Diagnosis for Squeaking Hard Drive?


macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 14, 2011
Perth, Western Australia
Someone on a car forum that I’m active on mentioned that their iMac hard drive wouldn’t start up. I figured it would probably take a few minutes with DiskWarrior, repairing permissions, etc, so I had the guy post the drive to me.


Looks like I don’t get to be a hero today. Prognosis is not good.

Drive details:
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 (ie 2.5”)
Part Number: 9S1134-308

What I’ve done so far:
- I put the drive in one of the vacant slots in my 2010 Mac Pro (ie ideal Mac for recovering drives).
- Mac Pro would not start. Squeaking sounds from hard drive.
- Removed drive, put it in an external FireWire casing and tried again.
- The Mac Pro started, but FireWire drive wouldn’t mount. Tried DiskWarrior, Disk Utility and Drive Genius 3. Could not get drive to appear.
- There are squeaking sounds from the drive, which eventually stop. Drive will still not mount.
- The sound is a series of short squeaks, not an ongoing squeal.

Like a lot of low-level users, this person doesn’t have a backup. The usual family photos, emails, etc, will all be gone.

Going by the sounds, there’s obviously a hardware failure inside the drive. I’m guessing it’s the read head.

Question: Do we have any experts on hard drive noises here that can give their opinion on exactly what has happened, and what the chances are of data recovery?

Question: If I remove the top cover to have a look at what it’s doing inside, is it simply a matter of putting the cover back on? This isn’t my drive, and I don’t want to do anything to minimise the owner’s chances of recovering data.

YouTube clip:



macrumors 6502
Feb 2, 2013
Yep, that's toast. That's likely the heads you're hearing sliding (in contact) across the platters. Recovery service is expensive, and may not work if those heads are actually in contact with the platters. As Brian mentioned, Don't power it up any more. It will just do more damage.


macrumors 6502a
Apr 28, 2012
You can hear the drive motor changing speeds and I *think* the squeak is a full range seek to track 0, attempting to sync, failing, re-spinning the motor and trying again.

If this is the case, it might be that track 0 is bad. Which is not good since track zero contains (IIRC) all the drive geometry, partition info, bad sector maps etc.

But the data would still be recoverable if someone wanted it badly enough.

If it's really a head crash, then I would be less optimistic.
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