There are several signs of hard disk drive (HDD) failure besides the evident ones like error screen and failure to boot. While they now boast larger storage capacities, more compact sizes, and faster speeds, hard drives still have a quite fragile design, which means that the possibility of breakage or malfunction increases in proportion to the frequency of disk use. It’s possible to make a Hardware failure diagnosis by noise. A persistent clicking sound, also known as the “click of death“, is one of the most common symptoms that prognosticate a hard drive’s imminent crash.
On the other hand, the clicking noise emanating from an HDD could just be a minor mechanical issue related to the drive’s fan or something insignificant like that. Either way, it is better to investigate the possible causes to avert serious data loss.
The Basics Behind the Sound
The relatively benign mechanical problems that the clicking sound may be related to include corrupted firmware modules. In this case, as the heads moving along the platter are unable to find the data they need for calibration, your disk either can’t be recognized by the system or doesn’t match up with what is stored in its other areas.
For example, in many hard drives, defect lists are stored on the platters and on a chip mounted to the printed circuit board (PCB). For normal functioning, the data kept on the chip must be matching up with what is stored on the platter. This, in turn, is the reason why replacing the faulty PCB with a new one doesn’t work on most hard drives — because of the mismatching data stored in the modules. Even with the original PCB, the drive can click if any of the other critical modules in the system area are corrupted. Whereas this doesn’t mean there’s a physical problem with the HDD, it manifests itself in a similar manner and therefore could be the culprit for the clicking noise.
Along with that, there are several more serious causes of a disk click that can result in severe data loss:
- Faulty read-and-write heads. A brand new drive can start clicking due to a manufacturers’ defect, particularly bad or degraded heads, and that is most likely to aggravate with continuous use. With a degraded head giving warnings, this issue often leads to sudden hard drive failure.
- Actuator arm hitting a limiter. As the heads sweep back and forth across the platter’s surface, they hit the limiter designed to keep them from going too far in either direction. In case the drive cannot reach the data it needs to in order to calibrate, it will normally spin down after a few tries.
- Glitching PCB. Power surges can damage both the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) and the HSA (Head Stack Assembly), interfering with the proper functioning of the hard disk and causing it to emit clicking noise
- Service Area (SA) issues. Service Area is a portion in your HDD where manufacturer data is stored. In case it gets damaged, the actuator arm will swing back and forth in an attempt to find the information, which prevents your HDD from operating correctly.
- Electricity issues. Besides power surges and thunderstorms, this also includes insufficient power provided by a defective power supply unit (PSU), which as well can be a reason for a clicking hard drive.
- Physical damage to a hard drive. The fragile components of hard drives are also very susceptible to external factors such as a sharp shock, fire, water, or strong magnetic fields, all of which can lead to heat damage.
As you can see, there are plenty of prerequisites for this kind of problem — and, beyond faulty power connection, nearly every other problem is related to the inner workings of your hard drive, and is truly difficult to diagnose without proper knowledge and practice. Given this, considering DIY repairs only appropriate if your HDD doesn’t contain any vital data; otherwise, there is a good chance that you will end up rendering the information on it unrestorable, making it impossible to retrieve even for a professional data recovery lab.
Non-Working Recovery Methods
While the Internet is teeming with questionable tips and bad advice regarding data recovery from a malfunctioning hard drive, a vast majority of them will rather worsen the situation than help. Below, we’ve gathered a few most popular myths that are definitely not worth following.
Data recovery software. As previously mentioned, clicking sounds typically indicate a physical or mechanical problem with the drive — and, as common sense suggests, that is definitely not something software can cope with. What’s more, continuing to operate with the disk may damage the disk and only muddle data recovery.
Control Board Replacement. This might work for electrical failure, but is a much more in-depth process than just replacing the controller board. Also, hard disk clicks are very rarely caused by the circuit or controller board.
Frozen HDD. Another outdated method is to put the hard drive in a freezer to constrict mechanics and free up disk space. Needless to say, the corrosion of the plates and electrical components caused by the water vapor inside the drive, first frozen and then thawed out, has nothing to do with data recovery.
Opening the drive to attempt a recovery. Unparking the stuck heads or replacing degraded pieces requires a cleanroom facility, proper tools, and expertise to be involved. If these conditions are not met, dust will settle on the drive platters, damaging the information beyond recovery. Please, note: we do not recommend testing this method unless you have all the appropriate hardware and software to retrieve the information.
There are plenty of possible reasons why your hard drive is making weird sounds, but eliminating them is much more difficult than it seems — and, to our belief, your data isn’t worth the risk.
Thus, no matter what the root cause of the failure, or what brand and model you are using, at SalvageData we are glad to help you get your vital files back. To make the recovery process less stressful for you, we also offer a 100% free case examination. For more information, do not hesitate to contact our customer service, and let the professionals do the rest.