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The Dreaded Hard Drive Click of Death

written by: •edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 10/8/2009

If your hard drive is making a clicking noise, it indicates a serious problem that could mean it is about to fail. Back up your data and get ready to buy a new hard drive, or hopefully get a warranty replacement.

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    Fixed Disk Not Present

    My wife’s uncle called me the other day because his hard drive was having problems. He said that sometimes he would turn on his PC and it would tell him that no fixed disk was present, and other times it would boot up but be extremely slow and give a bunch of errors and sometimes still not work right. I asked him if the hard drive made a clicking noise while all this was going on, and he said that it did.

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    Hard Drive Clicking

    Hard Drive When a hard drive is failing, the clicking noise that it makes is what I liked to call the click of death. It indicates mechanical failure inside the drive, and it means that your hard drive is on its way out. The sad thing is that when this happens, there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. Your only option is to attempt to back up as much as you can from the drive before it completely fails, then get a replacement hard drive.

    The clicking sound you hear is caused by one of the motors inside the hard drive. It works sort of like a record player in that you have a disc that spins around and an arm that moves back and forth reading data from the disc. If the motor that makes it spin or the motor that moves the arm starts to go out, you will experience all kinds of issues with your computer. The clicking sound comes from the moving parts not moving the way they should.

    In some ways, the click of death can be helpful in that it indicates a problem while you still might be able to salvage some data from your hard drive. Depending upon the severity of the hardware malfunction, you might actually be able to backup your entire drive. I’ve seen other hard drives fail without giving any kind of warning whatsoever, so if you can still get the drive to work while it clicks, then you’re having a good day.

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    WD-40 Won't Help

    Don’t even think about opening up the casing to your hard drive and attempting to fit it yourself. This is not a problem that can be solved with a shot of WD40. Hard drives are sealed up air tight because of the sensitive disc inside where the data is stored. If so much as a speck of dust gets on it, then it won’t work again. You’d have to send the drive off to a recovery lab where guys in suits go into hermetically sealed labs to open the drives, and it’ll cost you thousands of dollars for this service.

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    Anytime, Anywhere

    The click of death doesn’t just happen to old hardware. I’ve seen it happen on brand new computers as well as ones that have been in use for years. In regard to my wife’s uncle’s computer, his machine was a little over a year old, meaning it was just outside of the warranty. Now he has to buy a new hard drive and reconfigure his entire PC. Hopefully, he had all his crucial data backed up before this problem started.