How do I get files from clicking my hard drive?

If you are hearing clicking or ticking noises coming from your hard drive, it likely indicates there is a mechanical failure occurring. This means you may have difficulty accessing the files stored on that drive. However, there are some steps you can try to recover your files before the drive fails completely.

What causes a clicking/ticking hard drive?

A clicking or ticking noise usually means that the read/write heads are making contact with the platters inside the hard drive. This indicates that the heads are no longer flying smoothly above the platters as they should be. There are a few possible causes of this:

  • Mechanical failure – The heads or other internal components are starting to fail, often due to wear and tear over time.
  • Impact damage – Physical shock or dropping the hard drive can cause the heads to hit the platter.
  • Motor issues – Problems with the spindle motor can lead to sync issues that make the heads hit the platters.

This physical contact results in clicking or ticking noises as the heads repeatedly strike the platters during disk operation. If left unchecked, it can cause further damage to the platters and corruption of your data.

How to recover files from a clicking hard drive

If your hard drive is starting to click or make ticking noises, it’s important to act fast. Here are some steps you can take to try to recover your files:

  1. Stop using the drive immediately – Continuing to operate a hard drive that is clicking can cause further damage. Disconnect the drive right away.
  2. Try to access the drive in safe mode – Boot your computer into safe mode and try to access the drive. Safe mode loads minimal drivers, which may allow you to copy files before the drive completely fails.
  3. Use data recovery software – Specialized recovery software may be able to access parts of the drive that Windows cannot. Popular tools include Ontrack EasyRecovery, Stellar Data Recovery, and EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard.
  4. Remove the hard drive and connect it as a secondary drive – Physically connect the clicking drive to another working computer as a secondary drive, not the boot drive. This isolates it from the primary file system.
  5. Access the drive in a frozen state – Try putting the drive in a freezer bag and freezing it for a few hours. This can temporarily stop clicking and allow file access.
  6. Use a professional data recovery service – For best results, seek professional help. Data recovery services use specialized tools in a dust-free clean room to extract all possible data.

Recovering data from specific file types

Depending on what types of files you need to recover, there are some additional tips:


  • Try opening damaged documents in Office Recovery mode. This can restore readable document content from corrupt files.
  • For Excel files, attempt to extract data tables from damaged workbooks using Power Query’s From Table function.
  • Google Documents and other cloud-based files may have previous autosaved versions to restore from the cloud.


  • Photo recovery software is optimized to find JPG, PNG, RAW and other image formats. They can often restore partially corrupted photos.
  • Some tools like FFmpeg can reconstruct fragmented video files by analyzing video streams and reordering frames.
  • Check cloud storage like Google Photos or iCloud – online backups may have copies of deleted images and footage.


  • Music recovery looks for file headers associated with common formats like MP3, FLAC and WAV files. Headers often survive even if file data is corrupted.
  • Audio extraction utilities can read damaged CD/DVD media and rip tracks to files. This works if the disc is scratched but not physically broken.
  • Download previous purchases from music vendors like iTunes or Amazon Music to restore missing tracks.

Tips for copying data from clicking hard drives

Here are some best practices when trying to extract files from a clicking hard drive:

  • Work in short bursts – Constantly powering on a failing drive adds strain. Copy data in short sessions of a few minutes each.
  • Recover the most critical files first – Prioritize important documents, databases, photos and personal files in your recovery efforts.
  • Avoid file system writes – Limit saving recovered files to the drive itself. Write to a different safe drive instead.
  • Check directory structures – Disk errors can alter folder hierarchies. Manually verify recovered file locations if necessary.
  • Calculate total capacity – Know the drive capacity before recovery so you can check if all data was extracted.

How to avoid clicking hard drives in the future

Once you’ve recovered your files, here are some tips to help avoid clicking hard drives going forward:

  • Handle drives gently and limit impacts/drops.
  • Ensure proper ventilation around drives to reduce overheating risk.
  • Perform regular backups so critical data is always stored redundantly.
  • Listen for early warning signs like odd noises or slow performance.
  • Upgrade older drives after 3-5 years of use before problems occur.
  • Consider cloud backup services for convenient offsite protection of important files.

When to seek professional data recovery

In some cases of severe physical hard drive failure, professional help may be your best or only option for recovering data. Consider professional recovery if:

  • DIY efforts have failed completely and no files can be accessed.
  • The drive has significant physical damage visible on the circuit board or platters.
  • Critical or irreplaceable data is stored on the drive with no backups.
  • You require data recovery from a RAID array or enterprise-level drive.
  • The drive contains sensitive data requiring specialized tools for privacy.

Reputable data recovery firms like DriveSavers, Gillware and Secure Data Recovery can extract data in a sterile clean room environment even from drives with major physical damage. However, costs often start around $500-1000+ and are not guaranteed.

The bottom line

If your hard drive starts making clicking or ticking noises, quick action is required to recover your files. Stop using the drive immediately and try data recovery software or attempting to access the drive from another computer. For best results, contact a professional recovery firm if DIY methods fail. With the right approach, you have a decent chance of rescuing your files from a clicking hard drive.