Faulty hard-drive?

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I just purchased a brand new laptop, and I believe the hard drive to be faulty. Here are the symptoms:

  • It’s a 500gb 7200 rpm hard drive, the relevant part formatted to ext4 and running Gentoo
  • Every so often, an audible “click” will emanate from the hard drive
  • For the next 1 or 2 seconds, the system freezes up (although the mouse still moves)
  • This happens most frequently when compiling / moving lots of data (4-5 times every 15-20 seconds)
  • It happens during non-hard-drive intensive use with a much lower frequency (although is particularly annoying while watching movies as while the audio picks back up when the system does, generally the picture stays constant until the next keyframe)
  • The system picks itself back up without any problems afterwards, no errors are logged to dmesg

I brought this up with customer service and they said they can ship me a new hard drive, because apparently no other users have complained of similar symptoms. Does this sound like a faulty hard drive to you? My worry is that:

  • I’m not 100% convinced it’s a hardware issue
  • I can’t reinstall Gentoo or any other OS on it while for the next month as my internet connection is limited to about 100 megabytes per week
  • Transferring everything between 500gb hard drives is a major pain in the butt with a 4gb flash drive, especially if this does not fix the problem.



If it’s clicking in the middle of disc actions, I’d definitely be worried and make sure anything important is backed up. Then run any and all diagnostics you can on the drive and record the evidence in case the manufacturer gives you any flack about replacing the drive under warranty.

It might just be the power management getting in your way. The drive may be going to sleep and parking the heads, then when you do something that requires a disk access, the whole system stalls while the hard drive spins back up. You can tweak your hard drive’s power management parameters and other features with hdparm.

However, you shouldn’t count out the possibility that it is a defective drive. I’ve received several brand-new drives in the past that were defective.

The clicking is probably the armature for the read/write heads seeking back and forth when a data access fails, in an attempt to retry the read/write operation.

First I’d suggest running badblocks -sv on the drive. This should do a sequential bad block scan, so there shouldn’t be any clicking unless there is an unreadable sector or some faulty sectors have already been detected and relocated.

If you don’t care about the data, you can also do a destructive read/write test by running badblocks -wsv, which should give the drive a more thorough workout.

You could check drive’s SMART status – it is not always indicative, but if it shows e.g. growing numbers of reallocated sectors then this is a definite sign of HDD’s malfunctioning. To be sure, monitor SMART status changes over a day or two.

sudo smartctl -H -A /dev/sd? will show you overall drive health status, and values of individual attributes. Also, you may run some internal drive tests with smartctl (you may have to emerge or otherwise install it first).

Disk Utility (Palimpsest) will allow you to do almost the same from the comfort of your desktop environment.

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