[CAUTION] Hard Drive Clicking Sound?

Category: Hard-Drives

A reader asks: 'My 4-year-old hard drive is making a clicking sound. It started recently and seems to be getting more frequent. Sometimes I hear a repeated click-whir sound when starting or using my computer. Does this mean my hard drive is going bad?' Yikes! Hard drive clicking sounds are definitely a harbinger of hard drive hardship. Read on to learn exactly what that clicking means, and what you should do if it happens to you...

Impending Hard Drive Failure?

Generally a clicking sound coming from your hard drive is a Very Bad Thing. It could be a hint of horrific hardware happenings, or the drumbeat of developing data disaster. So my immediate advice is "BACKUP YOUR HARD DRIVE!" as soon as possible. If the drive fails, you're out of luck.

In fact, even if you don't suspect a problem with your hard drive, it's wise to make regular backups so you can survive a hard drive failure with only minimal inconvenience.

On Windows, you can check your hard drive for errors (and sometimes fix them) by running the CHKDSK utility. To do so, click the Start button, then type CMD, but don't press Enter. Right-click on the CMD.EXE icon at the top of the search results, then click "Run as administrator." If you get a User Account Control popup, click YES to continue. When the Command Prompt window appears, type CHKDSK C: /F /R then press Enter. The /R option tells CHKDSK to scan for bad disk sectors, and the /F option means to fix any errors found.

hard drive clicking

You'll see a message informing you that "CHKDSK cannot run because the volume is in the use by another process. Would you like to schedule this volume to be checked the next time the system restarts?" This happens because CHKDSK cannot operate on the drive from which you have started Windows. Reply Y, then restart your computer. CHKDSK will run before loading Windows, and you may see a bunch of geeky stuff on the screen while it's scanning your disk. On Windows 8 or 10, you'll just see a black screen with the Windows logo and a progress indicator.

If CHKDSK offers to "convert lost chains to files", recover lost data, or fix something else, you should accept. (If CHKDSK tries to sell you a cheap Rolex watch, politely decline the offer.) After CHKDSK finishes, and you've restarted normally, you may want to see the CHKDSK results.

To do so, click the Start button, type EVENTVWR, then press Enter. This will open the Windows Event Viewer. Click on Windows Logs, then Application. Scroll down until you see the Wininit item in the source column. Click on that line, and you'll see the CHKDSK log file. Hopefully, you'll find the phrase "Windows has scanned the file system and found no problems" there. If not, the drive may be damaged.

CHKDSK report in Event Viewer

If you decide to purchase a new hard drive (or a new computer), see [HOWTO] Copy Old Hard Drive to New PC for help with transferring your files.

Are You On The Level?

Need more inspiration to back up your hard drive? Listen to some recorded sounds of hard drive failure! They'll haunt your dreams until your data is safe.

But before you trash your troublesome drive, you should try one more thing... Some hard drives are very sensitive to non-level surfaces, and will not function properly if they're sitting on a slant. Shut down your computer, make sure your system unit is on a flat surface (use a level to make sure), and then restart. I was all set to give up on an older computer that was doing the click/whir routine, but I noticed it wasn't sitting on a level surface. As soon as I fixed that, the problem was gone!

If your computer won't start, don't assume that hard drive is a goner. A few years ago, my hard drive got totally mucked up, and nothing I tried could restore the drive to working order. But I found a wonderful program called TESTDISK that was able to analyze the disk and recreate the damaged partition table and boot record. I was certain that all the data was lost, but TESTDISK did the job for me, and the computer was able to start just fine.

Sometimes odd noises may come from a cooling fan inside your desktop computer. If you are brave enough, pop open the hood on the system unit, turn on the computer, and see if the noise is coming from a fan. It's much cheaper to replace a bad fan than a failed hard drive.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 30 Apr 2020


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Most recent comments on "[CAUTION] Hard Drive Clicking Sound?"

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
30 Apr 2020

Most recent hard disks have integrated the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology System (SMART) rechology, which allows HDs to report problems.
So install Smartmontools on your box, and regularly use it (cron job under Linux) to check regularly the health state of your HD.

Another possibility to improve your peace of mind is to install a second HD of the same capacity, preferably of a different maker and model, and configure the two as a RAID1 array; this will keep your data safe (for a time) if a HD goes belly-up.


Posted by:

Dave M
30 Apr 2020

CHKDSK will cure a host of problems. However it can take some time to run - and by "some time" I mean hours. So don't set it to check your "C" drive and then restart thinking you will quickly get back to work. Do your restart before you go to bed at night. It should be done when you get up in the morning.

And just to emphasize what Bob says - if your drive is making noises, you need to back it up NOW! New hard drives are very cheap these days. Buy a large capacity hard drive and put it away in a safe place. That way if you start to have problems, you have a nice handy new drive to do a backup today.

Thanks, Bob, for your interesting and informative newsletter.


Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
30 Apr 2020

Just to be clear about my first comment:
Smartmontools will allow you to detect problems BEFORE your HD starts making strange noises.


Posted by:

Dennis McGuire
30 Apr 2020

Bob,

Consumer Union had re-reviews of anti amware software. I was surprised PC Matic was not include nor was Malware Bytes. Are there any reviews comparing PC Matic with their competitors?


Posted by:

Bob
01 May 2020

You wouldn't believe it? I had been communicating with my son-in-law on this very same issue when your email and his stating that he had another HD for my Dell Latitude Laptop, arrived almost at the same time.


Posted by:

11bravo
01 May 2020

I would NOT run chkdsk on a clicking HDD. That's a lot of work for a potential failing drive. Best to try and clone (Image) it first. That's the same amount of work for the HDD, but now you have a copy of the drive that you can work on. Or THEN run chkdsk on the original drive to try and fix it. But you are SOL if the drive completely fails when running a chkdsk.

Windows has an image option, or several companies offer free versions that will do that. I use Macrium Reflect for my cloning (and for my backups). Paid and free versions available. All software recovery tools I've used say to CLONE first, then work on drive. For a failing HDD, you want to minimize the use until you can create a clone.


Posted by:

RandiO
01 May 2020

It seems as though I outgrow my drives before they start getting chatty with clicks.
I am getting to the point where I look for exceptions to the definition of insanity because I just purchased an 8TB HDD as replacement for a 90% crowded 4TB, which was purchased two years ago to replace a full 3TB HDD, which was purchased to substitute for a 2TB HDD, which was swapped in for a 1TB HDD. These "musical drives" partially store my data, my musics, my videos, my movies in a NAS. In addition, I use an internal 250GB SSD strictly for the OperatingSystem, plus a 400GB SSD solely for application data, another internal 500GB SSD for my downloads and backups/archives and a 4TB for surveillance camera storage.
My borderline insanity is also complicated with my OCD/pride that I have never lost any of my data.
I refuse to seek therapy!


Posted by:

Dana Lynch
12 May 2020

I keep a backup on two external hard drives. I do this in case on external hard drive goes bad I'm covered.


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