Don't ignore weird clicking noises coming from your PC

Hard Drive
Hard Drive (Image credit: Windows Central)

Parts inside PCs make noise, especially with the number of things in there that spin. What your PC shouldn't ever do is make a clicking noise. That usually means something somewhere isn't right.

It could be something simple like a cable is getting caught by a fan blade. But it could be something more serious, like your hard drive about to depart from this world. So definitely don't ignore it.

The simple things


It doesn't necessarily mean it's your hard drive, a clicking noise could be something less terminal. One area to check is your fans, and whether or not anything is getting caught in them as they spin.

This could be particularly relevant to folks who built their own PCs. Check there are no labels, tags, cables, cable ties or any other foreign bodies being caught by anything spinning. Check the CPU cooler, the PSU fan, any intake and exhaust fans alike to make sure they're not the cause of the noise.

Why might it be the hard drive?

Hard drive

The hard drive is made up of an actuator arm that moves back and forth over the media as it reads and writes information. Imagine a vinyl record player with the needle moving across the record as the songs play.

A clicking noise originating from the PC could signal trouble as described by HowToGeek:

What you don't want to hear is a loud "snap" or "click" noise. That usually indicates some kind of mechanical failure with either the disk or the arm, and it could mean that your hard drive is in trouble.

Because a hard drive is mechanical and has moving parts, it immediately becomes prone to failure. If something moves, it can stop moving.

How can I be sure?


If the drive is a secondary drive, in other words, any drive you don't have your main Windows install on, you could just detach the SATA power cable and then boot up your PC. If the noise has gone away, then it's a safe bet it was that hard drive.

A more technical way is to use software to check on the health of the drive in question. Hard drives use S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) which you can then tap into with a program like CrystalDiskInfo (pictured above) to monitor the overall well-being of the drive.

Download CrystalDiskInfo for Windows

If the fault is attributed to your drive, though, don't delay. Back it up immediately and get a replacement. If it's your primary drive with Windows on, it's naturally a much bigger process, but we have a couple of guides to help you out.

How to back up your files in Windows 10

Setting up the new drive

Formatting hard drive

If you've never swapped out a hard drive before, it's not as daunting as you might think it is. If it's a secondary drive, it's a lot easier, since you don't have Windows installs to handle, but even if it's your main drive it's not the end of the world.

Should you have Windows installed on it then you can either clone the drive first or start again with a clean slate. If it's a secondary drive it's less of a stretch to get back up and running. We have a couple of guides linked below that can help you out in either instance.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Enjoying the vinyl record reference knowing that some readers have never experienced one. 🤓 (Not a slam on Richard, because there really hasn't been another piece of naturally exposed tech come along that could be used as another visual analogy.)
  • Good write up. I used to work on old Voicemail systems, and the click was well known to us. Also good to let people know about how pretty much any click isn't good. I was getting one for a while, but the stupid thing was not only intermittint, but it would go away by the time i got up and over to my PC (it's behind my desk) turned out I had a fan blade in one of my GPU's that was barely hitting and would just move the cable far enough out of the way and I never noticed it until the fan burned out. Warrenty fix at least since it was due to the blade crascking and deforming. long story short, investigate any noise that isn't normal.
  • Another source of noise from PC that Richard missed is optical drive...And it is more than earthquake!
  • Sorry its not the HDD, that's the NSA listening to you....gotta open your eyes guys......
  • Nice write-up. Just wanted to know something. While replacing secondary hard drive, is it okay to go for ssd? Or is old school hdd still the way to go?
  • It's advised to use an ssd as your main disk drive since the speed of your system is partly determined by the speed of the disk from which you are running your operating system and other software. However, if you can afford an ssd for both main and secondary drives, then why not!
  • Thanks for replying. I was curious since its all about ssd these days. I hardly hear folks mentioning them for storage. I have a 9yr old hdd right now. So when the time comes, I will look at ssd options.