When any component works by physical motion, the parts are bound to get damaged at some point. It can be due to friction, heat, or deviation from their orientation.
Likewise, the hard drive is made up of a number of moving parts inside it to facilitate storing and accessing data. So, the presence of a clicking sound coming from the drive is the result of the very malfunction of such moving parts, especially of the head, actuator arm, and platter.
Here, we are going to explore the causes of hard drive clicking noise in detail and what could be the possible fixes for it.
Why Does My Hard Drive Make a Clicking Noise?
Unlike flash drives, a hard drive stores your data on a spinning platter. Every time it needs to write or access some files, the hard drive searches for the information on that platter with the help of a read/write head. The head moves back and forth in the track where the address of the file is located using an actuator.
In normal operation, these tracks are precisely calibrated, and the head goes to the specified radius looking for the data without any interference. In addition, the head stays above the platter with only a few nanometers gap.
Now, if the head is somehow miscalibrated, or the gap between the head and platter closes, then you will hear the clicking noise. So, the noise is basically the head touching another component.
In most cases, it is the head returning to the spindle in the middle of the drive and striking forcibly when it does not find the firmware in the platter or does not have any track to guide it. Similarly, you may also be hearing the clicking sound because the head is bumping on the platter or encounters any obstacles in its way.
What Can be the Causes Behind It?
The head of the drive, actuator, or platter does not go out of its path on its own. Several physical defects and even firmware issues can cause the clicking sound in the hard drive.
Let’s look at all of them here.
Physical Harm or Manufacturing Defects
Did you drop the hard drive or bang it into other components? If so, the actuator arm may have misaligned or loosened. As we mentioned earlier, the components are delicately placed. So, any harm to it physically can move them out of their position.
Not only the arm but the platter may also have loosened or damaged due to the harm. This can provide it with an abnormal surface or cause it to rotate in an uneven fashion. And the read/write head may bump into it. As a result, you will hear a clicking sound at regular intervals.
But, if you are experiencing the problem even in a new hard drive, it may simply be a manufacturing defect.
Damaged Firmware and Service Area
The hard drive consists of a particular space called the service area where the firmware is located. The firmware contains information for the normal functioning of the drive.
If the service area suffered any physical damage, or the firmware present in it gets damaged, then the head fails to initialize and moves back and forth several times, looking for the firmware. As a result, when it comes back to its position, it hits the spindle hard, thus the clicking sound.
In this case, you will hear the sound repeatedly. This can eventually damage the head, and your hard drive may not work without a head replacement.
Whenever you run the hard drive, it receives power from the system, which causes it to generate heat. The physical movement of the actuator arm and the disc contributes to it even more.
So, it is possible that the components have expanded due to heat. As a result, the gap between the head and disc closes down. Usually, it should cause a scratching noise. But if the expansion is uneven, then the head may bump on some portion of the surface, resulting in the clicking noise.
Similarly, thermal expansion can misalign the actuator arm as well, making its motion erratic. However, sometimes, the noise may arise when the arm is trying to realign itself as well. So, if you hear the noise once in a while, then it may be the arm getting back into its position after thermal expansion.
Accumulation of dust in computers is inevitable. Sometimes, the dust particle may get stuck on the disk or the head. When these dust particles move around along with the disc, they can cause scratches on the platter.
Consequently, the head may get stuck on those scratches, emitting a clicking noise.
Inadequate Power Supply
Computer components work with precise power. Anything more or less can hamper their performance as well as their integrity.
When the voltage supplied to the hard drive is insufficient, then the actuator cannot move the arm properly, resulting in the clicking sound.
In addition to that, using a low-quality power supply unit can cause the system to experience sudden voltage fluctuations. This will lead to the malfunctioning of the circuit board in the hard drive. Hence, it impacts the movement of the head or actuator arm, and you will hear the clicking noise.
Nothing can slip away from the hand of death. As time goes by, the components start wearing off, and their performance degrades. A device such as the hard drive, which works through mechanical movement, is even more prone to it.
If your hard drive is old, then the head may be eroding. Or, the platter may have scratches. Similarly, the actuator can also lose its calibration over time. Hence, you may be hearing the click of death.
How to Fix Clicking Hard Drive?
If the disc platter is not damaged permanently and the head is still fine, then aligning the components may solve the issue. Sometimes, replacing the head or actuator arm also fixes the problem.
But hard drive parts are highly delicate. So, if you try to tamper with or attempt to repair it, that may completely damage the drive.
So, if you encounter a clicking noise in your hard drive, we recommend you go to a professional computer or hard drive repair point right away. You should consider backing up your data if the drive is still working. For the problem in a new drive, you can always return it and claim a healthy one.
Nevertheless, there are a few things you could try for yourself.
- Allow the hard drive to cool down at room temperature and use it after a while. This will fix the issue if caused by heat.
- Remove the hard drive from your system and connect it to another working computer. See if the problem appears there. If not, then there may be some issue with the power supply in your system.
- Reconnect the SATA or Molex cable coming out of the PSU and connected to your hard drive. You can also try using another set of connectors from the PSU and inspect the changes.
- Check the voltage supplied by the PSU using a multimeter and see if it is enough for the hard drive. You can also use another healthy PSU to find out whether it is the culprit. If it is indeed the power supply unit, you should replace it.
What Not to Do to Fix the Drive?
Even if you are a hardware enthusiast and like to solve things yourself, you should never do a few things to repair your clicking hard drive.
- Freezing the hard drive – You may think that if heating causes the issue, then freezing can solve it. However, freezing a hard drive will not fix it but can damage it permanently. The condensed water can fry your entire electronics.
- Continuing to use it – If the issue is due to a bad sector or file error in a specific program, then continuing to use it will cause the drive to search repeatedly for the file. This can damage the head, and you may not even be able to recover the data later.
- Opening the Hard drive – Do not consider opening the hard drive on your own. The disc platter is highly susceptible to damage, and you may render your hard drive entirely useless.