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I have an external hard drive connected to macbook. When I am listening to music and my mac is not in sleeping mode everything is fine, but after 15 min. when display is turning off and music is still playing my hard drive has very weird behavior - it looks like it turning on/off every 40 seconds 'to load a little bit of music and continue sleeping' making simultaneously ugly sounds/snaps. I don't remember the same behavior when I used Windows.

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It's likely just the parking of heads and the disk wanting to stay in "sleep" mode. You can read more about that here.

One way to stop the disk from going to sleep (some external enclosures have extreme disk sleep settings to conserve power) is to use pmset.

For example, to prevent an attached disk from going to sleep while your device is plugged in to AC (charger) is as follows:

sudo pmset -c disksleep 0

It's of note that this prevents all disks from going to sleep, not just the external enclosure.

pmset is the program that handles all power management settings on OS X. The Power Management Preference Pane is just a front end to that utility. All settings are persistent (saved on reboot) and are actually written to a plist (/Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.PowerManagement.plist).

Additionally, you could try using HDAPM (I ran this for months before I moved to an SSD).

I would suggest trying to use pmset to prevent the disk from sleeping. It works on most external enclosures, but if you find that it's not honored by your manufacturer, you may have to find an alternate method. I've found WD and some Seagate enclosures to be problematic. pmset is not a hack and should be honored by all device manufacturers; however if you find that yours is not, try heading over to their support forums. They may have a firmware update or more information.

Lastly, if you suspect the drive of premature failure, you'll have to run a proper analysis of the drive's physical health. Disk Utility is not a reliable program in this case, as it deals with filesystem structure and integrity. You will want to use either a 3rd party utility (like Disk Warrior) or better yet, the free tools supplied by the hard drive's manufacturer (which will most likely require Windows).

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You may have a drive hardware problem. If you are new to macs, you may have a drive that is formatted for Windows, and this possibly could also cause the noise.

To make sure that your drive is ok, you use Disk Utility. It's in the Utilities Folder, that is a sub-folder of Applications.

Run Disk Utility, select your drive, and then Verify Drive. It should not take too long. If it does turn out you have a problem, you need to get your information off of that drive asap. Then you reformat that drive (again, using Disk Utility). Then finally, check the drive once again.

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I) What filesystem the drive is formatted in has no bearing on hardware issues. There may be limits to what the OS can do (read/write) on unsupported filesystems, but that doesn't interfere with a drive's physical health. II) Disk Utility deals with filesystem integrity, not hardware issues. It can consult S.M.A.R.T. analysis, but that is neither a good tool to isolate potential hardware faults or is available for external hard disks. –  cksum Dec 11 '11 at 23:59
    
Disk Utility is a great starting point to find out if a drive is working. May I ask what you would suggest? –  David DelMonte Dec 12 '11 at 0:18
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No, it is not. Disk Utility deals with filesystem integrity. A drive could be malfunctioning and Disk Utility would not report any problems. It may report a problem with the filesystem and subsequently be unable to repair but that doesn't give you a clear indication as to the problem. Additionally, since the drive is an external one, it won't even have access to the S.M.A.R.T. data. You will require either the tools supplied by the drive's manufacturer or a 3rd party app like Disk Warrior. DU does not deal with hardware issues, just the filesystem. –  cksum Dec 12 '11 at 0:24
    
oops. I missed your reply. I still like using DU, but Disk Warrior, Drive Genius, and Data Rescue have also helped me. Apologies if my answer was too glib. –  David DelMonte Dec 12 '11 at 0:33
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