Hard Drive Sound

Posted on 2006-05-29
Last Modified: 2010-04-25

My sister has a 5 year old computer, that when starts up the Hard Drive sounds likewhen  a rusty old door is opened. I have heard this sound before, and as far I know is not big deal.
I believe s  the magnetic needle in the HD trying to find the files. I'm pretty sure everybody has heard this sound before. Questions, Is that mean that the performance of the computer is bad?, What is the real cause of that?, maybe the computer is old?.  A HD  defragmentation will help ?
Question by:yeru777
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    Defraging may help a little in that the head won't have to move as much to read the data.  But in general, the drive is old.  most hard drives 5 years ago only had 3 year warranties.  Hard drives contain moving parts that will wear out over time.  It may be just fine and it may work for years to come, but if it's making noises that you are not familiar/comfortable with, replace the drive.
    LVL 3

    Expert Comment


    Good advice was given by the person ahead of me.

    I would visit the manufactuer's page and download drive diagnostics.  Use them to test the drive.  Read, Seak, Random, et cetera.

    Now, tell Widnows to run a Chkdsk with Bad sector recover on teh drive and defrag as mentioned above.  If any bad sectors are found, replace the drive.

    A good utility is Spin Rite by Gibson Research.  It will tell you almost immediatly if the drive is dying.  Next, I recomend monitoring the drive's SMART monitoring.  Essentially, it reads the drives vital signs such as temperature, error rate, and other factors.  There are lots of factors.

    Here is the program:

    It is called HDD Health and it is free.  It is also free of any spyware, viri, and malware meaning it is safe to use.

    P.S.  if this drive really is making the noise and not somethign else like a fan, and this is a new noise, I would consider that a bad sign and back it up.

    You can back it up with something like Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image.  Both are incredibly easy to use.  If you are a bit advanced on the Linux/Unix side of thigns, you can download and use PartImage.  Essentially, you should backup the entire partition or partitions containing your Operating System and Data.  With this backup, you will be able to buy a new drive and restore everything 100% back to normal.  Well except it only restores things to how they were when you made the backup/Image.  If you do the above, you will have nothing to worry about.

    When the hard drive does fail.  They all do eventually it could be today or 5 years from now, but when they fail, they typically cause wierd messages durring startup such as missing hal.dll missing hll.dll, missing ntldr, Missing or Corrupt: %SystemRoot%\System32\Config\SAM, Security, SOFTWARE, or HARDWARE or soemthing to that extent.

    Other things that happen if the drive fails is a widnows isntall may hang, or a format may hang when formatting the drive.  Windows Setup may fail to see the drive and tell you you have no hard disks.  Another possiblility is the BIOS/Computer may fail to detect the drive or detect it as an "Unknown Device"  This typically causes the Power On Self test to hang up for quite a while lik ea minute or more and then finally say something like No Operating System or no boot device or something to that extent.

    My point is that when it finally does go, you will know it.

    LVL 91

    Expert Comment

    to be sure about the drive status, test it with the manufacurters utility :
    LVL 23

    Expert Comment

    Chances are your five year old computer has an underpowered PSU. It is not uncommon to find a 180 watt PSU in a pc of that vintage. Before writing off the HDD, I would put an adequately powered PSU in there, say 350 - 450 watts. It is one of the cheapest components and relatively easy to replace.
    LVL 31

    Expert Comment

    The sound you hear is the read/write head arm and its actuator working; as you assume, it is to find the data requested by whatever process is active. The sound is in itself of no consequence and can be disregarded, but if you feel that the sound goes on for much longer than usual, or keeps reoccurring more often than expected, you should definitely try a defrag.

    If a defragmentation doesn't make any difference and the sound is occurring very often, it may be that the drive is becoming bad and has difficulties in finding the sectors/tracks called for.

    A defragmented drive can cause bad performance, because the files that are needed may be spread out on the drive in non-contiguous places, causing a lot of head movement (time consuming and causing sounds...) to find and read the files completely. De-fragmenting a drive will cause files to be stored contiguously, making for easier retrieval of data.
    LVL 3

    Expert Comment


    You should download hte manufacturers utility and run the extended test.  If it comes back okay, you should be fine.  Another idea would be to run something similar to Dell Diagnostics, and setup a utiility to monitor the Hard drive via SMART.  Essentially it owuld monitor its lifesigns.  I already mentioned HDD Health, which is essentially the same as Active SMART only free.

    I would recomend you start monitoring it over time and as time passes, you should get a better picture how the helth is.

    Another option is to check your bios setup utility. You may have options like acoustic management, recomended, bypass, and performance.  These let you set the performance to noise ration.  Defragging as mentioned by rid above isn't a bad idea at all.

    Overall, I would first backup all of my data.

    Second, I would test the drive to see if it is bad at the moment or if it is working okay right now.

    Finally, I would setup HDD Health to continuously monitor the drive.

    LVL 23

    Accepted Solution

    It would have been nice to know whether or not power was the issue!

    Featured Post

    What Should I Do With This Threat Intelligence?

    Are you wondering if you actually need threat intelligence? The answer is yes. We explain the basics for creating useful threat intelligence.

    Join & Write a Comment

    Suggested Solutions

    Title # Comments Views Activity
    Recovering a data from an hard disk which was dropped. 9 89
    PC Build 11 86
    Can This PC Run OverWatch 7 57
    HP Z440 RAID 1 25
    Like many organizations, your foray into cloud computing may have started with an ancillary or security service, like email spam and virus protection. For some, the first or second step into the cloud was moving email off-premise. For others, a clou…
    No matter the version of Windows you are using, you may have some problems with Windows Search running too slow or possibly not running at all. Before jumping into how you can solve this issue, just know there are many other viable alternative deskt…
    Access reports are powerful and flexible. Learn how to create a query and then a grouped report using the wizard. Modify the report design after the wizard is done to make it look better. There will be another video to explain how to put the final p…
    This demo shows you how to set up the containerized NetScaler CPX with NetScaler Management and Analytics System in a non-routable Mesos/Marathon environment for use with Micro-Services applications.

    745 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

    Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

    Join & Ask a Question

    Need Help in Real-Time?

    Connect with top rated Experts

    15 Experts available now in Live!

    Get 1:1 Help Now