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How do I know if my hard drive is failing?

iBook starts intermittently. Apple appears and the wheel spins but will not boot. Sometimes it's just a gray screen. Have run disk utility from the operating system DVD. It fails to repair permissions and disk. When it does start, some of the applications work others just have the spinning color wheel. I have already sent for a replacement hard drive from ifixit, so I am hoping this will solve the problem. Sometimes I can hear some soft clicking coming from the hard drive area.

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It certainly does sound like a failed drive. If you have an external you can boot to (either an external drive or another Mac in Target Mode), and that OS is at least 10.4.11, you can download a great app called SMART Utility (look for it at versiontracker.com.) This app will directly read the self-monitoring attributes of the internal drive and tell you if any of them have suffered failure. It's especially useful for finding out of blocks (sectors) are starting to fail, which almost always gets progressively worse.

If it's the stock drive this iBook came with, it's of the age where it's a candidate for failure.

When you're installing the new drive, be very careful disconnecting the power and speaker cables. I broke a speaker cable connection once and ended up with a mute iBook. I borrowed the hemostat from my fly-tying kit for disconnecting these cables after that incident, and it works well.

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If it starts making sounds you haven't heard before, it's a good sign the disk is failing.

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Hi! It sounds like you've diagnosed this correctly. One way to rule out the rest of the computer is to connect to another Apple computer via Firewire and boot from that computer's hard drive in target mode. If the laptop runs fine using that computer's hard drive and doesn't exhibit any of the same symptoms, then you know the laptop is fine and the hard drive is bad. If the reverse is true and you do notice the same symptoms, then it is possible there are some other hardware issues with the laptop. But again, sounds like if you swap the drive you'll be in good shape. Good luck!

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