The average cost to recover a hard drive that is clicking is between $329-$699. Some hard drives have difficult to-find donor parts that can push the total cost of recovery higher, but 99% of drives fall in that range for recovery when clicking.
Causes of a clicking sound coming from a drive
Contrary to popular belief, clicking sounds coming from a drive don’t always mean the same type of failure. I will cover a few different types of failure that can lead to clicking sounds coming from your drive.
Bad heads, the most commonly quoted issue
When a drive has bad heads, often times the drive will make audible clicking sounds as it attempts to read data from the platter. A lot of data recovery companies quote every drive they get as having bad heads. The truth is that bad heads are not as frequent an issue as you may think. For a drive that has not been dropped, heads issues only make up about 20% of the recoveries I see. If the drive has been dropped, then head issues are much more common.
Corrupt firmware, more common on certain models
Firmware is basically a set of instructions that allows the drive to work properly. Firmware corruption can cause audible clicking just like a bad head. In fact, the reason the drive clicks is the same; the heads are not reading data properly from the platters. Firmware-related clicking issues are actually very common on a couple different models of drives.
I have seen many data recovery technicians get a drive in that is clicking and complete a head stack replacement, just to find that the clicking issue persists. After they dig deeper, they find that firmware-based issues were the cause of the clicking in the first place. Having 1000’s of successful recoveries under your belt really sets you apart as a technician in this industry.
Bad sectors, when in just the right spot
Usually bad sectors do not cause clicking. But sometimes the bad sectors are in areas of the drive that are necessary to read before the drive can function properly (think of the service area of the platter, where the firmware is stored). Usually bad sectors will just cause a drive to run slowly or not show up or similar. But clicking can be caused by bad sectors!
Bad PCB, some models more than others
The printed circuit board can become damaged or fail in a way that causes the drive to click. As with firmware issues causing clicking, this issue of a bad PCB causing clicking is more common among certain models than others. The most common PCB issue I see is just a dead PCB, but I have recovered clicking drives that just needed a replacement PCB more times than I can count.
Media damage, especially after a head crash from a drop
One of the worst reasons for clicking is media damage. Basically, the platters that hold the data can be damaged in some way, which causes the drive to not be able to read the data. Media damage is usually caused by a drop when the drive is spinning. It can also be caused by attempting a recovery on a drive with issues using software-based methods when you should have used a data recovery rig to properly diagnose and recover the data safely.
Methods to recover data from a clicking drive
It is important to utilize safe and effective methods when recovering a drive that is clicking. All these methods start with the most important first step, a proper diagnosis of the drive. Without knowing for sure what the issue is, you can fail to recover the data successfully. Be sure you know what the issue is before you continue with the repair.
Use a clean room when it is necessary to swap out internal parts. Purchase the correct head comb or any other tools that are needed for the particular model you are attempting a recovery on. Always practice on the exact same model drive a few times if you aren’t a pro at that model yet.
There are a few tools that are available for working on the firmware of a hard drive, but by far the best in the industry is the PC-3000 by Ace Labs. It is an expensive tool, and takes a lot of time to learn everything you need to know to use it effectively, but it is well worth the money and effort if you provide data recovery services.
Picking the right tools and methods for drives that are clicking because of bad sectors can depend on where the sectors are. Sometimes the failed sectors can be in the service area of the drive, which is causing firmware issues. In a case where firmware issues are involved, the PC-3000 would be the best tools to work with the drive. However, if the bad sectors are just in the portion of the drive that holds partition information, or some other data, you can usually successfully recover the data using a less expensive imaging tool like the DeepSpar Disk Imager.
Usually the easiest and safest way to recover data from a drive with a bad PCB is to just replace the PCB. Unfortunately, it is usually not as easy as just taking a PCB from a donor drive and replacing the bad PCB with it. Rather, you have to know what chips or information needs to be swapped from the original PCB to the new PCB. Using proper soldering techniques, and keeping track of the chips you are swapping, requires an outlined process and plan you are following.
When a drive has media damage, it can sometimes be unrecoverable. It all depends on the amount of damage and the type (heavy scratches across an entire platter, smoke or water in the drive, etc). These recoveries vary in methods and tools to use a lot.
My service for clicking drives
I offer data recovery services for clicking drives from my recovery lab here in Kansas. If you have a drive that you need to get the data off of, please feel free to contact me or fill out my quote form to start the discussion about your drive. I would be happy to help you recover your important data.
Affordable Data Recovery Pricing
We charge a flat rate fee based on what is wrong with your device. There are three main tiers for our data recovery service.
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