Click of Death, and then my drive works again? What gives?
May 31, 2007 9:29 PM   Subscribe

It was failing, but now it's not? Wednesday morning, I woke up to my Powerbook stalling. I got the beachball of doom when I tried to log in from sleep and it lasted 20 minutes, so I powered off and rebooted. On reboot, it took 30 minutes plus to load to the desktop, and my desktop icons didn't appear. I held the book to my ear and heard it -- yes, the "click of death."

I've worked in IT for nearly 10 years, and I'm quite familiar with the click of death. There was a period where I went through a PC hard drive every single year.

I powered it down, and called Applecare. They dispatched a box for me.

Today, I booted it up on a whim just to see if I could get some files off of it -- my last backup was saturday, and it clicked to a halt on Wednesday -- before I chucked it in the box.

And -- it's working. I managed to back up with SuperDuper, I managed to get in and run a Drive Verify using Disk Utility, and everything appears to be hunky dory.

What the heck happened? Will it happen again? Since there's no proof my drive has failed now, if I send it in to AppleCare, will they scratch their heads, tell me I'm smoking crack, and send it back with a big bill? Is there any way I can do other diagnoses to find out if my drive is really on it's last legs? Do I need to call AppleCare and tell them my computer's not coming, "oh, whoops, seems it's fine after all..."
posted by SpecialK to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Response by poster: Bit more info: Only things of note in the system.log are a few
"SystemUIServer not responding." messages, a "launchd: Server 0 in bootstrap 1103 uid 0: /usr/sbin/lookupd exited abnormally: Hangup", and a few "tid 00000000 received unknown event(12)"

The last is especially worrying because the only place I saw it referenced on the internets is a place where people hack OSX in order to run it on PC hardware, and had a corrupted ISO...
posted by SpecialK at 9:33 PM on May 31, 2007

Anecdote: I had the click of death for a few months before the drive finally gave up for keeps. If I left it on during the day, I'd frequently come home to a blue screen, but it would boot and run normally on a hard reset. (This was windows, obv).

Probably if you left it running for a while, you'd get the click again.
posted by logicpunk at 9:55 PM on May 31, 2007

Response by poster: Any way that I can log this a little bit better for applecare? They wanted to know if I had the "Drive missing" question mark at boot, and I didn't, and they didn't want to take it until I did... I persuaded them that yes, it really was dead, but apparently it's not -completely- dead yet ... ah, warranties.
posted by SpecialK at 10:03 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: Just because the drive is not at this moment making horrible data-chewing noises doesn't mean it's not in a failure mode. You might be able to extract some proof of this from the SMART counters.
posted by majick at 10:37 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: If you're comfortable getting your hands dirty at the command line, you may find smartmontools useful. Modern hard drives generally implement S.M.A.R.T. for tracking error counts and exposing self-test facilities. The smartctl command included with smartmontools is an interface to this feature.

You'd have to do some work to understand the stats, but if the drive is failing it should show up in the numbers.
posted by lucky mollusk at 10:48 PM on May 31, 2007

It's dying. Slowly. And what a lot of people fail to understand is that Hard Drives, particularly the ones favoured by Apple, are inherently evil.

I have an iPod like this. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's broken. It's whims are capricious and unpredictable. Just when you think everything is sunshine and lollipops, it'll click, whir, stall, grunt and die like a dog in the street.

It will continue in this manner until you've forgotten you needed it in the first place and moved on. At which point it will miraculously work again. For a tantalising hour or so.

Basically, it must be replaced. Hang the expense - it's worth every penny not to have your emotions trifled with.
posted by Jofus at 2:32 AM on June 1, 2007

Response by poster: It will continue in this manner until you've forgotten you needed it in the first place and moved on. At which point it will miraculously work again. For a tantalising hour or so.

So what you're saying is, my hard drive is like my ex-girlfriend? Well, crap. We all know how THAT turned out.
posted by SpecialK at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2007

Actually, a hard drive has a considerably shorter memory than most girlfriends. :)
posted by Jofus at 7:40 AM on June 1, 2007

I walked into an Apple Store with my laptop and walked up and flat-out said "My hard drive is failing." The genius bar guy asked, "Smart status failed?" and I replied "Usually reads failing." They took it and I had a new hard drive by the end of the week.

posted by mikeh at 9:50 AM on June 1, 2007

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