What To Do If Your Hard Drive Is Beeping Or Buzzing

Posted on: 19 August 2015

If your computer's hard drive has stopped working and is making a beeping or buzzing sound, don't panic just yet. The fix is usually simple and can be corrected by most people with a minimum of tools and skill. Below is what you need to know:

Beeping or buzzing hard drive - the cause

In most instances, a hard drive that is making a beeping or buzzing sound is not permanently broken; as a result, your data should still be secure. The cause for the unnatural noise is usually due to a stuck actuator arm. Your hard drive's actuator arm is the lever-like component that moves the read/write heads across the platters, the magnetic disks that store the data. For reasons usually unknown to the casual user, the actuator arm can become "frozen" over the platter, and this causes a malfunction.

Beeping or buzzing hard drive - the fix

Now that you understand the likely cause of your hard drive problem, you need to know how to correct the problem. For this repair, a few hand tools and materials will do:

  • Star bit screwdriver - also known by its trademark name "Torx", this special screwdriver style is sold in multi-sized sets at hardware and home improvement centers. Expect to use a smaller star bit size, such as T-6 or T-8.

  • Flat-blade screwdriver or pocket knife

  • Utility pick or probe

  • Rubber gloves

  • Lint-free towel

1. Prepare your work area - since even one piece of tiny debris can cause a hard drive to permanently fail, it is critical that you perform this procedure in as dust-free of an environment as possible. Do not work in a room with a running fan or blowing air conditioner or heater. Use an indoor location that is clutter-free to minimize the possibility of stray dust particles finding their way into the hard drive.

Once you have found a suitable location, prepare the site by laying out a clean, lint-free towel as a work surface. Be sure that you have the area well-illuminated so you can see the tiny screws and other delicate parts.

2. Open the hard drive - after removing the hard drive from your computer, carefully lay it on top of the lint-free towel. Put on a pair of clean rubber gloves to keep skin oils and flakes of dead skin from falling into the drive. Locate the screws holding the hard drive cover in place; in most cases, five or six screws surrounding the perimeter of the hard drive will be used. In addition, be sure to feel through the manufacturer's label for the presence of a hidden screw; you will not need to remove the label but should be able to access the screw through the label itself.

After locating the screws, slowly remove them with the appropriate-size star bit. Set the screws aside in a safe location, and gently pry open the cover with a small flat-blade screwdriver or the edge of a pocket knife blade. Place the cover aside on the lint-free cloth with the outside facing up to prevent dust accumulation, and be sure not to dislodge the cover gasket during the process. Do not touch any internal parts of the hard drive once the cover has been removed.

3. Confirm the actuator arm is stuck - examine the interior of the hard drive for any obvious problems. Locate the actuator arm which consists of a short protrusion resembling a record player arm. If the arm is located over the shiny platter, rather than in its home position to the side, then this is indicative of a stuck actuator.

If you aren't able to locate any problems such as a stuck actuator, you will likely need to replace the cover and take the hard drive to a data recovery specialist for assistance. Do not attempt to further disassemble your hard drive, or you may cause irreversible damage.

4. Move the stuck actuator arm - after confirming the actuator arm is not properly moving, insert a star bit screwdriver into the center of the platter and hold it in position. Next, take your pick or probe and gently push the actuator arm back toward its home position; at the same time, slowly rotate the platter in a counter-clockwise direction while pushing back the actuator. Try to coordinate these two movements as best as possible.

5. Replace the cover - once the actuator arm is back in position, place the cover back on the hard drive and fasten the small screws, including the central screw hidden under the paper. Make the connection snug, but do not attempt to over-tighten, or you may damage the drive or dislocate the gasket.

6. Make a backup - after fixing your hard drive and reinserting it into your computer, make a full backup of the hard drive's contents in order to protect data from being lost should the drive experience failure. Keep the backed-up data in a location away from your home so as to protect the data from loss.

If you have trouble completing the above steps, or the issue is not caused by a stuck actuator arm, then contact a data recovery service, such as We Recover Data.com