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I have an oldish PC (Athlon XP 2200, WinXP). Every time I switch it on, I hear a loud "click" first of all, and when it is shut down, again a click is the last sound I hear.

Lately it started to behave erratically: it started to click loudly in the middle of a session. First only once in a while, then repeatedly for several seconds in a row, and finally it froze completely. We were not doing anything particular during these times, usually just browsing the web. This has already happened twice in a few week's time period. We typically use it only in the evenings, so when the freeze happened, I just decided it is time for the bed. When it was started up the next day, everything looked fine.

Any hints on what could be the culprit? We are backing up all the data stored on it, and then will open the case to look inside, but I thought it would be good to get some background info first of all.

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'd start with the hard drive. A dying hard drive can start to make audible clicks as it spins its way to death. It's so common it's referred to as The Click of Death. And a dying hard drive can certainly freeze a system up. I would make your very next move a duplication of your hard drive. Make sure it's backed up and the backup works.

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A hard drive that has died of this symptom can sometimes be recovered temporarily by the freezing method.… You only get 15 or so minutes per freezing cycle so make them count. ;-) – Chris Nava Jan 4 '11 at 14:55
Also, a complete duplication of a dying drive will usually kill it for good. You basically have one chance at this, so if you can stand to loose some data, just copy essential files (documents, photos, music, stuff not backed up and can't be downloaded/ripped again) to some external media. – MBraedley Jan 4 '11 at 20:16

Definitely start with the hard drive. Make sure to back up any files you want to keep while you still can. Apart from the optical drive and fans, it's the only component with moving parts in it. If it turns out not to be the hard drive, try a different power supply. Electrical clicks are not a good sign. Good luck!

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For general troubleshooting of freezing issues I would take a look/follow these similar questions:

I feel that Ian's answer is probably going to be your best bet, but if for whatever reason there is more the issue, these are some good general guidelines to follow first.

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Concerning repeated clicks, to see if it's hardware-related you just need to go through the following steps:

  1. Launch Safe Mode with Networking and check if you are getting the same clicking problem
  2. Run msconfig, click Startup and disable all EXCEPT your antivirus and Java.
  3. Restart your system.
  4. Log in normally (not safe mode) and verify if you are getting the same problem.
  5. If not then you can be sure it's not your hard drive. It was just caused by some bad software.
  6. Assuming your problem is solved, if you want to clear the disturbances completely you can simply enable the Startup options one by one and restart each time; once you get the problem you can remove the application that you had last enabled.
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