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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | Physical Problems ]

I hear a clicking or clunking sound coming from the hard disk occasionally

Explanation: Every once in a while the drive makes a "click-click-click" or a clunking noise, either while it is operating or sitting idle.

Diagnosis: This is usually a message, and the message is: "look out!" Generally speaking, hard disks should not make these sorts of noises. Do not confuse a loud clicking or thunking sound with the quiet "tapping" access sound made by some drives performing thermal recalibration. Also, some newer drives (such as those made by Western Digital) use a feature called "wear leveling", that causes the disk to move from track to track every 15 seconds or so to prevent the heads from sitting over one area of the disk for an excessive period of time (which could increase the possibility of a wearout failure). Time the interval between clicks; if it is 15 seconds exactly and the drive is otherwise fine, this is likely what is going on, and you probably do not have to do anything.

Recommendation:

  • Treat the disk as if it may fail at any time. This means the contents should be backed up, and no new data should be added to the drive unless it is also stored elsewhere. Keep a careful eye on the drive.
  • Contact the manufacturer's technical support department. You may be told not to worry about this symptom. I suppose its possible that some hard disks are supposed to make these sorts of noises, but I won't use any that do. (Note that some drives do make an audible "clunk" but only when the PC is booting up). If the drive is new or under warranty, you may be able to get a replacement.

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