[CAUTION] Hard Drive Makes a Clicking Sound?

Category: Hard-Drives

A reader asks: 'My 2-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! Read on to learn what that 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 harbinger of horrific hardware happenings, or the drumbeat of 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.

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.

hard drive clicking

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, 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 checked the file system and found no problems" there. If not, the drive may be damaged.

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

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Shelly
05 Feb 2019

The dreaded clicking. Be aware that if this happens you should check the warranty on the hard drive. It may still be covered and you can get a replacement drive at no cost.


Posted by:

Jeannie
05 Feb 2019

Don't even wait until the HDD shows signs of failing to backup your data. Back it up NOW and keep it updated! HDDs often do not give any warning before failing (SSDs almost ever give warning).

DIY attempts at data recovery from a failed drive are far, far more likely to fail than succeed. Professional data recovery is expensive (as in several thousands of dollars expensive) and carries no guarantees of success. Making and maintaining backups is far less expensive and is far more reliable.


Posted by:

Craig
05 Feb 2019

When I click on Applications after typing EVENTVWR and then Windows logs I cannot find the Winnit item. Pleas advise what to try next.


Posted by:

Paul Schmidt
05 Feb 2019

@Craig
You have to click Application to find Wininit near the bottom of the Source column.


Posted by:

Bill
05 Feb 2019

I built a NAS recently and kept hearing this clicking sound. Thankfully that turned out to be the reflected sound of a small battery powered wall clock. But, on my laptop I recently replaced the HD with an SSD as I didn't feel comfortable with a mechanical drive in my laptop. Prices on SSDs have dropped considerably recently. On my desktop PC I run a Western Digital SMART utility on a regular basis to check the health of the drives. So far so good.


Posted by:

Craig
05 Feb 2019

No luck . My source column lists 46,000 items going back to November 2018 and I can' find Winnit. Seems like needle in a haystack situation


Posted by:

Brian B
05 Feb 2019

@Craig Same problem here.


Posted by:

Curt Mixon
06 Feb 2019

I actually took the cover off a drive before and manually started the disk spinning and got all my data back! another progream I really like is at grc.com called spinrite. can work wonders if the timing is right, also r-studio is an excellent recovery program.


Posted by:

BAW30s
06 Feb 2019

In my experience, some drives make distinctly audible clicking sounds in normal use. However, if the sounds begin suddenly, are comparatively loud, and unhealthily regular, immediate backup and replacement are required (subject to the above)!
Detailed SMART information can be found by using a program like Crystal Disk Info, and SMART reporting should be enabled in the computer's BIOS. I was amazed to hear that a friend was told to ignore SMART warnings at work, and within days the drive failed.


Posted by:

Ahmad
06 Feb 2019

@Craig, @Brian B

In the Event Viewer, click on the "Source" column. This will take a little time to sort that column in alphabetical order, which can then be used to find the "Wininit" entry.


Posted by:

Ernest Lane
06 Feb 2019

When I ran CHKDSK, I got "Access Denied as you do not have sufficient privileges or
the disk may be locked by another process.
You have to invoke this utility running in elevated mode and make sure the disk is unlocked."

What does this mean, and what should I do?


Posted by:

Ahmad
06 Feb 2019

@Ernest Lane,

It means that you need to run the Command prompt with admin privileges. In Windows 10, right-click on the start button and select "Command Prompt (Admin)". After which enter the CHKDSK command in this elevated mode cmd.


Posted by:

Bruce
07 Feb 2019

I once had a hard drive go bad. The local computer shop couldn't copy the data from it. I followed the directions that I found on the internet and mounted the hard drive in an enclosure and placed it in the freezer overnight. I was then able to copy the entire 750 gig drive. This trick doesn't work all the time. It is much better to make regular back-ups.


Posted by:

Craig
07 Feb 2019

I decided to run CHKDSK again and now have blue screen indicating automatic repair couldn’t repair your PC so be careful . If it makes a difference I have a Dell desktop PC


Posted by:

Dick
07 Feb 2019

I tried your suggestion in your last article on hard drives and ran chkdsk as you recommended. My computer ran chkdsk for over three hours and showed 10% complete, so I let it run all night and still 10% complete in the morning.
I was forced to shut off the computer and now I have more problems than I can deal with. Nothing works as it did. All I got from it was a big headache.


Posted by:

Craig
07 Feb 2019

My desktop PC also froze at 10% and now I have a blue screen indicating automatic repair couldn’t repair your PC

Since at least 2 of us have same issue, perhaps someone can
suggest a solution.


Posted by:

Craig
07 Feb 2019

My computer also froze at 10% and now I have a blue screen indicating
automatic repair cannot repair my PC

Since at leas me other reader has same issue, perhaps someone can suggest a solution.


Posted by:

Craig
07 Feb 2019

My desktop PC also froze at 10% and now I have a blue screen with message that indicates automatic repair could not repair your PC.

Can anyone suggest a solution?


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
07 Feb 2019

Savvy computer users know that routine cleaning out of a desktop tower is paramount to keep your PC in good shape. This means taking a can of compressed air or an air compressor to the inside of any desktop tower to clean out all of the dust bunnies and especially the dust and debris from the fans of the Power Supply, the Graphic Card and system fans.


Note: All fans will collect dust, dirt, and debris when they are in motion. The Ceiling Fans in your home do the exact same thing and need to be cleaned, right? So, does your desktop Tower. Doing this is the first line of defense to maintaining your computer.


As for a Clicking-Whirling sound ... BEWARE!!! I have had many Hard Drive failures in my 22 years of computing. When I hear Clicking or Whirling or things on my computer are not just right, no matter what I do ... My RED FLAGS come up and I know that a Hard Drive failure is highly possible and I start looking for another Hard Drive.


As I am looking for another Hard Drive ... I also, start reaffirming all of my Back Up options and methods. The easiest method is Backing Up to an External Hard Drive or to Your Cloud if you have one. Yes, backing up all of your vital files, financial information for tax purposes and any file that contains pertinent, vital information for you to a Cloud is fine, as long as your Cloud has plenty of space.


Why I do recommend a Cloud to save files, purchase receipts and etc. ... They are easy to upload and download when you need them. My case in point ...


My last failed Hard Drive gave me absolutely NO WARNING ... It simply died, quietly and without fanfare. I lost the key codes to my Anti-Virus Malware Program - Bitdefender. I had no proof or the vital information I needed to retrieve my Anti-Virus Malware program. If I had a Cloud, I would have safe in sending all of those emails to the Cloud and the information would have been available when I installed the new Hard Drive!!!


This has been a very frustrating experience for me ... Why? Because I have usually had "signs" of failure of my past Hard Drives ... This one totally came out of the blue and I was NOT prepared!!! Even with 22 years of computer experience ... I had set myself up and I knew better. Mind you, I have built from scratch 12 computers and have repaired many computers for family and friends in those 22 years.


Here is a website that has some of the sounds you might hear regarding a failing Hard Drive and other components of a computer.


https://www.pcworld.com/article/2039654/the-sounds-of-a-sick-pc-listen-to-the-noises-that-could-mean-bad-news.html


And ...


http://datacent.com/failing_hard_drive_sounds


On the Data Center site, you must allow Flash to work, so that you can hear the various sounds of Hard Drive Failures and they come from different Hard Drive Manufacturers.


Posted by:

Jinnie
08 Feb 2019

When I type in the /IF I get a message that says invalid parameter. Any ideas to try?

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's /F not /IF


There's more reader feedback... See all 22 comments for this article.

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