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weird cricket sound coming from hard drive

by psychoxl99 / August 22, 2006 2:02 PM PDT

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.

Thanks!
Stephen

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ps
by psychoxl99 / August 22, 2006 2:06 PM PDT

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...

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Cricket, Cricket, Cricket, Cricket, Cricket
by guswo / September 14, 2006 5:38 AM PDT

For the past few months I, too, have heard the #@$#$%#@ crickets. I have a Power PC G5 and am using OSX 12.4.7. I've used my Apple Hardwaretest, Disk Warior and Techtool Pro, and my drives past. I contacted Apple Care but they could not identify the problem (They could hear the crickets over the phone, so we're not crazy) except to determine my internal hard drive is ok.

I have an external hard drive and after removing it, and starting up again, I still hear those crickets.

Apple Care told me to bring the computer in to my local Apple Repair Store which I am doing. If that helps or it is determined why the #@$#$%#@ crickets are talking to us, I'll be back to let you know what I find out. That might not be until after Oct. 10th.

Gus
Westerly, RI

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Could it be
by samkh / September 15, 2006 2:02 AM PDT

your cell phone? Those signals near a laptop, desktop or car stereo cause chirping, but the sound is not continuous.

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Don't take a risk
by crnmail / September 15, 2006 7:51 PM PDT

Stephen,

Hard drives are the #1 failure mode for laptops because of all the moving parts. Even with backups, a disk failure is a major hassle.

A properly-working drive should be silent (barely noticeable clicking when the heads move, and even then, the room needs to be very quiet). If you can hear anything more than this, don't take the chance -- return it if you can, but buy a new drive. Drives wear out, so buying a refurbished drive seems to me like trading one risk for another.

I just checked on www.drivesolutions.com (just one example, there are others) and you can get a new 80GB drive for your laptop for $95, and a 120GB for $150. Not much to pay for peace of mind. And there's only 6 drive manufacturers left (Quantum, Seagate, Western Digital, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Toshiba); their quality standards are all high so you can buy based on price, capacity & speed (RPMs).

Also, the amount of RAM you have does affect the wear as your drive is used by the OS to shuffle data back and forth if there is not enough RAM for all the applications. I would not run XP with less than 2 GB of RAM. It will speed things up and reduce the wear on the drive significantly.

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Have a cocktail! it may work to get rid of those crickets.
by guswo / September 15, 2006 10:38 PM PDT

I thought I had sent this message to you, but I don't see it, so I'm trying again. It seems the answer is to clean out your caches.

A friend of mine suggested I use Cocktail. I did and opened it. Then I clicked on Files. You have six choices. I picked Caches. I have System, User, and Internet checked also. There is an option button. I clicked on it. I have Virtual memory swap files, Kernal caches, and Core files checked. I don't know about Temporary print (CUPS) files or Other temporary files, so I don't have them checked. I closed the window. Then I had the option to click the clean button which I did. It took a short while to complete. I also checked the optimizing button.

Did it work for me? I think so. I usually hear the cricket when I start up as well as other times. I haven't heard the crickets since I followed this procedure two days ago.

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Problem has not gone away
by crnmail / September 16, 2006 2:33 AM PDT

See my other post, "Don't take a risk". You hear the sound less after emptying the caches because it will take a couple of days of operation to fill them again. At that point the disk drive will start getting busy again, swapping files during applications, and the cricket sound will come back.

The sound indicates wear in the disk drive. Get a new one -- they are cheap and it's not worth the risk (and maybe get more RAM also to take some of the burden off the hard drive and speed up your applications).

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