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Should I Eject USB Drives Before Removing Them

Should I Eject USB Drives Before Removing Them

How and why you should always remove your USB drives safely…

A common question when it comes to external storage is, do I really need to eject my USB drives before removing them?
Most Mac’s have an eject option for all drives, but that doesn’t always appear to be case with Window machines. Does that mean its safe to simply remove the drive without clicking eject?

Well, this simple answer is ‘Yes, you should always eject drives safely’ however it really depends on the operating system and the type of storage drive in question. Let me explain.

Most operating systems use a feature called write cache, to enable better performance when reading and writing from external drives. When files are copied to the drive, they are not copied immediately instead they are cached away. The pending actions are only performed when the user clicks eject.

should I always eject usb drive before removing it

Do I Need To Eject A USB Drive Before Removing It?

Image Credit: Rico Shen>, 2007.

Mac and Linux OS use write cache on all external drives, so it’s important to remove external drives on the systems using the eject button.

Windows however has a neat little feature that disables write cache on any drive it thinks is removable, because it assumes that’s most users will pull it out without removing it safely. This reduces the chance of data corruption on those drives, but it doesn’t always work, and can lead to some problems.

The thing is, Windows doesn’t always recognize the drive as removable, and will still enable the write cache. When this happens, you won’t get a eject button and since write cache is enabled, there’s more chance that your data will be corrupt if the drive is not safely removed.

Fortunately, Windows does provide a way to optimize any drive for speed, or removal. To do this:

  • Navigate to the Device Manager
  • Expand the Disk Drive section
  • Right click the drive to edit
  • Click Properties
  • Under the Policies tab click:
    • Quick Removal to disable write cache, or
    • Better performance to enable write cache.

The eject button on Mac is quiet clear, it can’t be little harder to find Windows option for safely removing external drives (bottom right task bar icon labeled ‘safely remove hardware’, from this list you should be able to find your drive and eject it.

If you’ve ever tried to eject a device and it hasn’t worked because it’s ‘still in use’, it’s likely that music or photo manager software has detected media on the drive and cached it ready for easy access. To get around this make sure you close all windows displaying the drive’s contents, and close any music, video, or photo applications that might have picked up media on the drive.

If you find this happening regularly, you’ll need to adjust your media application preferences and turn off the option to automatically detect media on external drives. Windows users may also need to disable the Autorun feature, which also detects automatically any media on the drive. Instructions on how to do that here>>> Disable Windows AutoRun Feature.

Related Posts:


  1. Whitson Gordon: Do I Really Need to Eject USB Drives Before Removing Them? Gizmodo, 11/30/2011.
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