Clicking Hard Drive Data Recovery

Clicking is one of the most recognizable signs of hard drive failure. When your hard drive functions normally, it makes a few sounds here and there, and might make a click when powering up. The gentle whirring of its platters, with the occasional mechanical gurgle, is your hard drive’s way of letting you know it works.
But when your hard drive decides to do its best imitation of a clock, with its rhythmic tick-tock, you could have a serious data loss situation on your hands. When you need data recovered from a clicking hard drive, the computer data recovery professionals at Gillware Data Recovery have your back. We can recover your data for you in our secure, world-class data recovery lab and get your critical files safely back in your hands.

Only data recovery professionals can help you with a clicking hard drive

If you don’t have all of the data on your clicking hard drive backed up, it can feel like a nightmare. But there’s no need to panic. Gillware exists to make recovering data from broken hard drives as painless as possible. Simply send your hard drive to our lab (for free) to get an in-lab evaluation (for free) and a firm price quote (with no upfront costs)! We’ll do all the hard work for you.

Why Is Your Hard Drive Clicking?

Every file you create on the drive lives on a stack of hard disk platters. These disks are only vaguely similar to the CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray disks you’re accustomed to seeing. Instead of the data being encoded by pits and gaps which stand for 1s and 0s, the magnetic field on small portions of the disks defines what is a 1 and what is a 0. Manufacturers can cram over a terabyte of data into a single platter. Like how an optical drive uses lasers to read the data off of a CD, your hard disk drive has a set of read/write heads that use electrical signals to detect and alter the magnetic fields on these platters.

Hard drives will have as many read/write heads as there are platter surfaces with data on them. For example, if you have a hard drive with three platters and it uses both sides of two of them and one side of the third, the drive will have five read/write heads. The heads, like the platters, are stacked together. When you turn your hard drive on, the head stack swings over the platters, finds the drive’s firmware zone, and begins reading and writing sectors, sweeping back and forth across the radii of the platters.

When the mechanisms in your hard disk drive lose the ability to read or write data, they swing blindly back and forth over your hard drive’s disks. This is called the ‘click of death’ because there is no way to fix it outside of a professional cleanroom lab.

When read/write heads fail, but can still move freely, the hard drive will position them over the platters when you power on the drive. Because the heads have gone blind, they can’t read the firmware sectors. But the drive will keep searching for them, regardless of the heads’ condition. The heads will sweep from the edge of the platters to the center and back again without finding anything, parking back on their guiding ramp with an audible click before trying again. This produces the repetitive “click of death”.

If you have questions about the data recovery process or about your clicking hard drive

Data Recovery Engineer

How Read/Write Heads Fail

Read/write heads work harder than any other part of the hard drive. While read/write speeds vary depending on many factors, such as where the data lives on the platters and the size of the files in question, a hard drive can read or write up to 1.5 gigabits of data per second over a SATA I connection. That’s over one billion bits in a single second.

Even looking at read/write speeds well under 1.5 Gbps, your drive’s heads are still reading millions of sectors in the time it takes to blink. That is a lot of work! And so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that read/write heads often wear out and break down sooner than other components of the drive.

Read/writes can also fail when your hard drive suffers damage. For example, if you drop your external hard drive while it’s running, the heads could crash into the platters. This can damage the platter surfaces, causing scratches or scoring. And the heads don’t fare too well either in this scenario. Sometimes they will even stick to the platters and prevent them from spinning—in which case you may hear a noise much less pleasant than the “click of death”.

What are symptoms of hard drive failure?



Spinning up and then back down

Not spinning at all

Whining or grinding noise

When you have a clicking hard drive, the read/write heads may cause damage to the platters. This does not always happen, but it is something to be careful about. You shouldn’t try to run a clicking hard drive in the hopes it might get better, or try and use data recovery software to salvage your data. If the heads can’t read data from the platters, no amount of software will help you. And if you keep your hard drive powered on, you could cause the drive’s condition to further degrade, damaging the platters as well.

Clicking Hard Drive Recovery

When your hard drive starts making the “click of death”, it’s time to bring it to professional hard drive data recovery experts. Due to the wide variety of internal and external hard drives available, the “click of death” can take different forms. In some instances, it’s a clearly audible “clock-like” ticking noise; in other situations it can be a faint clicking noise. These hard drive almost always need to have their read/write heads removed and replaced. But replacing hard drive components is a tall order.

The internal components of your hard drive are very sensitive and have razor-thin margins of error. In particular, one thing they hate more than anything else is dust. Your hard drive has internal filters to keep dust out—but those filters are of no use once you’ve popped the faceplate off your drive. Hard drives have to be opened up in dust-free cleanroom environments. If tiny particles of dust and debris get on the platters, hard drive repair becomes a much more difficult task—and without the right tools, an impossible task.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, hard drives are very picky. Every hard drive comes out of the factory just a little bit different from its neighbors, and won’t take kindly to having another drive’s parts shoved into it. Even a stack of read/write heads from a hard drive with the same model number as yours might not fix your clicking hard drive. Finding a compatible set of working read/write heads can be an exercise in frustration, and it can take several replacement attempts before you find a working set.

Your hard drive will never truly function optimally with another drive’s parts inside it. Even if you manage to safely replace a set of failed heads with a compatible set, your clicking hard drive likely won’t detect when you plug it in. Your drive’s performance falls too far beneath the threshold set by your computer. In order to salvage data from it, data recovery engineers need a fault-tolerant recovery platform.

Clicking hard drive recovery
Using a donor hard drive to repair a clicking hard drive

Why Choose Gillware for Clicking Hard Drive Recovery?

As you can see, a lot of work can go into repairing a clicking hard drive. It takes a specialized recovery environment and specialized tools, as well as a unique set of skills. If you are in need of these tools and skills, look no farther.

We here at Gillware Data Recovery have engineers with years and thousands of hours of data recovery experience, with tens of thousands of successful cases under their collective belts. Our data recovery lab boasts ISO-5 Class 100 cleanroom workstations, so your clicking hard drive will never be contaminated when our engineers open it up.

With an extensive library of donor hard drives, our engineers can quickly and easily find compatible donor parts for your failed hard drive. And with our fault-tolerant hard drive imaging platform HOMBRE, we can salvage data from hard drives, even if they still perform poorly after a round of repairs.

If your clicking hard drive has suffered damage to its platters, other data recovery labs often won’t have the means to recover your data. They’ll just pronounce your data unrecoverable (and might slap you with an unsuccessful recovery fee or an evaluation fee as well). But with Gillware’s platter burnishing tools, we can recover data even when other labs cannot. It’s not uncommon for our engineers to see clicking hard drives that had been brought to competing data recovery labs first before the owners came to us.

Gillware Data Recovery’s services are not only world-class, but also affordable. Our data recovery evaluations come with no up-front fees—we can even cover the cost of inbound shipping—and we only charge you for our efforts after we’ve recovered your critical data. Our prices tend to be, on average, about half of what other data recovery labs in the United States charge.

Gillware’s data recovery facilities are SOC 2 Type II audited for security, so you can rest easy knowing that when you send your clicking hard drive to us, your data will be in good hands.