Failing hard drive sounds

Not all hard drives fail the same way. DataCent, a data recovery service based in Canada, has an impressive archive of failing hard drive sounds. If you’re ever in doubt about whether your hard drive needs help, this is your guide. From bad heads to stuck spindles, bad hard drives click, grind, hum, and scratch. It’s almost musical in its regularity. Who will be the first person to string of these samples together into a ringtone or techno song.

[photo: Boja]

[via MetaFilter]

25 thoughts on “Failing hard drive sounds

  1. I’ve saved my data once by hearing sound. But it didn’t save an external drive with wrong polarity power supply xD.
    Anyone got something to say about SMART status? Does it really work? And why did nobody made this available to external disks?

  2. @darkfader:
    SMART is pretty useless.
    it’s okay to check it once in a while, but don’t expect it to warn you.
    every HD i’ve seen fail so far was fine according to SMART.
    it has a few useful features like average/max temps, number of relocated sectors and power on hours count to name a few, but the prediction thing is crap.

    so if the drive makes noises though SMART is still fine it’s definitely time to backup your data.

  3. I still have a failed maxtor with a stuck spindle that makes that wonderful musical jingle, man did it freak me out the first time I heard it. From my own personal experience, there should be way more quantum and maxtor noises. Remember what the old quantum bigfoots sounded like when they bit the dust? =)

    cool site, but it gets way more marketing related if you click the descriptions, did you guys really have to post up a non-diy commercially centered data recovery site?

  4. My Seagate external drive stopped working yesterday and is making one of the sounds heard on the site. I cannot afford recovery costs. It is a 750GB SATA disk. USB is not even seeing the drive. I do not have any other SATA drives therefore I was thinking of getting a SATA PCI card and putting the drive in one of my desktops to run SpinRite on. Is this the cost effective way or am I kidding myself and I should jus bite the bullet and send it off?

  5. @syale
    Spinrite is more than likely to kill the drive as it breaks the first rule of data recovery: never write back to a failing disc.

    Save your money. You’ll be much safer off using ddrescue to image it to a new drive.

  6. @mike
    Thanks for the tip about spinrite! The direction I am going to install the disk in my desktop is still a valid one though I think. The disk is making a small bleep sound followed by a dropping click sound about every 3 seconds. The cost of SATA card and cables I can handle. I am just wary of the fact that I may be doing more damage by spinning it up. When you get a quote for data recovery, is that just the cost for recovery and I have to provide new media for the data to be recovered to? If anyone has any pointers for DIY recovery I would appreciate that…


  8. wow, i can’t wait for that techno track! they could call it “requiem for a hard drive”.

    anyway I’m going to bookmark this one just in case my 900gb hard drive fails for no apparent reason.

  9. @syale

    In my experience, these data recovery centers have you send your drive in for them to inspect first to see if they can recover the data. The charge is generally around $100. If they say that they can recover it, but want you to pay the full amount of $(large sum), just tell them you can’t afford it and ask them to send it back.

    Chances are they already fixed the drive, but deleted the file table. You can then use a utility like testdisk to restore the deleted file table and access all your files again. I’ve recovered the data from two dead drives this way.

    1. This is ridiculous. I understand this dates from 2008 but you make it sound like we’re all crooks and thieves. There is much more to data recovery than “fixing the file table”. I work for a DR company ( ) and we go by a “no data – no charge” motto, free quote and all. There’s a difference between a hdd repair shop and a data recovery shop. We don’t fix drives, we extract data.

  10. I have noted that some external hard drives struggle when their power supply units have a problem (voltages fade?). Typically they take longer to fire up and make unusual noises. It’s worth trying a replacement – but check voltage and polarity, this has ‘saved’ my aging Freecom from what seemed to be disk failure. .

  11. I once got a high pitch squeal and had to rma to the drive back hp… thier support has gotten better.. I used to lie to them when they made me “test” the hard ware to prove there really was a problem… recently I delt with them and they actually impressed me… hmmmm.. whats going on here? Radiohead “Big Ideas: Don’t get any” -cheers- video anyone??

  12. True on aj’s remarks, often external 3.5″ HD’s get shipped with rather dodgy powersupplies that can ruin data while the actual device is OK.
    That’s why you should not go too far in trying to save cash on buying one, or on buying a case for an existing HD, there’s just a minimum amount of money needed for a working powersupply and a HD-case.

  13. @ vegiemaster. that’s not the way most data recovery centers work. the fees are typically around that range due to shipping costs and the hour or two it takes to connect a drive, see if it ids, and if not then open it up and check for surface rings. i can guarantee that *my* company at least will not dedicate anymore time to your drive unless we have signed paperwork and credit card information to proceed. there are too many drives on the queue to complete every recovery with out a customer’s go-ahead. also, they typically don’t “fix” a drive but instead put it on a crutch for the time-being. so, if you were able to do what you described then the problem was most-likely something that could have been solved before sending it out in the first place.

  14. I am having some trouble with my current hard disk. Unfortunately I cannot afford recovery costs. It is a 750GB SATA disk. USB is not even seeing the drive. I do not have any other SATA drives therefore I was thinking of getting a SATA PCI card and putting the drive in one of my desktops to run SpinRite on. Is this the cost effective way or am I kidding myself and I should jus bite the bullet and send it off?
    récupération de données

  15. Hi,

    I have an Italian friend who produces bands that are into industrial music and will see whether he is interested in combining these sounds to make a track. I must admit that this article has started to make me feel a bit paranoid. It’s not he PC I’m worried about that will need relpacing in due course, it’s all the software that I will have to buy again.

    Cheers – Mike.

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