Hard disc drive damage - clicking / clacking or ticking noise

A clicking or clacking noise of hard disc drives can be a familar sound, which one or another may know when switching on a PC, Notebook or an external drive while it is spinning up and initialising itself. This is nothing unusual, but it will be critical in such sort of cases where clicking / ticking or clacking or even rattling noises do appear while you are working with your hdd or which appear frequently and longer lasting after you switched on your PC / Notebook.

But in cases there a hard disc drive is making a scratchy noise, immidiatly switch off your external drive, notebook, Server / RAID / NAS or PC. Do everything that the damaged HDD is powered down as quickly as possible.

A clicking / ticking or clacking noise of an hard drive which is not accessible shows a symptom of several potential causes, which can be responsible for the fact that the hdd is not working anymore:

1. Damaged Headkit caused by electrostatical discharges

In this case the read unit doesn´t receive any data by its response channel and is searching the areas of the magnetic platters from the inside to the outside and back. As a result the read-write unit is hitting the inner housing of the spindle motor of the disc drive frequently and this is what generates the ticking, clicking or clacking noise.

2. Read / Write Unit of hard disc drive shows physical damage

The effect of this is similar to point 1). The drive does not boot and makes a clicking / clacking noise. A physical damage to the read / write unit of an HDD is usually based on a shock which hits the drive, like fallen from table, etc. At this point the read / write unit is hitting the magnetic surface of the rotating platters. This causes two damages, one to the unit itself and one to the platters. In cases there hard disc drives are operating for many years, this scenario can appear by wearing of the mechanical parts inside of the hdd.

3. Reading channel at PCB / HDD PCB defect or damaged

Some other reasons for clicking / clacking noises of hard disc drives can be found at the PCB (Printed Circuit Board). HDDs do have contain a singal amplifier which can get a failure. Once this failure appears, the hard disc will not be accessible and just makes a clicking / clacking noise.

4. VCM Driver damage hits hard disc drive

Damages to the internal VCM Driver have an direct results to an uncontrolled reaction of reading- and writing unit inside of the hard drive.

Other symptoms wich can be responsible for clicking or clacking noises of hard disc drives:

  • Head Crash of hard drive
  • Damaged Sectors
  • Damages or defect parts of hard drive mechanics
  • Virtuel Memory Paging



Hard disc drive do work contact free, similar like some of our readers may do know it from their CD- or DVD players, with the difference that the data is not read in an optical way, it is beeing read and written in an ferro-magnetical way. For reading / writing the data a Read- /write unit or "Head" is reasponsible. Once you power a hard disc drive the spindle motor inside of the drive takes care that the magnetic platters start turning, once a certain number of rounds per second (rpm) is reached, the Head is able to float onto a air bearing some nanometers above the rotating platters. Insisting that the hdd is beeing shocked: At this boint the float position of the head is getting interupted causing him to touch the platters of the rotating disc (5.400 upto 7.200 rpm). Internally this causes very small particles which are beeing set free by the contact of the headkit with the platters. And thease particles can be also get inbetween the moving platters and the headkit causing more particles to be born, with a direct influence to the recovery chance of the hdd.


Damaged Sectors

Damaged sectors are quiet common when it comes to the magnetic platters of an hard disc drive. A clicking noise can appear if the head is trying to access the damaged sector(s) and the process to read from it fails, but trys again, and again, etc.  Also a failure in calibration of the head itself can cause a clicking noise, once certain parameters from the service area of the disc can not be accessed anymore. At this point the hdd is resetting itself permanently.  In case of damaged sectors you can try to scan the drive for them. A few damaged sectors can appear, but thousands of them will usually multiply themselves in a short amount of time.

In cases where you deal with just a few damaged sectors, you can try to mark them with use of Checkdisk (Chkdsk). By this the position of the damaged sector is getting marked and listed in an non accessible area of the hard drive. Usually damaged sectors can not be repaired, only can get marked and isolated. From a physical point of view thease damaged sectors are still there, but as the hdd knows about the posistion of the damaged sector it will not try to use it again. Neither for reading, nor for future writing.


Mechanical damage at hard disc drive

Sometimes a damaged motor can be the cause for a clicking or clacking noise. Further a contaminated Headkit or loose components are an indication of mechanical wearing due its lifetime. When your hard disc drive is spinning up, making some clicking noises followed by spinning down to a stop of an rotation, it is a typical behaviour for damages of thease kind of category.


Virtual Memory Mapping of hard disc drives

In cases where the physical memory of hard disk drives is exceeding the hard disc drive has to take care of several duties. First of all it should read and write some data while it also has to save temporary files to itself while it is nearly full of data and almost no space left. At this point the hdd will create lots of trys in accessing data areas, which can sound similar to a clicking or clacking noise.


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