Please help me solve the mystery of this awful clicking noise coming from my iMac. (Video included)

PrimeZone

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 27, 2019
1
0
Hi there. After 15 years of lurking these forums every so often, now I finally have an excuse to make an account!

First off, here's the video.


Backstory:

In October of 2018, my 27 inch iMac (2011) started occasionally making clicking noises every now and then. They were sparse, and I didn't pay much attention to them. My iMac would also sometimes wake itself up out of sleep mode, which I thought was weird, but performance wise, the iMac was still fine.

Over the course of a few weeks though, things changed. The clicking would last longer and become more rampant. In the span of a few days, my computer started freezing every time the clicking began, and I'd have hold down the power button to turn it off. Then I'd restart, and everything would be fine for 20 minutes, but then the clicking would begin again, and the cycle would continue.

On November 13th, the same day I took the video, I walked out of my room for a few minutes. When I came back in, my iMac was frozen and the screen was just the default iMac wallpaper. The file bar and my folders were gone. I freaked out, shut it down with the power button and I have not turned it on since.

I haven't had a computer for 8 months now. It's been terrible. I've just been living with the assumption that my iMac is probably dead, and any attempt to have it repaired or salvage my hard drive is far beyond what I'm able to afford. Worst of all: I'm an audio editing freelancer who depended on my iMac to create and edit, so as you can imagine, it's been very rough.


Now, about the noise: I have looked at so many YouTube videos about dying hard drives in Macs and NONE of them have replicated the noise that my iMac made. My clicking noise sounds like the initial clicking that happens when a Mac goes to sleep or wakes up, but on an infinite screeching loop. Is it really a dying hard drive? Could it be anything else?

The only unusual thing that I had done a few months before the problems began was when I inserted a disc, which the disc drive struggled with, and I had to force eject. Could that have caused something to malfunction within?

I guess even though it's been so long at this point, I'd still like to know what the hell is wrong with my iMac for cathartic reasons.

Maybe someday if I can afford it, I could have this fantastic machine fixed. My iMac gave me so many years of enjoyment. It was the best piece of technology I've ever owned.

Please let me know if you have any ideas on what the clicking issue could be.

Thanks for reading!
 

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,183
391
UK
Sounds like the HDD to me. As long as there is no CD/DVD inserted into the drive the HDD is the only other moving component, and it sounds like the head on the HDD has gone I'm afraid.

A replacement should render the iMac usable again, and it may be possible to salvage what you can from the old HDD, unless you have a backup of your files?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Beachguy

chscag

macrumors 68040
Feb 17, 2008
3,192
986
Fort Worth, Texas
All symptoms including the clicking sound point to the hard drive. Fortunately, your iMac is one of the easier ones to do a hard drive replacement by yourself. Go to www.ifixit.com and look up the hard drive replacement instructions for your model. The site also sells the required tools you'll need to do the job. I'm not sure if Apple would work on a 2011 iMac but if they did, the labor cost plus a new hard drive might be a bit expensive. Much better to do the work yourself.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,152
5,516
The answer is easy and simple:
Your hard drive is failing, and could die at any time.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IMMEDIATELY (if it's not "too late") This means TODAY:
Get an EXTERNAL drive and create a backup if you don't have one.
Download CarbonCopyCloner from here:
Carbon Copy Cloner - Download
CCC is FREE to download and use for 30 days -- This costs you NOTHING

Use CCC to create a BOOTABLE cloned backup on the external drive.
Now, if the internal drive dies, you just boot from the cloned backup, and everything will be there, and you can keep right on going.

NOTE: If the drive is already "dead", the above won't work.
It's still possible to create an external boot drive, but that's "another process".

After you've done that...
There are three things you can do at this point:
a. Pay to have another hard drive installed inside (my impressions from reading your initial post is that you probably wouldn't want to try this yourself). THIS IS NOT WORTH IT for an 8-year-old Mac, in my opinion.
b. Boot from the external drive and run the iMac that way. It will work just fine (for the time being).
c. Start shopping for a new Mac (or an Apple-refurbished, just as good as new).

You really don't have any other choices, so choose one of the above.
If you can get a cloned backup created, I advise "b" for the moment.
But you should start lookin' around for a replacement, anyway.

Either an iMac or possibly a 2018 Mac Mini...
 

Beachguy

macrumors 65816
Nov 23, 2011
1,007
402
Florida, USA
I got to triple thumbs up what Fishrrman says. That disk is dying rapidly. Back it up and replace it. It's a good time to replace it with an all SSD solution which will breathe amazing new life into your old iMac. If you save everything, you'll be amazed at the difference, and this will be a surprise gift to you.
 

Texas_Toast

macrumors 6502a
Feb 6, 2016
849
69
Texas
I got to triple thumbs up what Fishrrman says. That disk is dying rapidly. Back it up and replace it. It's a good time to replace it with an all SSD solution which will breathe amazing new life into your old iMac. If you save everything, you'll be amazed at the difference, and this will be a surprise gift to you.
My experience is that once a HDD starts "clicking" you may have as little as MINUTES before that drive fails.

@Fishrrman's advice is spot on, but let's only hope you have enough time to download and install CCC and get a workable clone.

Drop everything else, and take Fishrrman's advice NOW!!!