My external hard drive isn't being read. I can hear the head begin to spin, then click, and stop. The process repeats a couple of times. Then it stops spinning altogether.

I have given the drive to recovery experts who say they can't do anything. Any ideas before I toss it in the bin?

  • 1
    Is there any important information on it? Or do you just want to get it working again?
    – bdr9
    Sep 22, 2012 at 21:45
  • @bdr9: I too would be interested in knowing what can be done in this case when experts have written it off. I don't suppose something as simple as removing the drive from the enclosure and attaching it to a PC will help in this case, or be something they didn't even consider.
    – Karan
    Sep 22, 2012 at 22:24
  • The platters can likely still be removed and read in specialised equipment. This is a very expensive procedure which needs to be performed in a purpose-built lab, and it is not likely worth it to you. On the other hand, it means you might want to further damage the platters before you dispose of the disk to prevent possible identity theft or bank fraud, depending on what the disk was used for.
    – Eroen
    Sep 23, 2012 at 0:12
  • Usually when I've had a hard drive click and spin down, it meant it was getting insufficient power and shutting itself off. In every case, whether it was an internal or an external hard drive, it was either an under-specced power supply, or a power supply that was in the process of failing.
    – Heptite
    Sep 23, 2012 at 1:13

3 Answers 3


When your hard drive begins to make noises you need to buy new disks (same or bigger size) and clone them sector by sector to save the data on the new media.

Noisy disks usually mean that the hardware (disks) are starting to fail. My guess is that you have a failing external hard drive.

This happened to me and the DMI data base would loop on boot up - either until it did manage to boot the system or kept on looping. A trip to my vendor advised me to ghost the drives (I had two at the time), and now have four include the ghosted (cloned) drives from my previous system.

Newer disks usually have S.M.A.R.T. hardware detection for the health of the system. You could download a Linux Live CD, burn it to CD or USB and boot the Live system from that media, and then run the System>Administration>Disk Utility to see the SMART health of your disks. Live systems do not mount your hard drives unless you issue the mount command as root (admin) user.

You can use the dd command (as root) from the Linux Live CD/USB to do the sector x sector copy from your unmounted external hard drive to your new drive - hopefully if it can be read. If it can't be read, then it may be toast - all the more reason to adopt a procedure/process to daily, weekly, monthly backup your hard drives.


Even simpler: use these to read out some S.M.A.R.T values trying to realize if something is going wrong. CrystalDiskInfo or also HDTune. (for Windows) or Smartmontools (Linux)


Have you tried taking the drive out of its case and attaching it directly to a computer? Most external drives are just a regular 2.5" or sometimes 3.5" drive in a case with USB hookups, and it's possible that the external drive's hookups are bad but the drive is fine.

Don't get your hopes up, though - that clicking noise means death 9 times out of 10. I hope you have backups.

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