- Intermittent or rhythmic clicking noise.
- Repeatedly loud clicking noise.
- I dropped my external hard drive.
A hard drive is a fundamental part of most computers. Hard drives make quite a number of noises, some are good and some are bad. It is quite normal for a hard drive to hum, swoosh, and even for a short period make light ticking noises. Usually it makes sounds like this when it is spinning up or going through its normal start up procedure.
If your hard drive makes an excessive amount of loud grinding, squeaking, or clicking there is definitely something wrong. When audible malfunctions happen in a hard drive, it usually indicates there is a physical problem with the drive, not a digital one. Most of the time digital failures like soft bad sectors will cause the drive to be slow to boot or you may only be able to access parts of the data, but they will not make noises that alert you of the fact. Typically a clicking hard drive means a physical failure, much like if you heard unusual noises coming from your car engine or transmission.
A physical hard drive failure can happen for a number of reasons. Hard drives are most sensitive to heat, and being roughly handled like being dropped. In every hard drive there is a mechanism called an actuator arm that reads and writes data to the spinning discs. If that actuator arm gets even slightly damaged, it will start violently seeking back and forth creating the clicking noise you now hear. In severe cases if the hard drive is allowed to click for too long, parts of that mechanism can detach and scratch the surface of the discs causing a failure so severe that your data will become unrecoverable.
Whatever the case may be, if your hard drive is making malevolent noises, the best thing is to turn the hard drive off to avoid further decline. If you have a clicking hard drive, there is a great likelihood that it will need to be repaired by a data recovery professional in a class 100 clean room. This is not a do it yourself situation. To use a car analogy again, you wouldn’t take your BMW to your father who happens to be a little handy in the garage. Hard drive data recovery service is a highly technical field and needs to be left to someone who has the expertise and resources to handle it.