How to identify a mechanical failure and grinding noise in hard drives?

As you know, hard drives are one of the most fundamental peripherals of a computing system. They are one of the devices that function the most from the time you buy a system. However, they are devices that are prone to their limitations such as malfunctioning and breakdowns as well. To understand why hard drives witness mechanical failures, let's step back and begin from the fundamentals.

A mechanical device is a device which involves a physical movement of its parts or components. Once the device is powered on, you can observe the movement inside a mechanical device.

Hard drives are also mechanical devices. You can sense a motion inside a hard drive when you power them up. Most standard 3.5" desktop hard drives out there today have a spindle speed of 7200 RPM. This results in a fixed average rotational latency time of 4.2 msec. These drives typically have an average seek times of around 8.5 msec, giving average access to data time of approximately 12.7 msec. For SCSI hard drives (Seagate Cheetah) that are 15,000 RPM, with even smaller platters. The rotational latency time is 2 msec, and average seeks time 3.8 msec and average access to data is 5.8 msec.

Hard Drive Rotating Parts
Hard Drive Rotating Parts

 

Mechanical devices are more prone to damages since there is a lot of physical movement of parts inside the machine. Similarly, physical movement of elements in hard drives can lead to mechanical failure.

In most of the cases, whenever there is any mechanical failure on your hard drive, you may hear some random noises coming out of the hard drive. Such sounds are an indication that the system does not detect the hard drive. If you are noticing any such noises coming out from your hard drive, realise that your hard drive is having some mechanical issues and it should immediately be switched off. You may have some difficulties trying to access data from your hard drive. To read your data from a mechanically failed hard drive, it should be sent to a professional data recovery service provider having a Class 100 clean room facility.

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Here are some random noises which we have recorded in our Class 100 Clean ROOM lab.

Clicking Head Noise - Why is your hard drive making a Clicking Head Noise?

The read/write head inside a hard drive hovers over hard disk platters. As soon as the hard drive is powered on, the heads start reading/writing data on rotating hard drive platters. In the event when damage is done to the platters, such as a head crash (the read/write head comes into contact with the platters, damaging them), the read/write head is unable to perform its tasks. This causes it to move back to its original position and locate the right spot on the platters again - all in a speedy process. Occasionally, the read/write head will reach the end of the platter and hit a stop, resulting in the audible click sound that we recognise.

Problematic component -
a. Hard Drive head
b. Platters

Head Stuck Noise - Why is your hard drive making a head stuck noise?

When the hard drive is in operation, performing read/write on the rotating hard drive platter and there is a power cut all of a sudden, The read/write head can stop anywhere on the platter. In this situation, neither the read/write head moves back to its original place, nor the hard drive spindles /platters rotate. Both the platters and the head don't make any movement and create a head stuck sound. In this condition, if you do not power off the drive, it may also cause damage to the PCB board and the Motor IC. Watch the sample hard drive head stuck/ hard drive motor stuck noise in the video.

Problematic component -
a. Hard Drive head
b. Platters
b. PCB or Motor IC

Note: If there is no movement on the hard drive due to Head stuck or Motor stuck, the hard drive will make same sound in both the situations. This can be Head Stuck noise, or Motor stuck noise respectively.

Torn head Noise - Why is your hard drive making a torn head noise?

During the read/write operation on rotating platters, if the head of the hard drive is broken, it will make a torn head sound. This will further put more scratches on the hard drive. Watch the sample hard drive torn head noise in the video.

Problematic component -
a. Hard Drive head
b. Platters

Scratch Noise - What is your hard drive making Scratch Noise?

If a hard drive has scratches on its platter during a read/write operation, the hard drive head starts to produce some noise when it gets contacted on the scratched areas of the platter. This type of hard drives produces scratched Noise. Continuous usage of these types of the hard drive may cause the head to crash. Watch the sample hard drive scratch noise in the video.

Problematic component -
a. Hard Drive head
b. Platters

Note: If there is no movement on the hard drive due to Head stuck or Motor stuck, the hard drive will make same sound in both the situations. This can be Head Stuck noise, or Motor stuck noise respectively.

 

These are the symptoms you can consider to know that your hard drive is going to malfunction soon. It may be an ideal time to back your data up and get your hard drive serviced by the pros.

If your computer/laptop or Hard Drive started making a grinding noise then, stop using your computer or laptop and backup your data. If you are unable to back up your data then contact our nearest data recovery center. We are offering free media pickup & drop facility with centralized billing for all services rendered at any of our 15 locations across India.

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