I have two 9 GB SCSI hard drives in my very low volume web server. (We need to put some larger ones in soon but they're good enough for now.) Since the day we setup this server, back in 2003, the hard have noticably clicked. The clicking has been randomish every few seconds other than when installing software, copying files or similar activity where you'd expect a lot of hard drive acivity. I always thought this was because of all the random activity of being hit every few seconds from the Internet. And the logging of web pages hit, etc.

However for 16 hours it was down because of misconfiguration by the ISP and the hard drives still clicked. Is this normal behaviour?

One is a Seagate ST39102LW and the other a Quantum Atlas IV 9 WLS. I installed the Seagate tools and both failed the short drive test. But I wonder if those hard drives are so old the tool doesn't deal with them properly?

The IDE hard drive we installed as a backup/archive hard drive happily passed the Seagate short DST

3 Answers 3


The Atlas series was a noisy drive. There are two possible reasons for clicking with them. They have a notoriously noisy park mechanism which is probably what you've been hearing for all this time. The second thing that the Atlas series did was click when the drive hit either extreme point of extension.

The Seagates to my knowledge didn't have the same issue with parking or noise, but, weren't 'quiet' compared to today's drives.

The oldest drives we have in production is a system we're about to virtualize for a client. A Raid-5 set with 18 9gb drives that cost them $8800 in 2000 or so running a dual P3/1ghz. Machine pushes about 120kb/sec with some peaks, but, has been running fine since it was put online in Dec 2000. We do have two dual-drive Raid-1 36gb systems that were put in place in Dec 1998 that are still operational using ST336704LC. I don't recall if the drives in those two machines were replaced, but, smartctl reports that and a serial number that seagate's system doesn't recognize. Again, this machine is scheduled for virtualization next month. Still does the job it was purchased for, client has no complaints.

  • 1
    The server-class 9GB drives of that vintage were NOT selected for quietness. The drives of today are markedly quieter.
    – sysadmin1138
    Oct 13, 2010 at 1:23
  • Quiet in quotes denoted the relative noise of the drives. Early Maxtors had a startup sequence in the 80s that gave a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat for a few seconds which was very unnerving. Most newer drives don't park with an audible click. Fewer platters/newer materials mean less weight on the head arms meaning less to make noise when it does audibly park. Hard stops to prevent head motion, shock mounting and vibration dampening were also less frequent. Head actuators were much more mechanical as well. Our 15ks don't make as many scary noises as older drives, but are certainly not quiet.
    – karmawhore
    Oct 13, 2010 at 1:44

Hard drives click when they're about to die.

Take a backup now, and get ready to replace them both in short order.

The Seagate ST39102LW was originally manufactured in 1998. Seriously dude.. Replace them. They're way beyond their intended life, and now at the very far end of the bathtub curve.

Also.. 9GB? Really?

  • 2
    Agreed. It's time to replace the drives regardless of whether or not they're about to fail.
    – EEAA
    Oct 12, 2010 at 23:37
  • As soon as I read "9 GB" I knew they were ancient. As Tom stated, get a backup now and replace the drives ASAP.
    – joeqwerty
    Oct 12, 2010 at 23:44
  • Given that the pair of drives would have cost about $1800 in total, when new.. That's not a bad life. What would $1800 buy you now.... About 3 and a half 600GB SAS 15k Seagates. Heh. Oct 12, 2010 at 23:54
  • So they've been failing for the last seven or eight years then? Do you have any real world experience with SCSI hard drives of that vintage? And yes I will be replacing them soon. OS Backups do happen on a very regular basis.
    – Tony Toews
    Oct 13, 2010 at 0:29
  • Regardless of whether it's made noise for the last 8 years, it's still 8 years old. Oct 13, 2010 at 9:26

I agree with the owner. I once had a Micronics drive that chattered with every increment of head movement performed by the motor. Sounded like chattering teeth. Was like an armor tank, worked great, never died. Used for a BBS, and ran continuous file maintenance every night.

Clicking on a rhythmic basis, in a repeated fashion, may indicate a problem however. But I don't think that's the case here. More than likely, the head is reaching the extremes of its arc, on an intermittent basis.

  • Agreed with the durability. I'm going to replace these but with 18 or 36 Gb SCSI hard drives. As these are mirrored I'll be sure to have a third or fourth available as backup.
    – Tony Toews
    Oct 16, 2010 at 20:20

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