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I have an early 2011 13" MBP, i7, 8GB crucial RAM, 500 GB Seagate ST9500325ASG.

I've had it for about 4 months. Twice, including last night, the beach ball appears, concurrent with a sound that can only be described as a squeak, coming from, I assume, the hard drive. Then, the beach ball freezes and the machine can only be revived by a hard restart.

The cover is closed and I am using a keyboard and monitor. The Console shows nothing, no kernel panic.

I have done some research, and this sound is not like those recorded on YouTube.

I am at a loss. Is my hard drive on its way out? Should I be concerned?

Update

The responses so far have all assumed that because the hard drive is making noise that it is about to dies. Is this really case? Has anyone had the same circumstance? Also, why does the computer freeze? Is this also a symptom of a dying drive?

Another Update

I've made a video where you can hear the noise. This describes is much better than i can!

Final Update

I cloned the drive using SuperDuper and replaced it. No further issues.

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3  
Backup. Preferably now. Best-case, it turns out to be fine, and you now have time-machine backups. –  Fake Name Mar 8 '12 at 23:10
    
Thanks. I do back up. The question is more about hard drive health than my back up strategy. –  mmcglynn Mar 8 '12 at 23:11
    
With the lid closed, how hot is the MBP getting? –  segiddins Mar 10 '12 at 2:35
    
If the sound is coming from your hard drive, then yes. It is dying. You're lucky it even works at all. There are moving parts in there that move extremely quickly and so close together even a spec of dust wouldn't fit inside the gap. If they touch touch serious and irreparable damage will result. Since it's an early 2011 model, it is almost certainly still covered under warranty and apple should replace it without any questions. Your hard drive is not meant to make sounds like you describe for any reason at all, except a serious manufacturing defect or physical damage. –  Abhi Beckert Mar 10 '12 at 3:48
    
As to what else might cause the sound, there are only three things that commonly make any sound in your computer. The hard drive, the cd/dvd drive, the fan, and the speaker (other components can make sounds too, but that's very rare and usually too quiet to hear). If the fan or speaker were making the sound, then it wouldn't cause a freeze or anything. I'm assuming you don't have a disk in the optical drive so it's not that. However a hard drive with physical problems, it might very well shut itself down, and not power back up until you reboot. –  Abhi Beckert Mar 10 '12 at 3:52

5 Answers 5

Number one, backup immediately. At least if it dies you got all your data. I would recommend using a drive scanning utility to check your drive for hardware issues. S.M.A.R.T is useless, its pretty good that telling you that your drive is already dead.

All the really good utils aren't free. Techtool Pro has been my tool of choice, however its not cheap.

While you're at it install Disk Drill to get temps for your drive make sure its not over heating and also get some recovery mechanism in place (other than time machine). The basic edition is free. You can grab it from here: http://www.cleverfiles.com/

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Actually, my version of Disk Utility doesn't show S.M.A.R.T. status, should it? –  mmcglynn Mar 9 '12 at 0:19
    
Whats it got at the bottom? –  Digitalchild Mar 9 '12 at 1:17
    
Disk Utility's S.M.A.R.T. display is useless, but tools that report the status in more detail can sometimes be useful. Unfortunately, the one I know is TechTool Pro, which (as Lyken said) ain't free. –  Gordon Davisson Mar 9 '12 at 2:08
    
THANK YOU! I'd +100 if I could. First person I've seen that is absolutely bang on about S.M.A.R.T. analysis being completely and utterly useless. I'd recommend running Disk Warrior to test the drive. Excellent diagnostic and recovery program. Extremely powerful. –  cksum Mar 10 '12 at 9:50

Is your computer still covered by warranty or do you have AppleCare? If yes, Apple will no doubt replace the drive for you at no cost.

But first get an external drive. Do a complete backup on it with a tool like SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner.

Once done set startup so that the external drive starts up your machine.

Once you start up unmount (dismount) the internal drive which isn't running the show anymore. This should stop it from spinning.

Use the external drive for a while and see if you hear the noise. If you don't hear it it's probably the internal drive and if the machine is under warranty you can erase it and let Apple replace it (with your good backup safely in hand). If your machine is out of warranty you can erase the internal and replace it with a new internal drive yourself, then format it and use SuperDuper or CCC to copy the backup back over it.

Start up from the new internal drive and you're back in business.

Continue backing up daily onto the backup drive.

Note: The only possible problem with any of this is if the dying internal drive has some problem (bad) blocks on it that corrupt some of your data. As posted by others, it might be a good idea to test the data on both the internal (bad) drive and the backup after you make your first backup but before you go through the process of erasing the internal, just to make sure you don't skip the step of attempting to resurrect data on it with a tool like Tech Tool Pro. This may not be necessary but without testing the data it's tough to know.

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The first thing to do in this situation is to use Disk Utility to check HDD S.M.A.R.T. Status. If your disk have passed S.M.A.R.T. test, then try to pass Repair Disk procedure. Otherwise it is better to backup all important information A.S.A.P.

Anyway the fastest algorithm to change your suspicious hard drive is:

  1. Remove the notebook bottom cover.
  2. Remove your old HDD
  3. Setup the new HDD
  4. Close the bottom cover
  5. Install the Lion (you could make a system update in addition)
  6. Place your old HDD into external case
  7. Use Migration Assistant to transfer your applications and data from the old disk

After this you will have the notebook with a new disk and updated system, fully transferred personal account with your preferences and external HDD you can boot in case

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S.M.A.R.T. is useless. About half the time a smart error occurs, there is actually nothing wrong with the disk at all, and about half of disk failures do not show any smart error. I wouldn't even bother checking the S.M.A.R.T. status. –  Abhi Beckert Mar 10 '12 at 3:54

I have a late 2008 MacBook Pro, which made a similar sound just once. It also began freezing up, requiring hard restarts, and ultimately not starting at all. Apple replaced both the the hard drive and the logic board under warranty. It's painful, but soon you'll have your computer back and functioning better than ever!

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The responses so far have all assumed that because the hard drive is making noise that it is about to dies. Is this really case?

Yes. As half a dozen response said so already would already, 95% of the time the drive is about to die.

Has anyone had the same circumstance?

We all have, I personally seen a hundred dying drives making all different types of squeaks and clicks.

Also, why does the computer freeze? Is this also a sympton of a dying drive?

The computer can reactly to the die drive in many different way, because a dying drive can stop sending data or sent wrong data to the computer, the computer may either freeze, kernel panic, show you an error and continue to let you to work. It can be different everytime. The only common thing is the hard drive making strange squeaky/clicky noises while the computer stalls/freezes/crash.

Maybe you only had it for 4 months and that's why you think the hard drive should be fine, but the symptoms you told us are CLASSIC dying hard drive symptoms. So please at least to get it checked before it's too late.

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