Why is my Hard Drive Making a Beeping/Clicking Noise?

If your computer won’t boot up and you can hear a beeping or clicking noise, this could indicate a physical fault with your machine’s hard drive.

Inside a mechanical hard disk drive, a spindle motor spins the magnetic platters at speeds of around 15,000 RPM. Hovering a few nanometres above the platters are the drives read/write heads, situated on the tip of the actuator arm. These delicate read/write heads can occasionally get stuck, clamping down on the magnetic platters. When a hard drive makes a beeping noise, it is typically the sound of the spindle motor attempting to spin the drive’s platters, prevented from doing so due to the read/write heads clamping down. This is known as a head crash. Sometimes, a hard drive’s heads might not fully prevent the platters from spinning; in this instance, the noise might resemble clicking rather than beeping.

A beeping or clicking hard drive should not be used if you wish to access the data stored on it again. Data on a hard disk drive is stored magnetically on the platters as a series of 0s and 1s, and physical damage to the platters can render data permanently unrecoverable. In the event of a head crash, you should always seek the help of a professional data recovery specialist. While there are countless DIY data recovery guides out there, you shouldn’t attempt to fix a physical hard drive fault like a head crash at home and without the correct facilities and equipment. Our data recovery technicians undertake all hard drive recovery work in a Class 100 clean room, ensuring that there are never more than 100 particles of dust in one cubic foot. Because a hard drive’s read/write heads are situated so close to the platters, even one small particle of dust can make matters worse. Hard drives are assembled in conditions incredibly similar to the clean room environment our data recovery technicians work in.

In short, if your hard drive is making a beeping or clicking noise, it is most likely due to a head crash, which may have been caused by a knock or bump, but could also just come suddenly; hard drives have a limited lifespan. In this instance, don't attempt data recovery at home - leave it to a data recovery specialist.

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Further reading

Considerations following a ransomware attack

The hard drive click of death

Navigating Linux recovery mode