PS - I am still under warranty. I got a 4 year warranty when I bought this laptop so it would last me through college. So cost is not an issue because I suppose I can get the component (or the entire laptop if I'm lucky) replaced by Dell if need be, especially given their current focus on improving customer service. I just don't want to go through the hassle if I can help it since I have sooo many custom settings and files on this laptop.
Speaking of which, I'm gonna go make a backup now...
Hi CNet folks,
You seem to have a lot of expertise in computer hardware issues, and I thought I would ask you for some advice on a problem I've been having for the past few hours. It's really weird, actually - I was sitting here working on my Dell Inspiron 8500 (a laptop that is just over 3 years old now), and I started to notice a persistent and fairly quiet but nevertheless aggrivating sound that, to me, sounded like a cricket or some other chirping bug. I was sitting next to a window so I closed it but I still heard the sound. So then I moved into a different room, but I still heard it. I decided to try to find the sound by moving my ear towards the sound, and eventually discovered that it was coming from my laptop. I turned off my laptop, and sure enough, the sound went away. Then I turned it back on and the sound came back. After further investigation, it appears the sound is coming from the front left of the laptop, where my hard drive is - if I put my ear next to it, that is where the sound is loudest.
More specifically, the sound is a regular string of about 5-6 very light cricket-style chirps that are evenly paced. The entire sequence takes maybe 1.5 seconds, and sounds more electronic than mechanical, though I suppose it could be mechanical. It is a kind of a squeaky sound. The sequences themselves are irregularly spaced, and there is on average about 5-10 seconds in between every sequence of squeaks (which made me think it was a cricket because it sounds almost natural). Overall it is very quiet, and I couldn't hear it if I had even light music on or if somebody else was talking to me.
What could this be? I actually had the hard drive replaced about 6 months ago, and Dell gave me a refurbished hard drive under my warranty. It's a Toshiba 80GB 5400RPM drive, with the (product?) number MK8026GAX. The laptop itself is running Windows XP Pro with 1.25GB RAM, though I doubt that matters. The temperature of the hard drive is about 118 Fahrenheit, while the CPU runs at about 160 (I run some distributed computing programs that keep it on full blast) and the RAM runs at about 145.
Overall, I have used this laptop VERY heavily (I run it 24/7 and use it maybe 12 hours a day), and while I keep it optimized, I do have a problem with system crashes and corrupted data. This was actually the reason why I replaced my previous hard drive - I thought it might be failing because it failed Dell's diagnostic tests when I ran them after I began to get blue screens of death.
However, the new drive I got from Dell also failed the same diagnostics from Day 1, and I concluded from that that my problem was with my XP installation and not the hardware. This was consistent with the fact that I had also done an XP reinstallation around the same time that the blue screens started. So ever since replacing the hard drive, I have assumed it is a software problem and just ignored it. When I replaced my hard drive with the refurbished one sent by Dell, I made a mirror image of it on an external hard drive and used that to fill the new refurbished one, so I have been assuming that the software problems persisted because of that.
At the end of the day, though, while I know a lot about computers, I don't know nearly enough to determine what actually went wrong, why I keep getting blue screens, or what if anything this has to do with the sounds that just started coming from my hard drive a few hours ago. I suppose it is safe to assume that this hard drive is also failing, but I don't want to go through the hassle of replacing it for the second time in six months if there could be another explanation that is testable. The problem is I can't use Dell's diagnostics since, again, they have failed on this hard drive from Day 1 due (I think) to corrupted data (which cannot be fixed by chkdsk).
Also, I should also note that the chirping started right after I ran Adaware SE, which by its very nature runs the hard drive very hard. That could just be a coincidence though.
Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.