Clicking noise? Hard drive problem?

By PCEndUser · 19 replies
Nov 23, 2009
  1. My computer is making a ticking noise--like the one that is made when a key is stuck--and then freezes up. I wobbled each key to make sure it isn't in fact a stuck key. I tried to CtrlAtDel but that doesn't show or do anything. I am left no choice but to power down with the power button. When the computer reboots, the noise is gone and everything is back to normal. It has happened twice in the last hour. Any ideas? Did a Google search and hard drive dying came up. Not sure this is the sound those posts were describing though.
  2. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,224   +164

  3. PCEndUser

    PCEndUser TS Rookie Topic Starter

    thanks! I will try this as soon as I can access the internet on that machine (having trouble with that but think it is unrelated).

    The drive is almost 3 yrs old and I am using Windows XP Professional.

  4. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Clicking does often indicate a dying hard drive like you found. I'd check your Event Viewer and see if there are any hard drive issues around the time of problems. Doing a SMART check is advisable too.
  5. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,224   +164

    three years is an age that (especially older ide drives start to have a high failure rate) I would follow the above advice with speedfans HDD analysis, and what SNGX said.
  6. fw2004

    fw2004 TS Booster Posts: 152

    Your hard drive is about to fail!!

    Best advice I can give you:
    Copy all data you care about from the problem drive to another location (must be on a different physical drive, or CD/DVD, not another partition on the same HDD).

    This process may take a while, if the drive keeps freezing up on you, but if you persist, you might be able to get all the data copied.

    When you have completed this task, try to create an image (using Norton Ghost or another drive imaging program) of the drive. Again, make sure your image is on a separate physical disk.

    Finally, replace the hard drive.

    When you have the new drive in place, try to restore the image you created from the old drive. Note that you will need a partition on the new drive that is at least as big as the one you created the image of on the old drive.
    It can be larger though.

    If this works, you won't have to re-install your OS or program files.
    If the image was not successful, you will have to re-install the OS, and all of your program files.

    If you still have trouble after replacing the HDD, then your problem is the controller on the motherboard. But it is much more likely that the hard drive is about to fail.

    Do this now. Do not wait.
    I had a similar problem, and was just able to retrieve my important data files from the drive before it went completely south.

    Good luck

  7. PCEndUser

    PCEndUser TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks! I started copying my files. I have an external drive with plenty of space. Need to go buy Norton Ghost.

    The clicking sound hasn't returned but the system keeps freezing or crashing. Some programs won't even open. Would hate to replace the hard drive and it be something else. Anyway of knowing for sure it's the hard drive and not the motherboard or something else?
  8. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    just fyi...

    1) As far as commercial ghost/cloning backup products i use (and quite happy with) Acronis True Image

    2) If you want a basic freeware product to clone the drive ASAP try EASUS Disk Copy

    /* edit */
    Also, should you buy a product online and download the product be sure to create the product's Rescue CD as soon as you have the product installed (you'll need to boot from Rescue CD if the drive finally goes)
  9. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Yep, the event viewer is likely logging some good data about what is happening. As well as checking the SMART status. (like I suggested originally)
    SMART status isn't 100% indicative of a safe drive though, so its worth getting a diagnostic tool from Seagate, or WD, or somebody, they all check other brands drives too now.
  10. aqua

    aqua TS Rookie Posts: 57

    think before you do everything..above suggested.
    clean pc by the inside..that noise could be a faulty ide cable,replace it..
    clean fans..
  11. Rwolf01

    Rwolf01 TS Enthusiast Posts: 127

    First, find out where the ticking is coming from. Try unplugging or turning off the speakers, if that gets rid of the ticking, it is *NOT* your hard disk.

    It's true that hard disk will sometimes make strange noises before they die, and an appropriate reaction is to immediately preserve all data and/or image the disk, but once you've done that you can return to rational debugging.

    If you suspect the hard disk, right click on it, pick tools and run the windows error checking.
    If it finds errors the first time, it might still be okay, but if you rerun it and it keeps finding more errors, it's dying. Look up the disk's exact model number and google that. Also check the manufacturer if they have disagonstic tools that can give the disk a nice workout.

    Swapping system disks is an expensive pain in the butt. Do it if you have to, but make sure that you have to before you do it.
  12. HDDC

    HDDC TS Rookie

    It could be a fan or something making the clicking noise, so It would pay to verify the source of the noise.
    If you do find that it is the hard drive clicking, it does not necessarily mean that it is about to die. It could be a loose cable, may require new firmware etc.
    Please update us on what you find.
  13. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,473   +126

    If you can't remove the data off a ticking or tacking sound on the HDD you can place the HDD in a ziplock bag into the freezer for 3 hrs. There is a timetable here where once the HDD is still 90% cold you can copy your files over and the ticking or tacking sound will be gone. Once the drive starts to heat up again it might come back with the noise.
  14. HDDC

    HDDC TS Rookie

  15. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,523

    ok guide saved, it is good :grinthumb
  16. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,473   +126

    I wasn't kidding about freezing the HDD. If you have WD Passport you might want to take a look at my YTV on the subject: I keep mine in the freezer since the video was made. Prior taking an screw driver handle and hitting the the HDD always help free up the stuck heads. Freezing and thawing does the same thing. I was able to recover all my data and send it over 802.11n to my server backup.
  17. aqua

    aqua TS Rookie Posts: 57

    that's what i do when performing a deep cleaning..
    unplug all cables.ram,fans,etc...
    hard drive in the freezer...then continue with cleaning,
  18. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,523

    I have successfully used the freezer (for say half an hour) technique as well
    But if that doesn't work (and as long as you have absolutely confirmed faulty hard drive)
    I have actually picked up the drive and dropped it :D In a desperate act of, I'll try anything at this point
    Which has also worked before

    Extreme measures for extreme faults :cool:
  19. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,473   +126

    Min is 3 hours and follow the video. You dropped the HDD on the floor? In your case I would leave it in a ziplock bag along with a piece of paper towel like bounty. Fold that and place under the electronics for moisture prevention on 2.5/3.5 HDDs with bare components sticking out. WD Passports you don't have to do that. Anyway in your case leave that drive in the freezer for 24 hours then slowly wait for 10 to 15 minutes for it to un-thaw but not too much.
  20. sshedlock

    sshedlock TS Rookie

    drive clone pro is another excellent HDD cloning tool
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