Can a high frequency noise be a sign of hard drive failure? I thought it was

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Ride9650, Jun 23, 2009.

  1. Ride9650 macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    more of a clicking noise.

    Story is, on a new 2.8 ghz 17inch, I can hear a distinct, very high pitched, high frequency tone. I imagine it sounds very much like the noise Boy Genius is reporting about the 3GS, his description sounds very similar. I've tried to show a few people, but its been a hit and miss as to who can hear the sound.

    Anyways, at first I thought it had something to do with the backlight, as whenever adjusting it, the noise is seemingly gone at the lowest setting, gets really loud around halfway, and when at the highest setting, while the noise is not as loud, its certainly still there.

    Went to see the genius yesterday, and when I played back an example of what I was hearing, he immediately diagnosed it as hard drive failure.

    Is he right? It sounds a little odd given that this is the 2nd unit I've had that has had this problem, also sounds a bit strange given that its a brand new unit.

    He ordered a new drive, and while I wait for that to get in, I thought I would come here to ask for advice,

    should I just let them change the drive or stop wasting time and just ask for another replacement?

  2. MistaBungle macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2005
    From posts on here that I've read, a clicking noise is an indication of hard drive failure.

    However, and I've never heard it personally, it could be an over-sensitive sudden motion sensor.

    But in either case, back up that data!
  3. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
  4. Ride9650 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    At a dr's appointment, I'll check it when I get back, though I imagine it'll be ok
  5. sam10685 macrumors 68000


    Feb 2, 2006
    Portland, OR
    High frequency noise is a sign of CPU explodage. Back up your hard drive and RUN...
  6. Ride9650 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    really? That's a very interesting theory I hadn't thought of. I'll definetly remember to ask about it.

    And thanks for the reminder bout data, haven't really been able to get any work done cause he noise is super irritating:mad: so nothing is really on the drive.

  7. mrbrown macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2004
    Ozark, Missouri
    I had an external hard drive (WD MyBook) that failed on me a while back in a similar manner. It didn't exhibit any of the tell-tale signs of failure (e.g. the click of death) - instead, it made a very high-pitched whining noise that would go away depending on how the drive was positioned.

    So if, for example, the drive was positioned at an angle, no high-pitched noise. If it was positioned vertically or horizontally, then you'd get the noise. :p
  8. Ride9650 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    So it reads "verified"

    I take it that the disk should be ok?
  9. kurono macrumors newbie

    Jul 3, 2008
    Hey, I've the same issue with mine.
    Exactly the same. It's volume changes with backlight level.

    "hit and miss".... damn!! I hate what's still before me and I hate the ignorance I'm possibly going to experience :mad:
    For me it's very disturbing and it's way over my threshold of perception.

    Please have a look at the other thread:
  10. Hannify macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2007
    I'm also experiencing the exact same problem, right down to the response you outlined with the backlight: quiet on high brightness, brain-explodingly loud on mid brightness, and quiet again at low brightness.

    Faulty HDD's can certainly whine, but not in the frequency range we are hearing with this issue. I'm am nearly 99% certain this is a problem with the inverter being out of spec, i.e. it's oscillating in the audible range which it shouldn't be. Unfortunately this is not merely an inconvenience, it's a symptom of component failure that will surely manifest in more violent symptoms down the road (like: backlight death. Yay!).

    So with all due respect to the genius you spoke to, he's dead wrong. Apple needs to replace the inverter, not the HDD.

    In my case apple is replacing my entire machine, but I had other problems as well (pixel anomalies, speaker distortion). My advice would be to call apple care and describe the problem to them, see what they can do for you.
  11. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    Of course, SMART status isn't infallable, but since it doesn't detect an internal error is certainly better news than the alternative.

    High-pitched noises associated with the change of brightness is another matter, I think. Sounds more like problems with early MBPs..
  12. w00t951 macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I don't really think that a whining noise is hard drive failure, but rather something to do with the fans or the cooling system. However, when I move my MBP while it is on, there is a small clicking noise when it recieves a shock, no matter how light. Is this the motion sensor, or is it something more severe?
  13. Ride9650 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    You're the second person I've heard thats mentioned inverter failure as a possibility... which I'm certainly not willing to rule out at this point, but I was under the impression that LED backlighting doesn't require any sort of an inverter?

    Thanks for the link! I'll remember to show them that. I made an
    appointment at another store to get one last opinion before I decide whether or not to just let them swap the hard drive.

    I'm no expert by any means, but I experienced something very similar with my old MBP. When using it on my lap, and adjusting in my seat every so often, while I couldn't hear anything(usually in class, lotsa people/noise,etc), I could certainly feel the hard drive moving about doing something. Its probably the Sudden motion Sensor, but I'd try using it on a flat surface for awhile and see if the clicking continues. If it does, your hard drive might be the one thats actually going bad.
  14. Hannify macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2007
    Technically speaking you are absolutely correct. LED backlights don't have high voltage inverters per se in the fashion that CCFL displays did, as their voltage requirements are much lower. What they do have is drivers, which typically have direct current control and some kind of dimming, these days mostly pulse width modulation dimming. PWM dimming adjusts the duty cycle of leds while keeping the current constant. As I'm not an Apple technician I'm not sure exactly what is going wrong, but it's clearly going wrong in the PWM neighborhood; i.e. the duty cycle adjustments are producing an audible oscillation. Which sucks.

    I should have been more specific, since the technical difference between an inverter and a driver is fairly large, but for practical discussion they basically amount to the same thing (imo), which is to say they are the power providing and regulating systems for the backlight.
  15. Hannify macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2007
    also, just so you're not merely taking my word for it, here's a couple articles to read if you're interested:

    "However, PWM dimming comes with its own design considerations. “If you set the PWM frequency below about 100Hz, users may see the LEDs flicker,” said Day. “But a low PWM frequency can cause some components to vibrate and create a sound users can hear.” If the “sound” of a PWM circuit becomes a problem, engineers should raise the frequency above 20kHz — the upper limit of human hearing. (Often a PWM clock signal originates from a product's processor, so developers have some control over the PWM frequency.)"

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