Monday, April 05, 2010

Mouse inside notebook hard drive

Does your Apple notebook hard drive (HDD) ever sound like little mice are playing table tennis inside of it? Yeah my is! Tell the truth this problem actually occurs on all operating systems based on Unix/Linux, including the Mac OS.

What I've found: "This “clicking” is part of a 'power management system' that functions to save energy and reduce temperatures. For every 'click' what’s happening is the heads of the HDD are parking, and the disk platters begin to stop spinning. But then the HDD’s heads quickly unpark, and then park again, and then unpark, and sometimes this happens every couple of seconds and becomes very annoying. It is most especially annoying when using a notebook computer in a very quiet setting. The click(s) can sound just like a ping pong ball being dropped on a hard surface."
The question is why this not happen on Windows? The answer is: "The folks who say that Windows Vista is not plagued with this problem claim it is because the OS accesses the HDD so very often, like every 4 seconds at a minimum, the HDD’s aggressive power management scheme never has a chance to kick-in and sleep the HDD and park the heads." And: "This issue is not just about an annoying noise emitting from the HDD, all those clicks might be drastically shortening the life of the HDD. To computer geeks each one of those annoying ping-pong ball sounding clicks is known as a 'Load_Cycle_Count' and every HDD manufactured has a limited number of allowable load cycle counts before the HDD fails! My particular drive will fail at around 600,000 load cycle counts. that number may seem high, but considering that the HDD in question is already at 22,731 “clicks” or load cycle counts (this number is easily ascertainable with the use of specific software) in under one month’s use, well, do the math. My HDD is pre-programmed to fail in 2 years. Many people have reported a much higher rate of accumulated “clicks” than my HDD has. I have an old external 80 gig firewire HDD that is running strong after 8 years of use!"

Thank the author of this blog for information and back to my hardware. The PC notebook I had with Linux on board had such clicks also, but I don't know how to eliminate this problem there. Regarding my Mac I have such problems too. In addition, I like to play Quake Live game on my Mac and it has freeze a little by unknown reason. Now I know why it happen. Because of little mice are playing table tennis inside of it ;)

There is a good remedy for Mac - 'hdapm' is Mac OS command line utility for setting the power management (APM) level in ATA hard drives. The installation procedure is inside 'Read Me' pdf file within archive. Just download it, read and install. It was tested on Mac OS 10.6.3 with FUJITSU MJA2160BH FFS G1 hard drive (original mac hard drive). And no freeze in game, and no death clicks. Maybe battery life will little shorter by this, but I didn't note it on my system. The temperature of hard drive is in normal state also.

My little tips are:
  1. To be sure that this utility working with your system drop it to /usr/local/bin and run in Terminal for your system disk0:
    $ hdapm disk0 max
    You must get: "Setting APM level to 0xfe: Success" If no, than you have wrong drive, sorry. If yes, continue next item
  2. To automatically setup level every reboot, drop the hdapm.plist to /Library/LaunchDaemons
  3. After reboot check the system.log in Console (see screenshot below). If success No mice in your hard drive.
Happy hunting

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