The Most Common Causes for a Clicking Hard Drive

The Most Common Causes for a Clicking Hard Drive

The first hard disk was introduced by IBM in 1956 with a capacity of 3.75 MB. 65 years later, you can purchase disks with a capacity of more than 18 TB per single hard disk, smaller, faster, and with a longer lifespan. Even nowadays, a hard disk is prone to a problem known as clicking hard drive. The reason lies in the way hard disks are designed and occur on an internal and external hard disk. The clicking noise in the hard drive should be considered as an ALARM for your data loss.

In this article, we will give you insights into the root cause of this problem and potential DIY solutions to fix it. However, seeking a professional service is always the best practice in regard to storage device problems.

What are the major causes of clicking hard drive?

Before knowing what the major reasons are, we should first understand how a hard drive works. The hard drive is a hardware storage device for storing our valuable private and business data. It has four main components inside its casing including the platter (for storing data), the spindle (for spinning the platters), the read/write arm (for reading and writing data), and the actuator (for controlling the actions of the read/write arm) and the PCB (printed circuit board). The read/write arm hovers over a hard drive’s platters and by default, it doesn’t touch it. In case of any malfunction, drop or shake, read/write heads can touch the platters and damage themselves and the platter. That means the read/write head is unable to perform its tasks. This results in clicking inside if your hard disk.

The most common causes of clicking noise of a hard drive are:

  • Wear and Tear
  • Power Surge
  • Physical Damage
  • Electrical Problems
  • Read/Write Head Misalignment
  • Service Area Issue
  • Damaged Disc Platter
  • Manufacturer’s Defect

Wear and Tear: The problem with heads, the magnetic parts on a hard drive, is one of the major reasons for clicking. Both bad and degraded heads are responsible for creating odd sounds. When a new drive starts clicking, usually within the first two months of use, it indicates a bad head due to a manufacturers’ defect. On the other hand, with continuous use, heads start degrading. After two years or more, a hard disk failure is linked to its degraded health due to old age. A problem with a new bad head leads to sudden hard drive failure, while a degraded head is likely to give warnings.

Power Surge: Another common cause of unusual clicking sound is related to the power supply. When you have connected multiple devices to a single port, the insufficient power supply leads to creating noise on the hard drive. On the other hand, power surges can damage both the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) and the HSA (Head Stack Assembly) while it is in motion. To prevent this, invest in a good and certified power supply.

Service Area Issue: Sometimes, there can also be a problem with the service area of a hard drive. It is similar to an OS for a computer, and any damage to it may produce clicking noise due to bad modules. A corrupted service area needs both logical (99% of the time) and physical data recovery work.

Physical Damage: If accidentally you have dropped a hard drive when moving it from one location to another, it starts making noise. The clicking noise, in this case, is due to misaligned HGA (Head Gimbal Assembly) which results in damaging the HSA (Head Stack Assembly).

Manufacturer’s Defect: Sometimes, hard drives also make noise and prematurely fail due to manufacturing errors or faulty parts. Moreover, using a long USB cable or any issue with the firmware can degrade the performance of the hard drive. If your new hard drive is making noises, then most probably it’s because of the manufacturer’s defect or a long USB cable. They have more resistance comparing to short cables which create a voltage drop and reduces the power going to the internal or external hard drive. If a wrong or too long USB cable is used, the signals tend to degrade, and the system fails to sync with the hard drive.

Do it yourself (DIY)

This might sound promising, but it´s also a very sensitive task. The first question when it comes to data loss and data recovery is: “How much is your data worth?”. The answer will drive your action, you can try the DIY method, or you can ask for a professional data recovery service. If you want to do it yourself here are some tips that might be helpful to you. Please note that risk is involved and a chance to get it in an operational state is below 10%.

During your research, you probably heard some of the folks’ stories, such as using “freezer trick”. The “freezer trick” involves placing a damaged hard drive inside a zip lock freezer bag and then placing it in the freezer for a few hours. As a result of this strange method, your data should be accessible and recovered, but, this is not true and will make more damage to your disk. Why? So, due to the temperature difference when you take out your disk from the freezer to the room, the water starts condensing outside and inside the case. If you spin it up, the read/write head will drag through the water and make significant damage to the platter surface and make your data almost unrecoverable.

The Most Common Causes for a Clicking Hard Drive

What happens with the disk platter if you spin it up (after you previously kept it in a freezer for a few hours)? It gets damaged. 

The other two stories include opening a hard drive and using data recovery software. All of these methods are NOT legitimate and can make things worse. Your freezer and software recovery can’t fix physical problems and your hard disk should be only opened in certified clean-rooms which are used by data recovery professionals. Please don’t try this at home.

Now, let´s get to the DIY methods.

In case you are experiencing problems with the internal hard disk, you should try to connect your hard disk to another IDE/SATA connector on your motherboard or try to replace IDE/SATA cables. Also, your power supply could be faulty and fail to provide enough power to your hard disk. You can try to disconnect all other hardware components and only leave the hard disk connected. In some cases, replacing the power supply has solved a problem.

If you are experiencing clicking sounds with the external hard disk, you can try the following solutions:

  • Connect your external hard disk to your motherboard or USB – you need to remove the external hard disk from the casing and connect it directly to IDE/SATA connector on your motherboard. If you are using a notebook and would like to do it more conveniently on your computer, you can purchase IDE/SATA to USB adapter and connect your hard disk to the adapter and notebook.
  • Use original and proper USB cable – using third-party USB cables or the cables that are longer (e.g. 3 m) than officially recommended by the vendor could be also the cause of the problem. You should always use the original cable that comes with the device. If you are unsure about it, please check the official documentation
  • Use the original power cable and check your power socket – you should also avoid using third-party power adapters known as “universal power adapters”. They are not very much universal and damage your disk drive. Also, you should verify if your power socket is not overwhelmed and that it can deliver enough power to your external disk.

Conclusion

These were the most common causes of clicking sound produced by hard drives. Now that you know the reasons, it’s important to know what to do. If the hard drive begins clicking, power down your computer. The longer you leave the drive running, the more likely damage will be done to the hard drive’s platters, making data recovery more difficult. To address clicking noise and recover lost data, a professional data recovery service is the only resort. The professionals use special tools to ensure that you get your data back in the most cost-effective way possible. We at Data Platinum Recovery will be very happy to address your queries. 

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