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Safely Removing Hardware and Ejecting Media in Windows

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CaptainPC CaptainPC (New Member) New Member

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"Safely Removing Hardware and Ejecting Media in Windows" provides an overview of how to safely remove hardware and eject USB media to avoid data corruption and possible device failure. Several easy to use methods that enable users to protect the data on their USB storage devices are discussed.

Safely Removing Hardware and Ejecting Media in Windows

External hard drives and USB thumb drives are great tools for copying files from your internal Windows hard drive. There are some cautions that must be observed in the removal of such drives when the task has been completed. Simply unplugging the device from the USB port can result in lost or corrupt files, and possibly a damaged external device.

Windows by default uses a setting that allows you to safely disconnect a device without using the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon that displays on your notification bar when you plug in your device. Most of the time, it is safe to remove the device when you leave the default setting in place, and bypass the notification icon. However, there may be occasions when the software in which you are working may not immediately write to the device, or a write can be underway at the moment you unplug the device. Most USB storage devices have a built in light that flickers when a write operation is occurring. Some may not, or the light may be defective. It is therefore advisable to always use the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon prior to removing a USB storage device. This is the only sure way to guard against data loss or corruption on the device.

An alternative to the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon is to click the Start menu and select 'Computer', which will show you a pop out list of the internal and external devices currently connected to your computer. Right click the one you wish to remove, and the context menu will give you an 'Eject' option. Click 'Eject', and Windows will force all data to be written to the device before advising you it is safe to remove the device. You can also go to Windows Explorer and expand 'Computer' to do the same task. Just right click on the device and select 'Eject'.

You can change the settings of your Safely Remove Hardware notification icon by opening 'Device Manager', either by going to the Control Panel or by typing 'Device Manager' into your Start menu search field. The example in Figure 1 shows the Device Manager, as well as a Lexar USB Flash Drive USB Drive.

Device Manager USB.png

Figure 1

Right click on the USB device, select Properties, and the Properties screen will pop up as shown in Figure 2.

Flash Drive Properties.png

Figure 2

Click the Policies tab to bring up the USB Device Policies Properties screen as depicted below in Figure 3.

Flash Drive Prop 2.png

Figure 3

Note that the device is set for Quick Removal under Removal policy, which, as noted earlier, is the default setting. If you decide to retain this setting, it is still best to safely eject any USB storage device by using one of the procedures outlined above. Since you should choose to use the safe removal method, it may be worth your while to change the Figure 3 setting to 'Better Performance', as it uses write caching in Windows, which can speed up performance in using your USB attached drives. You may or may not notice much of a difference, depending on your computer hardware/software specs and configuration, but at least you will know you have selected the optimum performance setting for USB storage devices. In any case, if you do change to this setting, you must use the Safe Removal method to eject your devices, or you will be guaranteed to experience file corruption on your USB devices.

What are your thoughts? Any comments are welcome.


CaptainPC has been hanging around computers since 1982, when audio cassette tapes were common storage media in home computing. He is a church administrator, oversees the church computer network, and holds Comptia's A+ Certification for PC Hardware Maintenance & Repair, as well as Comptia's Network+ certification in general networking. The Captain spends his time maintaining computers, testing software products and cleaning malware infections.

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