My Hard Drive is Clicking – Now What?

Is your hard drive making a clicking noise (the “click of death”)? Based on what you may have heard, maybe you are thinking it’s game over for getting your data back? This is not necessarily true.

The first thing people (this includes computer companies and IT professionals) think of at this point is: “It needs to be opened in a clean room”. This isn’t necessarily true either.

Example of Repeating Clicking HardDrive Noises  (Audio)

Clicking Hard Drive Tutorial

Video: Explanation of Why a Hard Drive Clicks and How To Get Your Data Recovered Safely

Audio of the video above discussing the elements that can cause a hard drive to click:

We’ve addressed two fables about a hard drive clicking that can be settled right now. It’s NOT game over. The lid of your hard drive doesn’t necessarily have to be opened in order to recover your files.

Opening the lid of a hard drive safely would require a clean room, and you will only open a hard drive when in fact you know the heads are damaged, or to check the platters when there is no other explanation for lack of access to the service area. In other words, it’s always a last resort, not the first.

TIP: If the clicking is continual, or causes the drive to spin down, it is going to require temporary repair. In order to recover the data, the drive will have to be restored to working condition similar to before the failure. Recovering data from a drive in this condition will require advanced hard drive repair utilities, experience, and knowledge only professional data recovery companies like SERT possess.

What exactly is making that noise coming from your clicking external hard drive?

That clicking sound (not beeping) is the actuator arm assembly returning back to its parked position forcefully, because it doesn’t know where to go, and can’t initialize.

If this happens too many times, it will cause damage to the read/write heads rendering the drive useless, and data inaccessible without a head swap. The actuator arm assembly has the read/write heads attached to the end of it, and is the mechanism responsible for reading data from, and writing data to the platters.

Tip: Running a clicking drive for any time without knowing why, and being able to fix it, can cause a bad situation to become worse, and more expensive to fix.

clicking-hard-disk-actuator-arm

Repairing a clicking hard drive is going to require, first and foremost, an accurate hard drive diagnostic to determine what failure is causing the arm to click.

This is the most important step in getting your data off a clicking hard drive.

What causes hard disks to click, is there a fix?

Depending on what caused the clicking, your data may be in danger without following proper data recovery procedures.

  • Dropped hard drives are likely to click and should not be powered on after the fact
  • Damaged firmware can cause clicking
  • Damaged service area
  • Weak or failed heads
  • Heads out of alignment

These are the major causes of the dreaded clicking drive sounds we recover data from on a daily basis.

A few actual requests from our clicking hard drive quote request form:

  • My hard drive is clicking what does this mean? I need to get all my photos off, about 28 years worth of my kids pictures. 
  • I have clicking noise in hard drive how to fix? Can my data be recovered?
  • I googled how to fix a clicking external hard drive and don’t think I can do this myself, can you tell me how much?
  • My laptop hard drive is clicking and it won’t boot, none of my computers can recognize it’s plugged in. Please help
  • I need to restore a clicking drive. I had it in storage for about 2 years and haven’t known what to do. 
  • My WD hard disk is making a clicking sound but it still works. When getting any of the files off it takes forever. Can you repair this kind of problem I really need my files for school.
  • Hard disk clicks 7 times and starts over. Computer can’t see. It’s a Seagate external drive

What NOT to do, to recover data from a hard drive making these noises.

software-and-clicking-hard-drives

Freezer Trick: Do not listen to other inexperienced individuals or YouTube videos telling you to stick the drive in a freezer. Do not open the drive to inspect it either. These are the worst two things anyone can do. Without data recovery experience with drive in these conditions, you will likely fail to help your situation, and instead make it worse.

Running Software: Running software on a drive that is failing due to physical malfunction will only cause the drive to fail faster, and further beyond recovery. It is not recommended to keep running the drive using software. This usually causes inadvertent, and often unknown, damage to the platters. If there is a hardware problem inside the drive, it must be repaired before any software will recognize the drive, and have access to it.

Without the right diagnostics equipment, and at least intermediate experience, the majority of issues that will cause a drive to make these noises is going to require attention by a professional.

Open the Drive: The drive will need to have it’s heads replaced, or the firmware repaired, in order for the drive to initialize properly and allow access to your data. Do Not open the drive to look inside.

This is a temporary fix in order to recover your files from the drive. The drive will never be trust worthy again.

Clicking repair on drives with damaged platters
clicking-hard-drive-damaged-platters

Unfortunately in the situation where a drive is clicking because of damaged platters, recovery efforts will usually be unfruitful.

If a new read/write head stack is transplanted in a drive with damaged platters, the likelihood of the platters damaging the new heads (also) is very high. If the heads are damaged they will not work either, when put back in the donor drive. They will likely exhibit the same type of symptoms and failure as the patient drive.

Depending on the damage and where it is, the platters may be able to be cleaned, or “washed”. Data recovery this way, however is a very difficult and expensive process. If the platters are damaged from contact with the heads, then the percentage of success of this process will lower, and potentially could be unrecoverable already.

Laptops, external drives, and desktops are all vulnerable to this kind of hard drive failure. We’ve seen drives from all manufacturers: Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital, Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Hitachi all having symptoms described above.