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Hard Drive Clicking: What to do (Internal and External HDD solutions)

hmontini

hmontini

Heloise Montini is a content writer whose background in journalism make her an asset when researching and writing tech content. Also, her personal aspirations in creative writing and PC gaming make her articles on data storage and data recovery accessible for a wide audience.

Hard Drive Clicking: What to do (Internal and External HDD solutions)
hmontini

hmontini

Heloise Montini is a content writer whose background in journalism make her an asset when researching and writing tech content. Also, her personal aspirations in creative writing and PC gaming make her articles on data storage and data recovery accessible for a wide audience.

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While there are several potential causes behind why a hard drive may start making clicking noises, they all point to a mechanical issue or defect. 

HDDs are precision machines with a variety of delicate moving parts – anything from a stuck read/write head to a malfunctioning motor can cause those ominous clicking sounds. 

The source of the sounds will determine just how difficult it is to recover data, but one thing is certain: if you keep operating a clicking hard drive, you’ll inevitably cause further damage and geometric data loss. As soon as you hear clicking, the drive needs to be powered down and handled by certified HDD data recovery specialists.

What does a clicking HDD sound like

Commonly known as the “HDD click of death”, the clicking sound coming from a hard drive is one of the most dreaded noises in the world of computing. Whether it’s a repetitive tick-tick-tick, squeak-squeak, or even a clunk-clunk-clunk noise, these signals indicate that something has gone seriously wrong with your HDD – and the data stored on it is now at high risk. 

Here is an example of a hard drive clicking, filmed in SalvageData’s secure cleanroom:

How to fix a clicking hard drive 

Prompt action is crucial when dealing with hard drive clicking. Depending on the severity of the issue, users can have the opportunity to save their data and reduce the risk of complete data loss. 

Here are the steps to take when attempting to restore and salvage the data from a clicking hard drive.

1. Power down the device

If you are hearing persistent clicking, and the hard drive is freezing, or if you notice data corruption and missing files, power down the device immediately. Clicking noise on the hard drive can be due to physical damage, and using it can cause further damage and permanent data loss.

In this case, the only way to retrieve your files is by contacting a data recovery professional.

However, if your hard drive is working despite the clicking, you can follow the steps to attempt to save both data and device.

2. Backup data from the working hard drive

If your HDD is working, prioritize data backup to safeguard against potential data loss in case of hard drive failure.

3. Change clicking disk connection

If you are knowledgeable about your computer’s parts and setup, you can check if your hard drive is clicking because there’s not enough power or because of a connection issue. 

Inspect the connection cable for any damage and ensure it is properly connected to the computer. If you notice your external hard drive USB cable is damaged, replace it with a new one. But, if the clicking sound is from an internal hard drive, you may need to open your computer or laptop to check if the cable and connectors are not damaged or loose.

Another option is to remove the HDD from your computer and test it on another computer to rule out system-specific issues.

4. Cool down the hard drive

Check for dust accumulation in the computer or laptop case and clean the fan if necessary. If your computer is overheating, consider adding an external fan to aid in cooling the hard drive.

Avoid using the laptop or computer until the hard drive has cooled down completely.

Warning: DO NOT FREEZE YOUR HARD DRIVE. When you freeze a hard drive, it can cause the platters inside to crack. Cracks in the platters can make it difficult or even impossible to read and restore the data on them.

5. Send the hard drive to recovery experts

If the clicking persists after attempting the above fixes or if physical damage is observed, seek professional assistance.

Professionals will diagnose the issue and restore the hard drive data, if possible. Only data recovery services can retrieve the data of a severely damaged hard drive. That allows you to continue your work on the new device.

Why is your hard drive clicking

Understanding the root causes of hard drive clicking is essential for effective troubleshooting and mitigation. Some common factors contributing to this phenomenon include:

Physical damage

Drops, impacts, exposure to extreme temperatures, and other physical trauma can damage delicate internal components, leading to clicking sounds.

Mechanical wear and tear

Over time, the moving parts of a hard drive, such as the actuator arm and read/write heads, can degrade, resulting in irregular movements and audible clicks.

Electrical issues

Power surges, faulty connections, and inadequate power supply can disrupt the normal operation of a hard drive, manifesting as clicking noises.

Firmware or software corruption

Malware infections, corrupted firmware, or software glitches can interfere with the hard drive’s functionality, causing it to emit clicking sounds.

Quick Summary

Hard drive clicking is a distressing phenomenon that demands immediate attention and action. By understanding its underlying causes, recognizing associated risks, and implementing appropriate solutions, users can mitigate the impact of clicking noises and safeguard their valuable data. Remember, proactive maintenance and regular backups are key to ensuring the longevity and reliability of your storage devices in the digital age.

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