A woman plugging a USB drive into a laptop.
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Do you always “eject” your USB drives before unplugging them? You can save yourself some clicks—and some time—with these simple tips, because you’ll never have to eject a flash drive again.

Always Make Sure a Drive Isn’t in Use Before Unplugging

Generally, the biggest threat to data when removing a USB drive (like a thumb, hard drive, and so on) is unplugging it while data is being written to it. This interrupts the write operation, and the file that was being written or copied will be incomplete or could remain as a corrupted file.

So, before you ever unplug any USB drive from your PC, make sure all files have finished copying or saving to it.

Of course, sometimes, it’s difficult to know whether your computer is writing to a drive. A background process could be writing to it, or a program could be autosaving to it. If you unplug the drive and interrupt these processes, it could cause a problem.

The only way you can avoid this is by “safely” removing the drive. However, Microsoft insists that as long as the “Quick Removal” system policy is selected, and you aren’t writing data to a drive, you don’t have to eject it.

You’ll also need to make sure write caching isn’t enabled for the drive, but more on that in a moment.

RELATED: Do You Really Need to Safely Remove USB Flash Drives?

Get a Drive with an LED

A hand plugging in a USB drive with an LED.
Sergio Sergo/Shutterstock

It’s easy to see when some USB drives are in use because they have a built-in LED that flashes when data is being read or written. As long as the LED isn’t flashing, you can safely unplug the drive.

If your drive doesn’t have an LED, just do your best to make sure a background backup or copy operation isn’t in process before you remove it.

Mandatory: Activate Quick Removal Mode in Device Manager

By default, Windows 10 optimizes USB drives so you can remove them quickly without having to use the “Safely Remove Hardware” notification icon. It does this by disabling write caching.

Write caching can speed up the appearance of USB disk writes, but it might also make you think a write process is complete when it’s really still running in the background. (This became the default policy in Windows 10’s October 2018 update, also known as version 1809.)

Since it’s possible to turn write caching back on in Device Manager, you should ensure it’s disabled if you want to quickly remove your USB drive without ejecting it in the future.

To do this, click the Start button, type “Device Manager” in the Search box, and then press Enter.

Type "Device Manager" in the Search box.

Click the arrow next to “Disk Drives,” right-click the external USB drive, and then select “Properties.”

Click the arrow next to "Disk Drives," right-click the external USB drive, and then select "Properties."

Under the “Policies” tab, select the radio button next to “Quick Removal” (if it’s already selected, just leave it that way), and then click “OK.”

Select "Quick Removal," and then click "OK."

Close “Device Manager” and you’re all set! In the future, you can safely remove that particular USB drive without ejecting it whenever a write operation isn’t in progress.

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a Staff Writer for How-To Geek. For over 14 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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