a broken head reader or disk controller is one of the major causes of data loss today. What this can also mean is that when you’re actually looking for professional hard drive recovery, it may end up being far more expensive because of the fact that your drive head was allowed to create so much damage on the platter surface.

Physical Damage

Perhaps the most common culprit when it comes to hard drive clicking noise issues, this could happen if you dropped your external hard drive or if it has been exposed to extreme cold or heat. External factors are major causes of failed HDD operation, and blunt force trauma can cause the disk’s read write actuator to come out of line, or harm the drive’s head stack assembly – two of the most damaging origins of clicking sound problems with hard disks.

If the hard drive was dropped, had some kind of liquid spilled on it or was exposed to fire, then this can also cause the weird hard drive clicking noises you are hearing.

Wear and Tear

Hard drives aren’t really designed to last forever. If you’ve had the hard drive for many years and it just started making clicking noises for no reason, then there is reason to believe that it was already failing. This is very much like car engines. At some point, they will give out due to increased use. The same can happen to hard drives. Often, this occurs when the hard drive actuator arm malfunctions due to wear and tear.

Electrical Issues

There are also instances when the hard drive isn’t getting enough power as a result of a malfunctioning power supply unit or faulty power connection. If you are using an alternative source of power, it is a good idea to have it tested to check if it is indeed causing the hard drive clicking sound. It is possible that you have insufficient power supply to your system. In some cases, the issue may be due to electrical storms or power surges. The circuit board of the hard drive may also be the reason for a clicking sound, which may require professional hard drive recovery in order to restore it.

Service Area Problems

The service area is that part of the hard drive where data from the manufacturer is stored. If it gets damaged, the hard drive will fail to operate correctly. This will usually cause the actuator arms to just swing back and forth in an effort to find missing information. This is why you hear the hard drive clicking noise in the drive.

Disk Platter Damage

If the hard drive’s disk platter gets damaged, the actuator arm simply is not going to function properly and the read write heads will have marked difficulty performing their duty. This is because the actuator arm will keep swinging back and forth as it tries to locate the hard drive’s platter. Hence, the clicking hard drive sound you’re hearing.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Issues

A major part of every hard drive is the printed circuit board, or PCB, which connects the electronic components together that allow for smooth HDD operation. These PCBs do not last forever, and as they get older, are subject to electrical failure or power surges. One thing that we must stress is that searching out and installing a new printed circuit board is NOT for an amateur, and is DEFINITELY not a cure-all for clicking sound problems. It’s always best to consult with a data recovery professional if you suspect your PCB may be causing disk issues.

Manufacturer Issue

You’d be surprised to know that a number of hard drives will crash or fail as a result of manufacturing errors, firmware issues, as well as faulty parts. If your hard drive is still new and hasn’t really sustained any type of physical damage, then there is a good chance that a manufacturer defect may be causing the problems, as wear and tear will not be applicable yet. In a perfect world, your data recovery services would be covered by the hard drive’s warranty. Unfortunately, most manufacturer’s warranties will only cover the hard drive itself, and that won’t include any data it contains.

Check On The Clicking Hard Drive: So Now What Do I Do?

First, understand that a clicking hard drive is NOT normal, and even if your hard disk seems to operating fine, it may not be long until it requires hard drive repair.

We’re going to assume for the purposes of this article that you do not have all of your data properly backed up on an external hard drive. Or, for that matter, at an online backup company such as Carbonite or Crashplan (which of course, are actually very handy to have for recovering the key parts of your data, for future reference). If you do, kudos to you. All you have to do now is simply restore all of your data onto a brand-new hard drive. What we’re saying here is that if your hard drive is actually clicking, you are probably going to have to throw it in the garbage. Is just not worth saving at this point, especially because of the fact that you know that you have all of your data backed up on another hard drive. What’s more, we can tell you that buying a new hard drive (perhaps even upgrading to an SSD drive) is always going to be better than having to pay for data recovery. That’s right – upgrading is always better than “repairing”.

Of course, if you’re actually reading this article, the likelihood of you having a full data backup is probably pretty low. As a result, you are probably looking for a data recovery solution that will enable you to at least get back the most critical bits of data that you have stored on your now broken hard drive. No problem. If you are early in the process, and your hard drive is not actually that damaged because of the drive head misalignment, you may be able to get your data back yourself. There are two ways you can go about this:

The Risky Route: How Fast Can You Go?

Now, first the disclaimer: we would never recommend this route. As data recovery professionals, we have seen this particular method destroy quite a lot of data on quite a lot of hard drives. But, we have also seen it recover data. Remember though that if you attempt this, you had better be certain that you are going to be okay with potentially losing your data permanently.

So… Are you still with us? Are you sure you would just rather contact a professional data recovery technician in order to find out what the safest route to data recovery is? If not, here is what you may want to do. Again, remember that we do not recommend this nor are we liable for any of the actions you take because of this article.

There is a possibility that your hard drive is still functioning, but the clicking hard drive is obviously a sign that it will not be working for too much longer. So, what you can potentially do is get a Windows startup disk (such as the ones that we used to be a will to create in Windows 98 and XP), and attempt to do a full disk copy from DOS to recover data. This is a typically low-end operation and is probably the least dangerous thing to do when you have a clicking hard drive.

Here are some good DOS X-copy commands you may be able to use.

More Items To Avoid If You’d Like To Recover Data

Customer Question: Can I fix a clicking hard drive on my own?

It is always tempting to try to figure out what’s wrong with the hard drive yourself. This is especially true these days when just a simple search online can yield some very promising results about how to recover data.  Sadly, it is quite rare for regular users to fix their clicking hard drives. If you’ve attempted to check out potential hard drive clicking solutions online, some of the things we listed below would most likely be there. Unfortunately, these are just myths and hence, should never be attempted in the event of hard drive clicking issues.

  1.       Cooling down the drive inside the freezer.  Easily one of the classics, the idea here is that the low temperature inside a freezer should constrict the hard drive’s mechanics. However, this is a seriously outdated technique that people should never attempt doing. The moment the drive warms up and thaws, the clicking hard drive and its electrical components are only going to end up corroding.
  2.     Using a data recovery software in an attempt to fix a hardware issue. When your hard drive makes a clicking sound, it usually pertains to a physical or mechanical problem. This is why running a data recovery software will never fix it. In addition, continuing to use the clicking hard drive in its current state will only cause more problems.
  3.       Opening the drive. It is never a good idea to open the clicking hard drive. Trying to fix the clicking sound physically when you have no idea what you are doing is only going to cause completely useless and terrible damage to the hard disk. If the write/read heads of the drive need to be repaired, then it needs to be completed in a clean room setting. Otherwise, you are only exposing the internal components of the drive to dust, debris and other elements that will lead to further or complete corruption of your data.

The Safe Route: Free Expert Advice

The avenue that most people prefer to take when they have a clicking hard drive that won’t boot is one in which they can be assured that their hard drive’s data is going to be as safe as possible. What this involves is simply picking up the telephone and calling a professional data recovery technician. One of our data recovery engineers can usually assess your hard disk problem in less than two minutes, and give you the good and bad news when it comes to a prospective data recovery.

There are many instances in which a clicking hard drive can actually be repaired completely safely at incredibly affordable cost (a good pricing chart is here). What’s more, any professional data recovery service is at least going to do their best to recover your data. Particularly, if like Hard Drive Recovery Group, that data recovery service does not charge if data is not recovered.

And in the end, the advice is free, and is probably going to be a lot better than attempting the risky route to hard drive recovery.

Contact us here for a free hard drive recovery consultation. Or call us at our toll free number above!