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How to Safely Remove a USB Drive?

July 10, 2013 11:32 am / Updated by Jerry Cook to Card Topics
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Some USB devices, such as a flash drive or a memory card connected with USB card reader, can't be unplugged from your computer. Avoid losing files, crashing applications, or even ruining everything on the computer, you need to safely remove a USB drive when you are not allowed to.

Note: If you lose files on the computer or ruin the files on your USB drive, ask for Card Data Recovery to recover.
Removing USB drive safely isn't always as easy as it should be. However Windows' built-in solution usually works:

Windows' Built-in Solution

1) Close all files you accessed from the flash drive. This is necessary for the device to be removed properly. Don't forget to save your files before closing the files.

2) Right-click the "USB" icon marked with a checkmark. It is located on the bottom right of your taskbar. From the pop-up menu, click "Safely Remove Hardware". A small window will be displayed.

3) Select the USB flash drive you want to unplug then click the "Stop" button. A confirmation window will appear. Click the appropriate hardware device, then click "OK". The "Safe to Remove Hardware" windows will inform you that it's now safe to unplug the USB flash drive from your computer.

But sometimes, "usually" isn't good enough, and Windows instead tells you that "The device is currently in use".

remove a usb drive from a computer

But Windows won't tell you what's using the device. Without that information, it's tough to know how to fix the problem. You can close all of your Windows Explorer windows, along with any programs that might be holding onto a file from the drive. Then try the Safely Remove Hardware icon again.

Shut Down Your Computer

If that doesn't work, you can simply shut down your computer—not hibernate it or put it in sleep mode—but shut it down completely. That always works, but it takes time and interrupts your workflow.


Intended to help you free up files that Windows won't let you delete, Unlocker, which is completely freeware and will remain free, can also help free external drives. It doesn't cost anything, although you're encouraged to make a $5 donation.

1) Download and install the program.

2) Right-click the drive and select Unlocker when Windows tells you a "device is currently in use."

3) The program will tell you what process or processes are causing the problem. And it will offer solutions. It can kill the process, but that can make Windows unstable. It can also try to unlock the files from one or all processes without killing them.

safely remove a usb drive from a computer

Actually, once you know what process is causing the problem, you can usually figure out what application you need to close. Just close the program manually, saving all appropriate files, then use the Safely Remove Hardware icon again.

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