ticking noise = hard drive failure?

So I recently purchased a shiny, brand new Dell Inspiron 1520 Laptop. It has a duo core intel processor and it is running Windows Vista Ultimate. I recieved it yesterday, and from the moment it started running, it was making funny noises. First was the distinctive high pitched whining noise that is apparently quite common for the new processors in laptops when using Vista (cite) but I managed to fix that using RMClock. However, once that when away, I realized it had been replaced–or perhaps had simply been covering up–a low ticking noise. It is not loud, but definitely audible in a quiet room. It sounds exactly like an analog clock–like the kind your grandmother had in her living room perhaps–and the ticks are basically a second apart. Sometimes they stutter, though, and when the CPU is working they go away. They are a mechanical, internal sound, and they are not coming from the speakers but from inside the laptop case, under the keyboard. My guess is that they are coming from the hard drive. That is what it sounds like, except usually hard drive ticks aren`t steady and consecutive…

I have applied my googlefu to this problem, and a lot of the links seem to indicate that a ticking noise is often coupled with incipient hard drive failure. I would call Dell up, but unfortunately I live in Japan, but I don`t speak Japanese. And Dell Japan tech support does not speak English… I would prefer not to deal with the hassle unless the noise is actually a symptom of something serious.

Has anyone experienced this problem in the past? Do any tech support types know if this is a common sign of trouble? Is there anything I can do to make this hideous noise go away?

(Sorry for posting about my technical woes so much lately! I really appreciate y`all…)

An atypical hard drive noise is a sign of hard drive failure. However, many hard drives make some clicking and ticking noises as part of normal operation. This can be very apparent in a laptop because all of the hardware is right there with you. The problem is that you have to be experienced with your computer to notice the change. I would guess that it is probably fine but there is no way to know unless you try another computer of the same model yourself.

Is it a regular clicking noise, or random?

It sounds counterintuitive, but regular, repeated clicking is Not Good, random clicking is actually normal

click.click.click.click.click = BAD!

click…click…whirr…clickclick…whirr.whirr…beepboopbeep… = normal

I have the same computer (Brown, what colour did you get?) and it ticks and whirrs, but it’s not regular. My gigantic external drive is also quiet, so I don’t know what the problem with yours is. Maybe wait and see for a bit? If it’s about to fail, then it would still be under warranty, yes? You could store some stuff online or on CDs just in case. I am not a technical sort of person, so feel free to ignore my advice if you think the drive is really going to go belly-up.

Absolutely definitely back up your important stuff (your My Documents folder for starters) to a CD-R or USB flash drive.

Are you sure it’s not just drive activity? Especially if it’s a new installation and still sniffing through your files, Windows can beat a drive half to death with its internal indexing and housekeeping processes when the system is otherwise inactive.

You mention they go away when the CPU is busy. My initial guess is the noise is normal for what the system is doing.