Hard Drive Heads frequently being set to rest position (Is this normal?)

Hi SUSE community,

I’ve noticed since day one of installing openSUSE that my hard drive makes faint clicking noises quite frequently. At first I thought my drive was bad but after doing an extensive SMART diagnostics test (Passed) and researching on internet I’ve found that the clicking is actually the heads of my hard drive being put to the rest position via openSUSE’s power management. I’ve confirmed this because if I run this command:

sudo /sbin/hdparm -B 254 /dev/sda

My hard drive will no longer make any noises and will run silently until the next reboot, as it keeps the hard drive spinning constantly.

I’m basically asking (Because I’m paranoid) if the frequent hard drive head movement will reduce the hard drive’s life span? I want to find out because I recently upgraded from a 160 GB 5400 rpm WD Scorpio Blue hard drive to a 500 GB 7200 rpm WD Scorpio Black. My old hard drive did not make as nearly as much clicking noises as my new one does, but the clicking can also be heard in Windows (Though not as frequent).

Any information to put my worries at rest would be greatly appreciated!



On Fri, 08 Apr 2011 17:36:02 +0000, jmwhite19 wrote:

> I’m basically asking (Because I’m paranoid) if the frequent hard drive
> head movement will reduce the hard drive’s life span?

Not likely - the reason hard drive heads get parked is to spin the drives
down to save power, but a general side effect of that is that the drive
is used less, so it has less wear.

That said, I’ve heard of occasional issues with older drives (not because
they’re older, but because of their time in service) sometimes having
problems with something called ‘stiction’ - if they’ve been on for a long
tiem and then come to rest, the motor might not be able to overcome the
friction of being stopped when the drives have cooled down.

But I’ve never actually seen that happen in practice myself.


Jim Henderson
openSUSE Forums Administrator
Forum Use Terms & Conditions at http://tinyurl.com/openSUSE-T-C

I haven’t had this problem lately . I have had this problem before. The only way I have been able to fix it , Is a reload/re-install. to get the HD to settle down. The HD makes a crunching sound.
Like some thing did not get install/configured right.

A re-install usually will fix it. I would not let it go like that, Hope you didn’t get to far along setting your system up the way you like it.

That doesn’t sound promising. Though would a reinstall really sort it? The clicking also happens in Windows (Though less frequent) but it does seem it’s a power saving feature. So like hendersj said can it really damage the hard drive if the hard drive is spinning down to save wear.

I don’t think the hard drive is getting thrashed and the clicking is more of a faint tick noise. Running the command I posted in my original post stops the ticking so I think I can say with 90% accuracy that the noise is the hard drive heads being parked.

Surely there would be a setting I can adjust to control the head parking movement?

Answering my own question (of sorts), I’ve come across an article about Disk Management, via this article on the SUSE forums:

Disk Power Management - openSUSE

Which details how to control my disk and it’s head parking rate. I’ve just ran the script and it seems to work, I’ll read further it to make sure my disk isn’t going to have an early grave.

I only had this HD making noise sometimes on a fresh install and I notice it before I get to far setting up my system. Fact is that is one of the things I look/listen for on a fresh install. and if it happens I reinstall.
I have not looked into what it is , because I know from past experiences that I was able to reinstall to fix it, that and if the HD did not get config just right, what else didn’t.

Now that you brought this to light, I my try to uninstall the power management and reinstall it to see if the will fix the HD noise next time.
I don’t know if it would damage the HD, but I would not bet against it. It(the HD) sure don’t sound good when running.

So after a few weeks of making some changes the Disk Management config described in the Wiki article I posted previously seems to stop the hard drive heads parking all the time.

On AC power now the hard drive heads do not park at all so it seems the hard drive now constantly spins, on battery the hard drive heads do park and make the faint ticking noise every 7 seconds or so, confirming that it definitely is power management. This still seems quite regular so I’ll be tweaking the config to see if I can get it to be less frequent.

I can however run the command:

pm-powersave false

Which does stop the head parking even on battery.

That’s what I’ve found out from testing.


I recently switched to OpenSUSE and I’m having the same problem. (My disk would probably last for about 1 or 2 years without a fix.) Just after posting here I found your thread so I figured I’d better ask here: did you change anything in the scripts in the wiki before using them, or did they work ‘out of the box’ on 11.4?



(edit: are you using 11.4? If not, sorry for assuming! :shame:)