Why the External Hard Drive Makes a Clicking Noise

by Kaia Liamson

Electronic equipment, like external hard drives, can make some pretty interesting noises when they're running. Humming and buzzing are common and typically benign sounds to hear from a hard drive. If your hard drive is making a clicking sound, however, you should determine whether the sound is normal or whether it's indicative of hard drive failure.

Good Clicking

If you can barely hear the clicking, and it's accompanied by a soft humming sound, the clicking is likely just the sound of your hard drive being used by your computer. You will probably hear this type of clicking when you are using files stored on your drive or when you are copying files to the drive.

Bad Clicking

If, however, your drive starts to make louder clicking sounds, especially clicking accompanied by grinding or buzzing, the hard drive might be damaged and failing. If this is the case, you should immediately back up any important files stored on the drive, since it probably won't continue to function for very long.

Causes of Drive Failure

Hard drives can fail as a result of physical abuse -- being dropped on the floor, for example. They can also fail from exposure to excess moisture or from overheating. Sometimes, though, drives are just poorly assembled. In addition, although hard drives typically last much longer than floppy disks or other forms of storage, they do eventually wear out from use.

Replacing Failed Drive

Many external hard drives come with a warranty, typically between 30 days and one year. However, some drives have warranties as long as five years. If your external drive fails, you should contact the manufacturer to see if it can be replaced through a warranty program. If not, you will need to purchase a replacement.

Data Recovery

If you didn't catch the failure in time to back up your files, you can consider sending your drive to a data recovery service. These services use special tools tools to attempt recovery of data from damaged drives, and they are capable of employing methods of recovery that most people can't do on their own. Recovery services are typically expensive, however; recovery can run more than $1,000.

About the Author

Based in St. Paul, Minn., Kaia Liamson has been writing professionally since 2010. She has worked in information technology support since 2002 and has gained valuable experience creating documentation, training materials and easy-to-follow instructions for users of varying levels of technical literacy. Liamson holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Macalester College.

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