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Welcome to the Power Users community on Codidact!

Power Users is a Q&A site for questions about the usage of computer software and hardware. We are still a small site and would like to grow, so please consider joining our community. We are looking forward to your questions and answers; they are the building blocks of a repository of knowledge we are building together.

My hard drive is screeching, now what?

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My hard drive is making a screeching/scraping/scratching sound.

Is this bad? Will it explode? What I do? How do I figure out which hard drive is doing it, if I have multiple?

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SSD or classic hard drive? (2 comments)

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Hard drives make sounds, just as anything spun around at 5400 RPM or 7200 RPM (typical) would do. If the sound changes than that is often a sign of a problem.

There are some exceptions (especially Apple computers where things get rather proprietary), but generally speaking any hard drive problem these days is solved by replacing with an SSD - Solid State Drive. Prices have come down tremendously in the past few years, so replacement of all but the largest drives is generally relatively affordable. Many new computers use NVMe or similar SSDs - basically a tiny circuit board instead of the traditional 2.5" or 3.5" or 5.25" (e.g., PC/XT, AT, etc.) or (even older) 8" drives. Most computers built for many years use a SATA interface, and generally a 2.5" SATA SSD is a drop-in replacement, just requiring a mounting kit if replacing a 3.5" drive (desktop) and nothing special if replacing a 2.5" drive (laptop). If your computer is so old that it doesn't have a SATA interface then you are living on borrowed time for the entire computer, not just the hard drive.

Most manufacturers have free software for transferring from an HD to an SSD (provided you are using their brand of SSD), plus there are alternatives such as CloneZilla which are useful in certain situations.

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In case of a classic magnetic disc drive starts to make new strange sounds and you can tell it isn't coming from one of the many fans in the computer, turn it off immediately and remove the power plug.

Assuming a tower chassis PC, you can safely open up the chassis and listen - there will be a fan in the PSU, one on the motherboard/CPU, some on the graphics card and maybe some additional ones in the chassis itself. The HDD is traditionally mounted high up in the front.

The reason you should unplug it if noise is coming from the HDD, is because that way there may be a possibility to save data stored on the disc. But the longer you run it while faulty, the higher the chances of more data loss. There are companies specializing in hard drive recovery that can help with that.

We may note that hard drives of any kind aren't particularly reliable. The old ones have this mechanical head problem, the new SSD ones have problems with data retention (eventually losing data over time) and number of write cycles. So the best thing to do is to take regular backups of important files to an external USB drive and/or cloud storage.

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