Harddrive about to fail?

I have an external hard disk that I use for Time Machine backups. Recently, it makes a kind of grinding sound when it finishes backing up. It’s only TM and I have a cloud backup so I am not too worried about it suddenly dying but is this a typical sound of its potential demise?

I’d go with “yes”. Kidding aside: a harddrive should not make other sounds than a soft high pitch spinning sound and some ever so slight clicking when positioning the head. Grinding suggests mechanical friction which is not what a harddrive ought to produce. Make sure that your second copy does not originate from this drive since there may likely be already corrupted files if it’s close to failing.


Drive sounds can be an odd thing, but in a lot of cases serious sounds occur only once, and then the drive is dead. Otherwise, it could be the sounds of something being retried repeatedly, which can sound more mechanically serious than they actually are. Old style floppy drives, for example, used to deliberately step the head negative (below track zero) to make sure the drive head hadn’t been moved since last use (say the PC had been physically moved and the head slipped.) It sounded horrible (and mechanically it wasn’t great, it would eventually affect the drive) but it was design intent and wasn’t the sound of something broken. (Except maybe the cheap design :wink:

It is odd that it’s always at a particular point, the end. Is the drive powering down at that point? It could be parking the heads. The thing that is odd is that you’re implying this is a new development, and not something that was happening all along… unless the software wasn’t doing then what does now (i.e. it has recently changed to do something new.)

In any case, if it’s working strangely, that would cause me to be concerned that I couldn’t rely on it as a backup and I would consider augmenting my backups and/or eventually replacing the drive. (Drives are pretty cheap when compared to the value of your data and time.)


Thanks both. I decided to go ahead and replace the drive with a spare one I have. The thing is that this spare (a Seagate) is normally operationally a bit “louder” than the Western Digital (albeit this one has the loud grind sound). The Seagate seems to make a constant low sound like air going through it or maybe its the whirl of the drive (it’s a Seagate Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive HDD – USB 3.0 For PC Laptop And Mac, 1-year Rescue Service (STGY8000400) Black). Not a big deal but I find it interesting that the WD is a lot quieter than the Seagate, as long as there are no issues.

1 Like

generally death is imminent with grinding sounds!! :grin:

If you were really curious, you could try polling for S.M.A.R.T data to see if there are any anomalous readings on the disk.

FWIW, I have a bunch of 6 TB Seagates that reverb through the house enough to make it sound like someone is moving furniture around. Different disks make different noises :man_shrugging: