08 September 2013

HOW TO: Safely Remove USB Drive

Is it okay to safely remove the USB drive even if Windows does not want to? This is surely the most common question we might ask to the IT expert especially in software and hardware issues because we doubt on how it is exactly had impacted with the USB flash drive or external hard drive.

If you just pull your flash drive or external hard drive and Windows does not display “Isn’t safe to do” message, then you are lucky. I mean, there is no problem at all when unplugging the drive.

However, if you want to safely remove the flash or external hard drive, even Windows does not want you to do such, then you are in big trouble.

Furthermore, if you have heard or believed that it is always need to use Safely Remove Hardware icon before unplugging the USB Drive, then there is a great chance that your USB or external hard drive will not crash or corrupt the files in it.

USB Drive
USB Drive logo: Credits to http://www.logostage.com
Disclaimer: This post will give insight on safe unplugging USB drive. For most applications, it is use as it is which means I have no responsible for whatever wrong it may cause corrupt or damage while you are testing it to your own files. This post hopes to give proper information in which I believe it is very helpful to anyone especially to those users who always ask for the safety of their USB drives.

By Default: Windows sets it to quick removal

device is currently in use
device is currently in use
The sad part of it is Windows does not always give you the benefit to safely remove a flash or external drive. Fortunately, on the other hand, the good news is that Windows would tell you that YOU DON’T need this Safely Remove Hardware option if the removal policy in the properties of a hard drive or flash drive is set to Default Settings.

Safe to Remove Hardware
Safe to Remove Hardware
How to check flash drive Property policies (Removal Policy)

In order to verify if the flash drive’s removal policy is set to default settings or set to Better performance, we need to see and check its property.

1. Open Device Manager ( Click Windows Start Button then type “Device manager”)
Device Manager
Device Manager
2. Or go to Control Panel then click Hardware and Sound. After that, Click Device Manager.
Control Panel\Hardware and Sound.
Control Panel\Hardware and Sound.
3. In the Device Manager settings, click the Disk Drive treeview(arrow icon).
disk drives
disk drives
4. Then choose your flash or external hard drive you want to check.
USB policies
USB policies
5. Click the Policy tab to view removal

Here, I have my TDKMedia Trans-It Drive property. As you can see here it is actually set in its Quick Removal.

Quick Removal means:

Disables write caching on the device and in Windows, but you can disconnect the device safely without using the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon.

Damage files

The policy setting may not be true in most practical ways. The advice displays by Windows is misleading. For instance, you are editing a Word from your USB drive and it says you can disconnect your device WITHOUT safely removing if that is the case then terrible will happen in which it may resulted to damage or corrupt the WORD file.

Data Corruption

Another case, if you are copying or moving files then you unplug your USB device while the data is being written to it, then it is surely resulting to data corruption.
Safely remove USB
Credits to pcandtech.com

Safely Remove Hardware icon

When we safely remove our USB flash drive or external hard drive, we usually click the Safely Remove Hardware icon and then select the drive which can be found in the System tray (below right of your screen monitor).

When you see “safe to remove hardware” message then it gives you information that it is safe to remove the device.

However, there are lots of times, it is not a good time, and Windows will tell you that “This device is currently in use”. Okay, choose: try again, cancel, and continue.

When this happen, usually, we find and decide it is OKAY. But we really don’t know it is very dangerous to do force unplug even though it is not properly and safely set to remove the device.

Confession: Experience

Way back when I was student, I have this 1GB TDK USB device which I considered it a TREASURE and I had to admit it was very important piece of device for me. It was source of my notes, programs, documents, pictures, and mp3s (which that time I don’t already have a PC).

Okay, this is the excited part; I usually unplug my TDK flash drive without clicking Safely Remove Hardware icon. At first, I did not worry for when I plug it again, also, I did not see any unusual or corrupt files in my drive. With that confident, I have this hobby or should I say, I am getting used to it – no safely remove.

At one point in time, when we were busy in our project programs to be submitted, I noticed that my TDK flash drive did not respond when I plug it to other system. I tracked what was wrong with it; I finally concluded that it was on the unplugging without safely removing it.

Wow, the world likes to fall at me at that time. Anyway, from that time, I have this rule in mind that before unplugging any devices, I will see to it that it is properly and safely remove in the notification area.

“Prevention is better than cure” this was then my motto at that time.

Why does Windows displays this device is currently in use?

Sometimes, Windows will not give you the assurance to safety in unplugging your device. It may, Windows found that your DEVICE was actually being in use by other applications.

Ironically, Windows would not tell you information what's using the USB device. Without that information (which application used and blocks to safely remove), it is really a burden and difficult to pin point which is/are exactly software is/are using. If you are familiar with the processes in the task manager bar, then this is quite simple to fix.

But, if you are just guessing it and by using mild solution to close random applications then it could have a chance to acquire the correct status of safely remove the hardware if you click the safely remove icon again in the notification area(system tray).

However, even if you believe you close all the programs and still it displays "This device is currently in use" then you might be in trouble. So what will you do to properly removing the hardware?

Here are the quick solution for that

1. Log off your computer and then log on(here it will probably close process that cause it to be in use) but the problem here is it takes time and there is no guarantee.

2. If the above logoff and logon still does not solve or fix the problem, then you may try shutting down it. Rebooting a system will fix the problems for 90% (even in other system issues – restarting the system will fix the problems).

The problem with these two (2) quick solutions is it takes really time.

Now, if you don't want to reboot your system, then you need other 3rd party software to simply close the application or processes that made it "in use".

Unlocker
Way back 2011, I used this useful tool – Unlocker. For quick review, Unlocker is a free Windows utility tool that ends or terminates a certain process that is being used or opened by another application. When it found another processes or applications, it can opt you to force to stop it.

Ideally, Unlocker is very useful if you can't delete, rename, or moving folders and files. In connection with the "Device being in use", Unlocker will locate and find the process made it "in use".

Other Useful application: USB Safely Remove

USB Safely Remove is a great safe removal tool that is easy-to-use and hassle-free utility tool. You don't need to use Unlocker or restarting your computer. And it will saves time and gives you powerful way to work with any kind of USB/Hard Drive devices.

Key Features

  • Displays process or application that blocks a device from being stopped
  • Hotkeys: Saves time
  • Cool Icons
  • Hide devices(important devices that need not to close)
  • Autorun on devices
  • Power on/off the devices in Windows Vista and Windows 7
  • Reactivates a device

You can visit here: http://safelyremove.com/

Purpose of Safely Remove Hardware

For the safety and security issue, this feature in Windows is quite important. It is about a device to remove it safely from unplugging. Safety means avoiding from potential corrupting and damaging the files in the USB drive or external hard drive.

Would you like to use USB drive – edit and modify documents then suddenly become corrupt? That would be a really really a bad day.

What if I did not see the Safely Remove Hardware icon?

Sometimes, for unknown reason, Safely Remove Hardware icon does not display in the notification area or system tray located below right.

So how to fix this problem?

By doing this solution it will display the Safely Remove Hardware dialog display.

Click Start then click Run ....type below and click OK in the RUN window
  • RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll
Here, you can now safely remove a certain USB device.

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