iBook Noise
August 16, 2004 10:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm hearing a horrible sound from my iBook all of a sudden. It sounds like the lever that moves the HD heads snapping back and forth repeatedly. It doesn't wholly interfere with the operation of the computer or crash it or anything (yet). It does seem to be coming from the front left side of the laptop, where the HD is located. What is happening? What sort of repair am I looking at, worst-case? Anything I can do?

It's a 600MHz / white / firewire version and I'm in the US.
posted by scarabic to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Backup QUICKLY! This noise is a good sign that the hard drive will cease to function within hours-day. Not certain, of course, but a very good sign.

You should be looking at a hard drive replacement, which isn't particularly expensive. If it costs you more than $150 to have a 30GB drive (probably bigger than what you already have) thrown in there I'd be surprised.
posted by wackybrit at 10:15 PM on August 16, 2004

I guess I should back this up by saying that I have heard of hard drives which have started clattering, and then survived for years.. you may be lucky, but don't bank on it!
posted by wackybrit at 10:15 PM on August 16, 2004

You're almost certainly right, wackybrit. I'd point scarabic over to the usual set of free self-diagnostic tools that could prove whether the drive is about to fail or not, but they're all PC only, sorry.
posted by shepd at 10:19 PM on August 16, 2004

Are you sure the computer isn't just using the disk a lot? You'll often hear sounds like that when you're using a lot of memory and the virtual memory system is swapping stuff on and off of the disk. Does it still sound like that after you log out or reboot?
posted by xil at 10:26 PM on August 16, 2004

Both my old Powerbook G3 and my mom's iBook have done this intermittently and occasionally for quite some time, if it's the sound I'm thinking of. Neither has failed.

Backing up is good advice anyway. Monthly, at least. If not weekly or daily.
posted by weston at 10:37 PM on August 16, 2004

I had the same situation with my iBook suddenly starting to do this sound after a couple of 'quite' years. Luckily the disk hasn't failed (yet?). Besides backing up you should make sure that you have journaling enabled for your disk.
posted by golo at 10:56 PM on August 16, 2004

For monitoring drive problems on OS X, try the free utility SMARTReporter.
posted by D.C. at 11:00 PM on August 16, 2004

Response by poster: Thankfully, I don't keep anything irreplaceable on the machine. It's mostly just a media playbox these days. I will double check to make sure I've backed it all up recently, then try the journalling and diagnostic stuff, and I guess just sit tight and see how the drive fares from here. I've shut it down for now. I hope that wasn't a bad move!

Thanks, all!
posted by scarabic at 11:42 PM on August 16, 2004

Same machine, same problem. Started about two weeks ago. At first I was having all sorts of problems with the machine locking up and then restarting verrrrry slowly (with lots of loud chugs and clicks), so I freaked out and did the backup thing. Then once I had it finally up and running again, I changed my power saver settings to NOT put the hard drive to sleep. Two weeks later, the problem seems to magically have disappeared. I've even shut it down and restarted without any of the dreaded clicks. I'm wondering if I just had some dust in it or something. It seems fine now.
posted by web-goddess at 12:58 AM on August 17, 2004

I wonder if this could be a combination of an aging (read: creaky) internal mechanism and a highly-fragmented disc (causing that creaky reader to fly back and forth, back and forth).

Maybe a clean wipe of the disc or running a defrag utility might help
posted by baltimore at 4:46 AM on August 17, 2004

I had to replace my iBook's hard drive early in the spring, same model. The Licensed Apple Reseller near me wanted about $80 CDN for the labour, plus of course the cost of the hdd, so I ended up doing it on my own.

It's not something I'd recommend unless you're really familiar with pulling computers apart. There are a lot of very small screws (including some #7 torx on the drive rails) and a lot of very small parts. I ended up spending a couple of hours on it, but I like this sort of thing.

It turns out they put in a couple extra screws, too, if the leftovers are any indication...
posted by cCranium at 5:00 AM on August 17, 2004

Same thing, same model. The disk crashed, and it cost us about $175 to get a 40GB drive installed.

What ended up happening was the disk would mount for five minutes at a time, so we were only intermittently able to use the computer. The tech who repaired it said he had a blast transferring the data in small chunks.
posted by rocketman at 6:34 AM on August 17, 2004

The Licensed Apple Reseller near me wanted about $80 CDN for the labour

To be fair, that sounds like a good price.

How much memory do you have scarabic? The 'swapping' might be part of the problem if you have less than, say, 384MB and like to run more than a couple of apps at a time. Since I upgraded my iBook to 768MB it has flown!
posted by wackybrit at 9:47 PM on August 17, 2004

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