If the majority of Windows users are honest, they will admit that they have removed their USB drives without doing it "safely," which is why you may want to enable quick removal of USB drives. To reduce the risk of damaging data on the drive, Windows supports two different methods of removing USB drives from the computer: Quick Removal and Better Performance.
Quick Removal allows you to take the USB drive out of the port safely whenever data is not transmitting between the device and your computer. With the feature enabled, the computer will keep all other background processes from running when those transmissions are not running. This makes it safe for you to remove the drive at any time without using the once-required process of ejecting it safely.
The Better Performance option for removing USB drives is the classic process that Microsoft has recommended in the past. Before actually pulling the drive from the USB port, you need to go through the steps to remove it safely.
When you use the Better Performance policy, the computer will function at a higher level when you are working with the files on the USB drive. However, if you don't use the correct process to remove the drive, you run the risk of the data on the drive becoming corrupted and unusable.
USB Removal Settings
Starting with the Windows 10 1809 update, the default process for taking the drive out of the port is "Quick Removal." However, you shouldn't assume you can just pull out your USB drives without using the process to remove it safely. You need to check to make sure you have the latest Windows update.
If you have not updated your Windows because you are afraid that it may break your PC, the following shows how to change the default removal policy for USB devices.
To change the default actions for your device:
- Plug in the USB device.
- Identify the drive letter for your device (D:, G:, H:, etc.) by opening File Explorer.
- Press Win + X together.
- Click on "Disk Management."
- In the Disk Management window, right-click the device and choose "Properties."
- Open the "Hardware" tab, select your USB drive, and select "Properties."
- Open the "Policies" tab.
- Enable quick removal of USB drives by clicking the radio button next to "Quick removal." Alternatively, you can select "Better performance," then tick the box next to "Enable write caching" on this device, if you prefer it to run faster.
- Click "OK."
If you are a Windows user who likes to live on the wild side when it comes to removing your USB drives, the new default option of Quick Removal will make it less likely that you will lose your data. But if you would rather, you can change your options to keep the traditional method and keep your performance at an optimum level. You now get to choose the way that is best for you.
Learn how you can check whether a USB drive is bootable with this method.
Problems With This Method
If you were paying close attention during the previous steps, you might have noticed that the Quick Removal setting doesn't apply to every USB drive. So, even if you enable Quick Removal of USB drives, you're only enabling it on that particular drive.
While this is supposed to be the default removal method, there's always the risk that a drive tries to use the other method instead. Of course, unless you check the settings on every drive you insert, you won't know for sure.
Another issue is Quick Removal is only safe if the drive isn't in use. If you have a file open or something's in the process of saving as you pull out the drive, you may still lose that file or corrupt the drive. (We have the fixes if your USB drive becomes unusable.)
This means you'll need to make sure all files are closed and that the drive isn't in use just before pulling it out. If you use USB drives with activity lights on them, it's much easier to tell if it's in use or not. Of course, this is why Microsoft still recommends the old method to safely remove all USB drives and external hard drives.
Remove USB Drives Safely
Ideally, it's a great idea to enable Quick Removal for USB drives as a backup in case you remove your drive without ejecting it first. But, if you want to be extra safe, always remove your USB drive by ejecting via Windows before physically removing it. If it's still in use, you'll get an error message, which will let you know something is still open.
- In the notification tray, right-click the USB icon. If you don't see it, you may need to click the arrow to show everything that's currently in the notification tray.
- Select your USB drive.
- Wait for the "Safe to Remove Hardware" message to appear and you're all set.
Alternately, you can do this via File Explorer.
- Open File Explorer.
- Right-click the USB drive and select "Eject."
- Wait for the "Safe to Remove Hardware" message.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my USB drive active even after closing all my files?
It could be a faulty USB drive that's not reading correctly. In this case, the best way to fix it is to format it. If possible, copy all information to your hard drive first.
Sometimes, Windows glitches and shows a file is still active even when it's not. Try opening a random file (or the same file) on your USB drive. Close it, wait a few seconds, and then try ejecting the drive again. Usually, this fixes the glitch.
However, some older USB drives always show they're in use, even if they're not. For these, you'll have to make sure you've saved and closed everything and use the Quick Removal method.
How do I know which version of Windows 10 I have?
If you're running Windows 11, you definitely have the Quick Removal option. For Windows 10, you should have it if you have kept your system up to date. Otherwise, press Win + X and select "System." Your version of Windows is listed under the "Windows specifications" section.
If it's not 1809 or higher, install the latest updates via Windows Update.
Image credit: Unsplash
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