Why your hard drive’s clicking

Clicking hard drives cause so much panic that they spawned the term ‘click of death’. Whilst a clicking hard drive is never good news, though, it isn’t necessarily a reason to panic.

There are multiple reasons why a hard drive can click and although this invariably means there’s a problem, it isn’t necessarily always the extremely problematic mechanical kind people usually expect (though we’d still recommend powering down immediately, just in case).

It’s entirely possible that the clicking sound is being caused by a firmware issue rather than mechanical failure, for example. In such instances, it will not be necessary to replace any parts of the drive and the process of recovering data from the drive in question will, whilst not straightforward, not be terribly difficult. Sadly, however, the prospect of a head crash is also one that cannot be discounted and, whilst this doesn’t mean that your data is lost forever, it does mean that time is of the essence.

We’ve already stated that it’s imperative that a hard drive is powered down as soon as possible if it begins to click and the possibility of a head crash is the reason why. In such circumstances, the clicking sound you hear is the actuator assembly arm being aggressively and continuously returned to its starting position as a result of it being unable to locate the files needed at that time. Every time this happens, the read/write head is, potentially, coming into contact with the drive’s platter – something which can very quickly render the drive’s data completely irretrievable. As a result, the sooner the drive is powered down, the less likely it’ll be that any of the files stored on it will be irreparably damaged.

It’s also worth noting that, after you’ve powered down, you’re going to need a data recovery company to check your drive in order to determine whether or not the data held on it can be recovered. When choosing a company (we’d obviously recommend Fields Data Recovery and you can find out how to book a free diagnostic here), you should ensure that they have a clean room on site. Your drive will need to be opened for a diagnostic to be completed and, if this is done in anything other than a sterile environment, then it’s a certainty that the drive will be exposed to adulterants that are likely to make any existing damage even worse.