New Mac Mini hard drive clunking again :(

Posted:
in Genius Bar edited January 2014
About 1.5 years ago, I bought a G4 Mini. About 2 weeks or so after buying it, I noticed a clunking noise appearing. It gradually got worse over the course of a month until it stopped working.



After replacing it with a new drive, everything was fine and I had no problems since.



Now, I've bought a brand new Intel Mini and it's doing the exact same thing. It's just a week old.



I leave my computer turned on all the time and while I'm using it, it's fine. However, if I leave the machine on while I'm out all day or overnight, I come home to hear a periodic clunk, clunk noise.



Y'know, the old marble dropped on a table noise. It's quite quiet at the moment. The weird thing is, if I put the machine to sleep and wake it up, it goes away immediately.



I'm worried that if I leave the machine going when I'm out that the constant clunking is going to damage the drive head because that's what happened before. A quote from the following site says:



Having serviced and worked on hard drives for almost 20 years.. I can tell you that any drive making a loud clunk sound is not good.. this is usually caused by the drive armature assembly slamming into the mechanical stop that limits its range of motion.. which is usually caused by the fact that the servo calibration is messed up and cannot properly govern the speed and position of the head assembly on the drive..



Basically the drives are bad.. but it isn't an instant failure.. the drive will beat itself to death.. whenever I hear a drive 'clunking' as I call it.. I always advise the client to replace it ASAP. A lot of time, the problem is worsened by temperature. As the drive heats up, the electronics go out of spec and it has a harder time of keeping the servo mechanism on track. With the smaller drives in small confined spaces.. they get very hot.. also it just boils down to plain old bad hardware, poor quality.. bad components used in the drive manufacture.



http://macminiforums.com/forums/arch...php/t-332.html



So why is this happening particularly with the Mini drives? Someone even offered a solution, which is an app that constantly writes to the drive so the drive heads don't try to park because they suggested it was the energy saver at fault. Mine is set to never sleep and to not sleep the hard disk when possible.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    auroraaurora Posts: 1,142member
    Not many answers I see, We have a year & half old mini and it makes the clunking sound on occasion. Guess it means its on the way out? It does get used daily.
  • Reply 2 of 10
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,548moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Aurora


    Not many answers I see, We have a year & half old mini and it makes the clunking sound on occasion. Guess it means its on the way out? It does get used daily.



    What's odd is that last night, I had bittorrent going constantly and when I woke up this morning, there was no clunking. So maybe constantly reading/writing is the solution. I remember running Bittorrent 24/7 on my old Mini on the second drive and I never experienced the clunking. I'm going to test it again tonight and not do anything that accesses the disk and see if I wake up to a clunking again. If so, there must be something messed up with OS X's method of preventing a drive from parking when there's no disk access.
  • Reply 3 of 10
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,548moderator
    Hmmm, I just heard it doing it again just now and this was while I was using it and accessing the disk so I don't think it's an energy saver thing. Just as I described before, as soon as I sleep and wake the system, it is fine again. I've seen a lot of reports about this. Here are just a few:



    http://kiza.kcore.de/software/declunk/

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=232114

    http://macminiforums.com/forums/arch...php/t-162.html

    http://macminiforums.com/forums/arch...php/t-332.html



    I thought it was a Seagate thing because they issued a firmware update and I used to have a Seagate in my old Mini but my Intel Mini has a Fujitsu drive. I guess it could be a bug in Apple's Mini drive controller but why is it only happening with certain drives? I think the replacement I got in my old Mini was a Hitachi or Toshiba and it didn't clunk at all but that came from an Apple reseller, not Apple themselves. What's most annoying is that there seem to be tons of reports but no real explanation. Possibilities include the enrgy saver, the drive controller, the drive firmware, servo control or temprature control or a mixture.



    Suffice to say that whatever control is being messed up, a sleep and wake is resetting it.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    banalltvbanalltv Posts: 238member
    Hi, don't know if this is the same noise but my mini from Aug '05 made a loud cracking noise when it got hot. Extra Ram helped a lot but didn't eradicate the problem. It was laid on a wooden surface-not generally known for it's ability to dissipate heat-so I made my own heatsink out of a biscuit tin lid and some copper etching offcuts. That was well before Christmas and I haven't heard the noise once since.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,548moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Banalltv


    Hi, don't know if this is the same noise but my mini from Aug '05 made a loud cracking noise when it got hot. Extra Ram helped a lot but didn't eradicate the problem. It was laid on a wooden surface-not generally known for it's ability to dissipate heat-so I made my own heatsink out of a biscuit tin lid and some copper etching offcuts. That was well before Christmas and I haven't heard the noise once since.



    Was it a repeating noise or just a single cracking sound?



    Also, are you sure it's not a CRT monitor or something? I have a CRT connected to my Mini and it will make a very loud crack, especially when it's cooling down. If I press on the top of the CRT, I can recreate the cracking sound.



    If it is definitely coming from the Mini, I can't think what it could be.



    On the subject of the clunking, I haven't heard it now for about a week. I don't know if it has sorted itself out or what. I remember this happened before though. It would work for a while and then start clunking. Then the time between clunking reduced until the drive died. I'll just have to wait and see.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    banalltvbanalltv Posts: 238member
    Hi Marvin,



    My screen is LCD, and the noise was distinctly from the mini. It was a loud sharp crack, as if some poor insect were being flash-toasted under it before exploding, but pretty loud and sharp, not repeating but more often heard during work. I picked it up and was surprised how hot the underside was. As I said I haven't heard this noise once in the almost a year since I put the copper plates underneath.



