There are a few common computer devices that can make clicking sounds during operation. Identifying the source of the clicking noise can help troubleshoot potential issues. In this article, we will explore some of the most likely culprits and causes of clicking sounds coming from a computer.
One of the most obvious sources of clicking sounds is the keyboard. Mechanical keyboards in particular are designed to produce audible keypress sounds to provide tactile feedback as you type. The clicks come from the mechanical switches under each key bottoming out when pressed.
Cherry MX Blue switches are among the loudest switch types and produce a distinctive click sound. Other mechanical switch types like Cherry MX Browns have a subtler tactile bump without an audible click. If your keyboard suddenly starts loudly clicking, it could indicate a faulty switch or debris stuck in the mechanism.
Standard membrane keyboards can also start clicking over time as the internal rubber domes weaken and develop small air pockets. Each keypress forces air out of the pocket, creating a click. If your membrane keyboard clicks, it likely means the keyboard is wearing out or damaged.
- For mechanical keyboards, clean out debris from between switches with compressed air. Replace any visibly damaged switches.
- For membrane keyboards, the clicks indicate it’s time to replace the keyboard.
Hard Disk Drive
Hard disk drives (HDDs) rely on moving mechanical parts, which can produce clicking noises under certain conditions. The most common cause is the read/write head making contact with the spinning platter.
The head constantly hovers over the drive platter to read and write data. If a vibration or jolt moves the head too close to the platter surface, it can graze the surface resulting in a loud click. This is known as a “head crash.”
Head crashes damage the drive and can cause data loss. Other noises like grinding or screeching indicate severe damage to the platter surface.
- Avoid jostling or moving your computer while powered on to prevent head crashes.
- Back up your data regularly in case a damaged HDD causes data loss.
- Consider replacing the HDD with a solid state drive (SSD) which has no moving parts.
Optical Disc Drive
CD/DVD/Blu-Ray disc drives produce very distinctive mechanical clicks during normal operation as the loader mechanism moves discs into position. But repetitive strain can wear down the gear assembly and cause extra clicking or sticking.
Excessive clicking noises point to issues with the loader mechanism or motor that require service. It usually means the optical drive needs to be replaced.
- Try cleaning the disc drive lens with a lens cleaner kit to remove dust or debris buildup.
- Replace an excessively clicking optical drive. They are inexpensive and easy to swap out in most computers.
It’s rare, but occasionally a computer’s CPU cooler fan can start clicking if a blade becomes warped or the motor bearings wear out. The click occurs as the warped blade or bearing contacts the fan housing each rotation.
A clicking CPU fan indicates a problem with the fan itself that should be addressed. Excessive noise can also be a sign of insufficient cooling on an overheating CPU.
- Clean dust buildup from CPU cooler fins and fan.
- Replace the CPU cooler fan.
- Reapply thermal paste between the CPU and cooler.
- Upgrade to a higher performance CPU cooler.
Clicks and other odd noises coming directly from the computer case (not the hard drive or disk drive) often point to a problem with the power supply.
Power supplies contain cooling fans, inductors, and other components that can make noise when damaged or overheating. Clicking or buzzing from a power supply unit usually means it’s failing.
- Make sure all power cables are securely connected.
- Clear dust from the power supply intake grilles and fan.
- Have the power supply tested or replace it if the noises persist.
Finally, one cause of clicking that should never be ignored is electric arcing from an exposed wire or faulty component. Arcing creates a rapid clicking/crackling noise along with a burning smell.
This dangerous electrical discharge can heat up components to the point of failure and even melt plastic parts. Left unchecked, it can lead to catastrophic fires or equipment damage.
- Immediately power down the computer if you notice signs of arcing.
- Visually inspect for any exposed or crimped wires that could arc electricity.
- Check components like capacitors for signs of bulging or leaking fluid.
- Consult a qualified technician to identify and replace any faulty parts.
Clicking or tapping noises from computer hardware usually indicate a failure of some kind. Mechanical hard drives and optical drives commonly make benign clicks during operation. But new clicks or changes in click patterns often mean a component is wearing out or malfunctioning. This provides an early warning to take action before total failure occurs. With some basic troubleshooting, you can isolate the source of computer clicks and take steps to prevent long-term problems.