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My Computer Makes a Clicking Sound and Won't Come On

by Jacob Andrew

Computers click because they have a few part within them that move. The click indicates that a small trickle of electricity is reaching these moving parts, but that some kind of flaw -- often physical -- is preventing it from fully booting. You can attempt to fix the error by checking the power cable, moving the computer to a separate power outlet and performing some basic troubleshooting on the hard drive and components.

Hard Drive Clicking

A tinny click typically means your hard drive has just begun to spin up and a part inside has reset. With the exception of solid-state hard drives, which have no moving parts, hard drives move an actuator arm to access data on spinning magnetic plate. When this arm resets, it is often the loudest noise within the PC. Such a noise is perfectly normal behavior and likely does not indicate a problem with the hard drive, unless the drive is clicking repeatedly.

Fan Clicking

Three or more fans typically cool modern PCs. They are the second-loudest moving part within the computer. Though usually quiet, a failing fan can produce a rhythmic clicking noise as its bearing begin to fail. A consistent failure of the fan indicates that some power is getting to the PC, but that another problem is preventing a boot. If, however, the fan clicks only briefly, it indicates a larger, system-wide problem with the power getting through the motherboard.

Popping versus Clicking

When a computer fails to fully power on, it signals there is a problem with the hardware. These problems can range from the relatively benign, such as a loose cable, to the much more serious, such as an electrical short on the motherboard. A popping sound, on the other hand, indicates an electrical discharge.

Identifying the Problem

Locating the problem is relatively simple. First, ensure the power supply to which your computer is connected is functioning, by either moving it to a different outlet or by replacing the power cable. Ensure any power strips to which the computer is connect are switched to "on." If these steps do not fix the problem, disconnect everything from the computer except the necessary peripherals -- monitor, mouse and keyboard -- and attempt to power it up again. If these steps don't help the computer to power on, open the computer case and remove unnecessary add-on cards and memory. This level of troubleshooting should only be attempted with the computer completely disconnected from the power, and only if you're comfortable with adding and removing components within a PC.

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