Clicking Noise During Startup of a Computer
By Matt Koble
A clicking noise coming from one of your company's computers is never a good sign. Computers are usually designed to be relatively quiet while running, so a clicking noise likely means something is amiss within the computer. Hard drive failure is a common cause of clicking noises, though the problem could also lie in your computer's audio or another component within the system. If the computer contains important work files or information pertinent to your business, back up any data while you still can.
Clicking noises from your computer are often caused by hard drive malfunction. If you notice the clicking only while the computer is starting, it may be a sign of a soon-to-fail hard drive. The drive may eventually begin clicking during normal computer operations, whenever the disk is accessed. Listening to the sounds failing hard drives typically produce makes it easier to diagnose or rule out this possibility (see Resources). If the hard drive is the issue, it's likely something that cannot be repaired. The best option is replacing the hard drive with a new one. Check the computer's manual if you're unfamiliar with the process. While the specifics may differ, a general hard drive installation guide can help when the computer's manual isn't available.
One less serious possibility is a problem with your computer's speakers. Turn the sound off or disconnect the speakers, then start your computer. If the problem persists, the speakers obviously aren't the issue. If they are, replace the speakers with a new set. If you're using a laptop or monitor with built-in speakers, consider using external speakers instead. If the audio is the issue but your speakers work fine, you may have a faulty sound card or an improper sound card driver. Use the Windows Device Manager or visit your sound card manufacturer's website to find the latest drivers compatible with your card.
If the clicking noise isn't from your hard drive or audio, there are a number of other internal components that could be causing the issue. Your power supply unit may be faulty or its fan may be catching on something while it spins. Similarly, one of the computer's cooling fans may be catching on a screw or wire. If the sound occurs while the computer is on as well as when it's booting, one of these issues may be present. Unfortunately, the problem is difficult for professionals to properly diagnose without having access to the computer.
If the computer turns on and Windows runs properly, back up your important data. Doing this as soon as possible could prevent data loss if the computer stops functioning. This is especially important if you're having a hard drive issue. If your hard drive is in the early stages of failure, get the data quickly while you still can. There are many tools to backup or transfer your data, including external hard drives, servers, cloud storage or USB flash storage.
If the computer is a desktop, open the tower and inspect for anything that may be making the noise. So long as you don't touch the interior, start the desktop with the side panel off to see if you can get a better idea of what's causing the clicking sound. Do not leave the computer on, touch the internal components or operate it normally without the side panel; inspect the computer's startup issue, then turn off the machine to avoid further damage. Laptops are trickier to troubleshoot since you usually can't get easy access to the internal components. If you're unfamiliar with computer hardware, consider consulting a professional before risking further damage by tampering with it.
Matt Koble has been writing professionally since 2008. He has been published on websites such as DoItYourself. Koble mostly writes about technology, electronics and computer topics.