    It broke on me last week, refusing to go further than a blank grey screen on startup with a small folder icon and a flashing question mark. Applecare guess it might be the HD, but can't say until they look at it. I felt like a sucker buying Applecare last year but am kind of relieved now.



    Oddly, I got my startup disc stuck in there when it wouldn't boot from it. Restarting with the mouse held down ejected the disc AND fixed the problem, so all my data is safely saved on an external HD, but it hasn't started up since. I've tried reproducing the fix but now my disc is stuck again and it's REALLY stuck now. Even the Cmd-Alt-O-F startup and typing eject cd doesn't work. Baah.
  • Reply 7 of 10
    I have a PowerBook G4 and with my sound turned on I get a clunking sound about every 30 seconds or so. It also happens when watching a movie, or taking a class.

    Help....WHAT IS THIS?
  • Reply 8 of 10
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,548moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by adog2run


    I have a PowerBook G4 and with my sound turned on I get a clunking sound about every 30 seconds or so. It also happens when watching a movie, or taking a class.

    Help....WHAT IS THIS?



    It shouldn't matter if the sound is turned on. If it does then it's not what is described in the thread. This thread describes a clunk that comes from the hard drive itself. If that's what you are hearing, in my experience it signals a failing hard drive. However, the drive I have now is behaving oddly because as soon as I put the machine to sleep and wake it up, the clunking stops. It's as though a servo control is being messed up but is reset on a sleep/wake.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    Just to double-check: are you sure it is not because the hard drive parks itself after a certain period of time? Check the EnergySaver settings in System Preferences, press Show Details and see whether the "Put the hard drive(s) to sleep when possible" entry is ticked.



    If an applications is permanently writing to the disk (as BitTorrent is), then the drive will not go to sleep no matter what setting is in EnergySaver. Plus, as drives get warm (hot) after a few hours of operation, they tend to recalibrate themselves more often, which is perfectly normal. I don't think, however, that the "arm slamming into end position" thing happens in your case.



    A failing hard drive would first slow down your computer to a crawl up to the point where is no longer usable, then it would start making grinding noises or not spin up at all, and then it's dead. This CAN happen, no doubt about that, but it is VERY unlikely that the same thing happens in two different machines after so little time after the purchase AND with two different drive mechanisms. There must be some kind of explanation to this. And by the way, did one of the drives actually fail in the end, i.e. not startup or boot?



    P.S. just saw that you already checked the EnergySaver settings. What about cooling then? Are maybe the vents covered by something?



    P.P.S. In the Mac mini, the exact same drives are used as in every notebook on this planet nowadays (2.5" SATA drives from manufacturer X, Y or Z). So all those machines would have that problem, too. Now, something else bothers me: is your Mac mini sitting directly on a wooden table? Or do you hear the clunk sound also when the Mac mini is on top of a book, for example?
  • Reply 10 of 10
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,548moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gwoodpecker


    Just to double-check: are you sure it is not because the hard drive parks itself after a certain period of time? Check the EnergySaver settings in System Preferences, press Show Details and see whether the "Put the hard drive(s) to sleep when possible" entry is ticked.



    No, it's not the same noise. That entry is unticked. It also comes and goes randomly. For example, all last week, it was ok but this morning, I heard the clunking again. It seems to be if I leave the machine on for a long time. Other people with Minis have experienced the exact same behaviour and it clears for them with a sleep/wake too.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gwoodpecker


    If an applications is permanently writing to the disk (as BitTorrent is), then the drive will not go to sleep no matter what setting is in EnergySaver. Plus, as drives get warm (hot) after a few hours of operation, they tend to recalibrate themselves more often, which is perfectly normal. I don't think, however, that the "arm slamming into end position" thing happens in your case.



    Correct, Bittorrent running constantly does ease the problem but when the downloads have finished and it's just uploading, it will clunk - not all the time remember, just after say a few days. When the periodic clunking occurs, if I write to the drive, it stops clunking for the whole write and then starts up again as soon as the write stops.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gwoodpecker


    A failing hard drive would first slow down your computer to a crawl up to the point where is no longer usable, then it would start making grinding noises or not spin up at all, and then it's dead. This CAN happen, no doubt about that, but it is VERY unlikely that the same thing happens in two different machines after so little time after the purchase AND with two different drive mechanisms. There must be some kind of explanation to this. And by the way, did one of the drives actually fail in the end, i.e. not startup or boot?



    The first Mini I got did this and at first it didn't affect the system. It was just a mild clunk and again it would do it only after a certain amount of time. It gradually got worse until it eventualy did what you said. It started spinning down and grinding (really badly actually) and finally it failed to boot.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gwoodpecker


    P.S. just saw that you already checked the EnergySaver settings. What about cooling then? Are maybe the vents covered by something?



    Nope, no cooling issues at all. My room is very cool.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gwoodpecker


    P.P.S. In the Mac mini, the exact same drives are used as in every notebook on this planet nowadays (2.5" SATA drives from manufacturer X, Y or Z). So all those machines would have that problem, too. Now, something else bothers me: is your Mac mini sitting directly on a wooden table? Or do you hear the clunk sound also when the Mac mini is on top of a book, for example?



    Sure, I've already considered that. But here's the thing. Most people don't leave their machines on 24/7 and the clunking doesn't happen hardly at all when I put my machine to sleep overnight. It's only when I have it running for maybe 5-6 days straight that it starts.



    I don't mind putting it to sleep all the time but I don't like it that the drive is clunking all the time because in order that a clunk noise is made, something has to be colliding hard enough and it seems logical to me that it will just damage itself.
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