Tips For Proper USB Removal
If you are in the habit of unplugging a USB device without going the route of using the Safely Remove Hardware icon, then you should read this article before doing that again. It’s quite likely that you have not encountered any problems just unplugging the device without the use of the Safely Remove Hardware icon.
‘What’s the big deal?’ you might ask; ‘We’ve all done it at least a couple dozen times’ you might add. Indeed, depending on the settings you select, Windows actually tells you that you don’t need to use the Safely Remove Hardware option. But that bears some explanation.
The choice Windows gives is whether you want to optimize your device for quick removal (the default option) or for better performance. To view the dialogue box that contains the options, follow these steps: open the Start menu, type Device Manager and press Enter.
Next, expand the Disk drives section in the Device Manager and right-click your device. Select Properties from the options presented. In the new dialogue box select the Policies tab.
The Quick Removal (Default) Option
The Quick Removal option decreases the performance level of the USB, but in normal everyday use many people simply forget to use the Safely Remove Hardware option. The chances of data corruption are minimized (but not eliminated)in such cases. This option says you can disconnect your device safely without using the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon but write caching will be disabled. What does that mean? Windows will effect changes to your device immediately as you instruct it to. Data corruption can then occur if you disconnect the USB while moving files to it, saving a file to it, or doing any other process that involves having data being written to it.
The Better Performance Option
Using this option, Windows will cache or store data instead of immediately writing it to the device. This will in essence improve your device’s performance since the files you wish to copy are first placed into a cache in the computer’s fast memory of RAM and then transferred to the slower-reading flash memory of the device. File dialogues will close up sooner but the actual copying occurs in the background and takes just as long.
The Safely Remove Hardware option must be used, however, to allow Windows to transfer the data from the write cache to the device. Data corruption is likely if you disconnect without using the Safely Remove Hardware option. The option instructs Windows to ensure that all the necessary changes have been made to the device before it notifies you that you may now safely remove it.
Your Best Bet
Some USB devices have a blinking light to indicate that the device is currently in use. This may be misleading as there are instances when the device may still be in use and the light off. Other devices simply do not have an indicator light.
The safest option is to allow Windows to verify that the device is not in use – all files have been copied to it, all changes you intend have been made – then notify you to go ahead and safely remove it. To do this you may choose to either use the Safely Remove Hardware icon and Eject your device before unplugging it or right-click on the USB device in the Computer window and select Eject. Windows will eliminate any chances of data corruption by telling you when it is safe to remove it.
The procedure is safest whether you are on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X.