Whiz! Bang! Uh-oh! Determining good or bad computer noises

FI-Log-On-With-Larry-SchneiderDear Larry,

Suddenly my computer is making a clicking noise and won’t start up into Windows. Is my computer dead? 



Dear C.D.,

Of all the sounds a computer can utter, perhaps the most feared is the dreaded clicking sound at startup.

It indicates that the computer’s hard drive has failed or is close to failing. I hope you have a backup of your data because chances are, you’re going to be needing it soon. Before you do anything else, I recommend you have your PC examined by me or another computer professional to see if anything can be recovered before it’s too late.

But what about all the other noises a computer can make? Which are good noises and which are bad?

If your computer turns on with a couple different beeps, some long, some short and then stops dead in its tracks, this indicates that one of the computer’s circuit boards has failed or has come loose. Again, the help of a professional is called for in this case.

Assuming your computer turns on and seems to be functioning as expected, most sounds will be fairly typical: the quiet whirring of the fan(s), the operation of the DVD/CD spinning up to speed, and the chickety-chickety-chick sounds produced by a normal hard drive.

Here are some things to watch out for:

If your computer seems to pause for long periods of time or hangs up and you hear an identical sound repeat incessantly — something like a chick-chick-shhhhh, chick-chick-shhhhh — this could mean that your hard drive has suffered a minor crash or is in danger of failing. I recommend you power down and have an expert look into it.

If your computer seems to operate fine, but you hear a regularly repeating sound, especially from the back of the tower, this probably means a vibrating or dirty fan. Believe it or not, sometimes a little whack on the top of the tower will settle it down.

Cleaning the back of the tower with a vacuum may help as well. If the noise resembles a playing card in a bicycle spoke, it’s possible a loose wire has been sucked into the fan and is getting whacked 100 times a second!

Noises from the front of the tower can often be traced to the DVD/CD drives. A noisy motor may sound a little like an airplane taking off as it spins the disk up to speed. Another cause of a loud warbling noise is a slightly warped DVD or compact disc. If it’s not completely flat, spinning at high speed will generate all kinds of odd noises.

If your sound goes away when the disc is removed, you’re getting closer to the source of the problem.

Grrrrr, brrrrr, click, whrrrr. Keep a listen.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.


Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm — now in its 15th year of business — catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. PC and Mac services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database, and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit Accentoncomputers.com or send email to [email protected]

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