Why is my external hard drive revving?
January 21, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Why is my external hard drive revving?

I have a LaCie Big Disk Extreme 1TB external hard drive. Whatever power setting I leave it on, after 10-30 minutes it starts to make a "revving" sound, as if some internal fan is running for a second or so. This gradually increases in frequency, before tailing off to silence. The process then repeats indefinitely, every 20 minutes or so. I took into into work (who bought it on my behalf), and the technicians were rather bemused by the result of their investigation. They ran it for several hours on two different machines, without it making any sound whatsoever. They seem to think that there's nothing at all wrong with it.

I have tried it at home on two different machines (Mac and PC running Ubuntu), and get the noise every time. Running it without connecting it to a machine doesn't remove the noise, so I don't think it's a problem with the computers I've been connecting it to at home. Given that we live in quite an old house, I finally thought that it might be a power issue, so I bought a spike regulator to connect between the socket and all of my machines. Still no luck; the noise persists.

This has been driving me absolutely nuts, so any advice on possible causes and/or solutions would be much appreciated.
posted by gene_machine to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Open it up and clean out the fan. Might not be cooling the drives fast enough if its got a bunch of dust in it, or the airflow path is obstructed.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:36 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lacie drives are notorious for breaking down. I would use any unusual noises from an external drive as a sign of impending failure and copy those data elsewhere asap. Recovering files from damaged drives is insanely expensive.
posted by special-k at 4:37 PM on January 21, 2010

Have you tried running the hard drive outside of its enclosure? This may give you a hint.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:43 PM on January 21, 2010

Off the top of Mr. F and I's heads:

1) What kind of machines did they try it on at your office?

2) What're you using the drive for?

3) Have you tried the drive somewhere other than the desk where it presumably always sits? Are you sure it's not something on the desk or table that's vibrating?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:09 PM on January 21, 2010

Thanks for the answers so far.

1. The office machines were Windows, AFAIK. As I say, though, the noise occurs even when the drive's not connected to anything other than a power supply.

2. My iTunes library.

3. Yes, I've run it on the floor, and sitting on the original box my iMac came in. Same problem.

I think I'll open it up and see if that offers any hints.
posted by gene_machine at 1:44 AM on January 22, 2010

Although the fundamental question still remains: why does it make a noise at home, but not at work?
posted by gene_machine at 1:45 AM on January 22, 2010

I would guess that the drive doesn't have enough power. If it's bus powered then plug it in to the mains.
posted by devnull at 2:43 AM on January 22, 2010

It has a separate mains adapter.
posted by gene_machine at 2:50 AM on January 22, 2010

Running it without connecting it to a machine doesn't remove the noise, so I don't think it's a problem with the computers I've been connecting it to at home.

Sounds like the fan indeed, if the noise is happening even without any computer accessing it. If you turn it off for awhile, then pick it up and shake it a bit, I bet it's silent when reconnected... for awhile.

Theory: it was jostled about on the trip to your workplace.
posted by rokusan at 6:36 AM on January 22, 2010

Interesting theory, but I also tested it when I got back from work, and it's still making the noise...

I think I'll just open it up and have a look. Thanks, everyone.
posted by gene_machine at 7:03 AM on January 22, 2010

Maybe different background noise levels? Home is quieter, it's just you sitting there, so you notice the sound. Work has more pervasive background noise, which masks this sound. Just wild-ass speculation.
posted by chazlarson at 8:01 AM on January 22, 2010

More data needed: Plug it in some places that are neither home nor work. With and without various computers. See what happens. Write down results.
posted by exphysicist345 at 1:53 PM on January 22, 2010

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