The clicking sound itself arises from the unexpected movement of the disk's read/write actuator. At startup, and during use, the disk head must move correctly and be able to confirm that it is correctly tracking data on the disk. If the head fails to move as expected or upon moving cannot track the disk surface correctly, the disk controller may attempt to recover from the error by returning the head to its home position and then retrying, at times causing an audible "click". In some devices, the process automatically retries, causing a repeated or rhythmic clicking sound, sometimes accompanied by the whirring sound of the drive plate spinning.
Origin of the term
The phrase "click of death" originated to describe a failure mode of the Iomega ZIP drives, appearing in print as early as January 30, 1998. In his podcast of September 18, 2008, Mac journalist Tim Robertson claimed to have coined the phrase in the early 1990s.
Iomega Zip drives
Iomega Zip drives were prone to developing misaligned heads. Iomega received thousands of complaints about the click of death. Iomega stated that fewer than 1 in 200 Jaz and Zip drive owners were affected by the click of death. A class-action suit (Rinaldi v. Iomega Corp., 41 U.C.C. Rep. Serv. 2d 1143) was filed against them for violation of the Delaware Consumer Fraud Act in September 1998.
Hard disk drives
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2011)
On a hard disk drive, the click of death refers to a similar failure mode; the head actuator may click or knock as the drive repetitively tries to recover from one or more errors. These sounds can be heard as the heads load or unload, or they can be the sounds of the actuator striking a stop, or both.
- "The Click of Death Ate My Data". PCWorld. January 15, 1999. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2011.
- Festa, Paul (30 January 1998). ""Click of death" strikes Iomega". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
- MyMac Podcast #201 Archived 2009-08-26 at the Wayback Machine, 00:56:40 – 00:58:30.
- Wittenberg, Jeffrey D. (2012). Products Liability: Recreation and Sports Equipment. ALM. pp. 13–54. Retrieved 2011-09-12 – via Google Books.
- Saurbh, Utkarsh (2018-09-03). "4 warning signs that your hard drive is dying". Gadgets Now. Retrieved 2022-12-29.