Causes of a Clicking Hard Drive

cchdA clicking hard drive is a hard drive that is on the verge of shuffling off this mortal coil. There?s a reason people refer to it as the “click of death.” Generally, once your hard drive starts making a constant clicking noise, there’s not much you can do but try to backup all your data off of it before it dies completely. Because hard drive failure can come when you least expect it, you should always have some kind of backup available, whether on an external hard drive or a cloud-based recovery site like Crashplan or iDrive. You can also check here.

That being said, it is possible to repair a clicking hard drive, or at least keep it functional long enough to backup everything you need. But in order to repair your clicking hard drive, you will first need to understand the specific issue or issues that are causing the problem. Here are the most common causes of hard drive clicking:

  • The hard drive heads hitting the internal head stop: This is typically what causes the “click of death.” When the hard drive heads cannot tell where the tracks are on the platters, the heads will keep spinning until the actuator arm physically hits the head stop, which is there to stop the reader heads from leaving the platter. This issue is often caused by a fault on the hard drive circuit board, in which case you may have some success with replacing the circuit board or moving the hard drive platters from the defective drive onto an identical, working drive (more about this here). However, swapping platters without a professional clean room is extremely risky, as you run the chance of exposing the highly sensitive platters to dust and other airborne particulates.
  • Loose connection, faulty cable, or faulty power adaptor: These issues apply to clicking external hard drives. You can diagnose this by unplugging all of the cables and visually inspecting the connections. If you find a loose connection, you can use a small screwdriver to correct the shape or position of the male or female connectors. Also check the cables for damage caused by wrapping the cable around the adaptor during storage. Do the same inspection with the power adaptor. If the cables are adaptor are faulty, then you can simply replace them.
  • Graphics card drivers: While not a common cause, there have been documented instances of some graphics card drivers causing hard drive clicking noises. In this case, the solution is as simple as updating or changing your graphics card drivers.
  • Hard Drive on a Non-Level Surface: Especially with older hard drives, if your drive or the computer it?s housed within are on an uneven surface, hard drive clicking can occur. In this case, you just need to check the positioning of the hard drive and make sure that it is level. You can use a level tool to ensure that your hard drive is in a perfectly flat position.
  • Faulty Power Supply: A malfunctioning power supply or a power supply that is overloaded can cause hard drive clicking. If this is the case, addressing the problem will be much more involved. First, you will have to remove your hard drive and connect it to another power supply to see if the clicking still occurs. If it doesn?t, then you know that the power supply is the likely issue. You will need to reconnect your hard drive to the original power supply while disconnecting other devices like the CD drive, USB devices, modem, etc. If the clicking goes away when other devices are disconnected, then it means that your power supply is overloaded and you will need a larger power supply unit.

No matter what the cause of your hard drive clicking is, you are better off consulting a professional computer hardware technician before attempting to make any repairs yourself. For RAID recovery tips, click here. If you don?t know what you are doing, you have a serious risk of getting electrocuted from electrostatic shock or shorting out your entire computer. Better to pay someone to fix the hard drive for you than risk frying your entire system.

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