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What are typical and non-typical noises from hard drives?
Klick, klick, klick! Klack, klack, klack! - Mechanically broken hard disks usually indicate via unusual noises that they are no longer working properly.
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What do hard disk noises mean?

The noises that can be heard from an intact hard drive are the acoustically barely perceptible rotational movements of the data carrier disks and the click of the read/write head or the heads for initializing the drive. Other hard disk noises - such as excessive clicking; Grinding, scratching or beeping tones - on the other hand, indicate a defective hard disk.

Hamburg, Stellingen - 04. January 2019 - Sebastian Evers


 Note: Other visitors searched for data recovery from mechanically defective hard drives.

Maybe you also mean data recovery from broken hard drives?


Don't worry - intact hard drives also make noise

Hard drives are electronic and mechanical devices. Like any other machine, hard drives generate noise when they are switched on and put into operation. It is irrelevant whether it is an external hard drive or an internal hard drive. The desired sounds on a hard disk include the movement noises caused by the rotation of the platter stack and the clicking tones that sound when the read/write head moves for initialization or for accessing the data carrier disks.

Normal hard disk noise from intact drives

Hard disks generate different noises due to their structure and the moving parts. These sounds may vary depending on the drive manufacturer or model. Regular hard disk noises have the following origins:

  • Starting and running noises of the hard disk motor
  • Start-up and rotation noises of the spindle and platter
  • Read/write head initialization and calibration
  • Movement of the read/write heads as well as read/write processes

The defective hard drive makes noises

Unusual noises of hard disk drives can have various causes. The two classic scenarios are wear and material fatigue on the one hand, and external influences (e.g. falling, vibration, impact) on the other. A physically damaged hard disk can emit noises from clicks to knocking or scratching sounds with the smallest impairments. Repetitive beeps are not uncommon and can occur suddenly. In such a case, if there is very important data on the hard disk, professional data recovery is required.

Interestingly enough, there are a lot of imaginative synonyms for the rather "classic" sounds of damaged hard disks - depending on who you ask. Customers who are affected by data loss often speak of clacking, rustling, rattling, beating, cracking, scraping, crackling, knocking, tapping, snarling or rumbling.

The defective hard drive makes clicking noises

Clicking and clacking sounds are classics among defective hard drives. In most cases, a previous fall is a known trigger. The clicking sound is caused by the read/write heads that try to position themselves on the data carrier disks - however, this fails due to damage.

Dropping a drive usually results in a head crash, where the heads hit the magnetic surfaces. As a result, both the read/write heads and the ferromagnetic surfaces can have defects. The rhythmic clacking sound is also often called "click of death"; with which the "hard disk death" goes hand in hand. Defective read/write heads can, apart from a fall, simply be a result of wear. Another reason could also be a bug in the software control, but this does not have to cause direct damage to the heads.

Clicking read/write heads on a Seagate Barracuda hard drive

Clicking read/write heads on a Hitachi Travelstar hard drive

Clicking read/write heads on a Samsung SpinPoint

 Beating read/write heads on a Western Digital Sorpio Blue (laptop hard drive)

The damaged hard drive causes scratching noises

If the hard disk is no longer functional and there is a grinding or scratching sound, then the hard disk is defective. Experience has shown that there are two common sources for grinding noises that can cause such noises:

  • The read/write heads as well as the head carriers have crashed onto the ferromagnetic data surface and are grinding on them. Due to the fast rotation speeds - between 5,400 and 15,000 revolutions per minute - the magnetic layer is milled off the surface by the friction of the components. Such damage represents a fatal error with very little or no chance of data recovery.
  • Depending on the hard disk model, the parking position for the read/write heads is located directly on the platter stack or on a plastic ramp next to the platter stack. The read/write units can slide from the parking ramp between the data carrier disks and the ramp due to external influences (fall, impact, vibration) when switched off. If the hard disk is now powered on again, the heads scratch the edge of the magnetic disk and cause the characteristic scratching or grinding noise.

Furthermore, dislocations and misalignment of the disks within the platter stack or the read/write heads can lead to comparable noise. A rarer scenario has been a break within the warehouse, which caused a screeching sound when starting up, not unlike the grinding and scratching of the above scenarios.

The broken hard drive beeps

Experience has shown that if the hard drive emits (repeating) beeps after a fall, it is a mechanical fault on the drive. The read/write unit - strictly speaking the fine heads - adhere to the ferromagnetic disk surface and lock the platter stack (stiction). Accordingly, no regular operating noises (running noises) can be heard or vibrations can be felt. Initialization attempts should be avoided when beeps occur, since in the event that the magnetic disks "free", the read/write heads and the data carrier surfaces could suffer serious damage. With some drives, simply turning the disk around is enough, so that the inertia of the disk is sufficient to cause the heads to be torn off.

The hard drive is humming and buzzing

If hard disks make humming or buzzing sounds - without the hard disk starting up noticeably - damage or an error in the bearing can be assumed. In this situation, the hard disk motor does not manage to move the bearing or the spindle. This is noticeable through vibrations, which can usually be felt very clearly, as well as the previously mentioned hard disk noises. A loosening of the blockage by the hard disk motor itself is excluded, so that a professional temporary repair in the clean room laboratory is required to be able to save data.

Older hard disk drives from the manufacturer Maxtor cause a sound sequence in addition to the humming and buzzing that reminds of a ringing telephone; presumably to negate the jamming of the heads via the resulting vibration and to restore the functionality of the hard disk. The hard drive cannot differentiate whether it is a blockage due to a stiction or a defect in the bearing and responds accordingly - starting from adhering heads on the ferromagnetic data carrier surface.

Bearing damage with a Maxtor hard drive

The hard drive no longer makes any noise

If hard disks no longer make a sound and no movement or vibration can be felt, then electronic defects are very likely. An additional warming up of the board when power is connected is another indication of this. If the PCB smells additionally burned, then there is a high probability that there is a defective hard disk board.

With older hard drive models, it was enough in the past to simply replace the circuit board with an identical version. With the more current hard drives on the market, this is no longer possible, since each data carrier is given adaptive parameters and individual information in the firmware at the factory. This data only applies to exactly this drive. Accordingly, profound manipulations are required to restore the data from a hard drive with broken electronics.

Different sounds - depending on the type of hard drive

Even though there are a multitude of different tones, sounds and melodies for different hard disk problems, these are more or less uniform for all hard disk drives. There is no great difference between a server hard drive from a RAID or a hard drive from a notebook when it comes to the fact that the read/write heads are defective and this error is noticeable acoustically. Whether internal or external hard drive, laptop hard drive or NAS drive; Whether IDE, SATA, SCSI, SAS or USB interface, the defective hard disks sound more or less identical depending on their error. Of course, there are differences on the part of the manufacturer, since each manufacturer designs their hard drives a little differently.

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