clicking hard drive malfunction

Hard Drive Clicking? Common Causes and How to Recover Data

You’re in the middle of a big project, working to hit a deadline, and you hear a “click, click, click” coming from your hard drive. Also known as the “click of death”. Hearing strange sounds coming from your computer is never a fun experience.

From what you’ve heard or researched online, you think your data is gone forever.

Sometimes it’s a quick fix, but there are situations when this hard drive clicking sound can be very serious. Waiting too long to diagnose and fix the issue can lead to a computer crash and even complete data loss.

If you’ve been hearing this sound from your hard drive, then you’ll want to know what’s causing the issue and if it’s fixable. Is it something you can safely ignore or fix yourself? Or, do you need the help of an experienced professional?

Here are the most common causes of hard drive clicking (not beeping) and what you can do to fix the problem the right way.

Why/Causes

There are a handful of reasons you’re hearing this sound coming from your hard drive.

If you have an older hard drive, then it’s most likely a hardware issue. But, if you have a newer one it could be either hardware or software.

Regardless, you’ll want to determine the root cause of the issue before it leads to data loss.

Most often, the clicking sound comes from an actuator arm that’s not functioning properly.

These are the major causes of a clicking drive:

Physical Damage

This is one of the most common culprits. Have you recently dropped your external drive? Or has it been exposed to extreme heat or cold in any way?

If your hard drive has been dropped, exposed to fire, or had water spilled on it, this can cause the clicking to occur.

Wear and Tear

Hard drives don’t last forever. If you’ve had a hard drive for years and it recently started clicking, then it could just be failing. Just like a car engine that finally gives out, so can a hard drive.

Usually, this happens when the actuator arm wears out and malfunctions.

Electrical Problems

Sometimes your hard drive won’t be receiving enough power due to a defective power supply unit. If you have an alternative power supply source, then you can test this to see if it’s causing the clicking. These issues can also be caused by power surges and electrical storms. Your hard drive circuit board could also be a related issue.

Read/Write Head Misalignment

If the read/write heads are out of alignment, due to dropping, or not carefully handling your hard drive, then you’ll hear the clicking hard drive noise to occur.

Service Area Issue

There is a portion of your hard drive where manufacturer data is stored, this is known as the service area. If this becomes damaged your hard drive won’t operate correctly. The actuator arm will swing back and forth, trying to find the information, leading to the clicking you’re hearing.

Damaged Disc Platter

If the disc platter has sustained damage, then the actuator arm won’t work properly. It’ll attempt to locate the platter and swing back and forth, resulting in a clicking sound.

Manufacturer’s Defect

A lot of hard drives will fail due to manufacturing errors, faulty parts, or issues with the firmware. If you have a relatively new hard-drive that hasn’t sustained any damage, then this could be the problem. Usually, this will be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, however, they only cover the drive, not the data that’s on it.

Signs of Failure

There are a few ways to tell if your hard drive isn’t functioning properly. The most obvious is the clicking sound emanating from your drive.

However, there are other signs you’ll want to be aware of as well:

  • Repetitive clicking noises coming from your hard drive (this suggests mechanical damage)
  • A message that states “Operating System cannot be found”
  • Your hard drive is not detected when you startup your computer
  • Your hard drive is silent making no noise whatsoever
  • Accessing your files takes a very long time (this suggests data corruption)
  • Your system endlessly reboots, or you’re greeted with the “Blue Screen of Death”
  • When you mount the drive, the computer asks to format the drive
  • Your hard drive isn’t recognized when inserted (USB or external hard drive)

If you’re experiencing any of the above signs of failure, you should stop using your hard drive and consult a hard drive repair professional as soon as possible.

How to Fix

Unless you’re an experienced technician with the proper know-how it’s not recommended to try and fix your hard drive yourself. This usually leads to further damage and even permanent data loss.

That being said, it might be a minor issue and the problem can be solved with a few quick fixes.

One thing that you can check is the power source. You may have a power socket that’s overwhelmed and unable to deliver enough power. You can also try replacing the power cable, as it could be malfunctioning and in need of replacement.

Outside of these simple power fixes, your hard drive should be in the hands of a hard drive recovery professional.

A hard disk has very sensitive internal components and can be easily damaged by using improper tools or an unclean environment. Your data is at risk the moment the internal platter or disk head is exposed to dust and debris.

What Not to Do

It can be tempting to try to diagnose and fix your hard drive issue yourself. Although Google is great for a lot of things, it’s not the best for fixing complex hardware issues.

Here are some common hard drive fixing myths that won’t do you any good.

  1. Cool Down Your Hard Drive in the Freezer
    Putting your hard drive in the freezer can help to constrict the mechanics. But, this is a very outdated technique. Once it thaws and warms up, it’ll lead to corrosion of the drive and electrical components.
  2. User Recovery Software for a Hardware Issue
    Often, the clicking sound from inside your hard drive indicates a mechanical or physical issue, so running software won’t fix the problem. Continued operation of the drive will only cause further issues. Including running your own data recovery software.
  3. Open the Drive Yourself
    Attempting to open the drive and fix the clicking yourself can completely damage the drive. Repairing the read/write heads requires a cleanroom facility, without this you run the risk of dust and other debris corrupting your existing data.

How to Recover Data

If you can hear your hard drive clicking or making any other kind of sound, then you’ll want to consult with a data recovery professional right away.

This isn’t the kind of issue that will get better on its own. Beyond a faulty power connection, nearly every other issue relates to the inner workings of your hard drive. Attempting to open up your hard drive yourself can lead to complete hard drive failure.

When your hard drive is clicking the physical damage has already been done. This most likely can’t be replaced.

But, you can still get your data back. Although it can be tempting to run your own backup or recovery programs this can put your drive at further risk. Continuing to operate your hard disk drive can further the damage.

If you attempt to repair your hard drive clicking on your own or run a data recovery program while your hard drive is clicking you run the risk of losing all of your data. Forever.

Your data isn’t worth that risk. Get in touch with a data recovery specialist today to determine the best plan to move forward.