Safely Remove Thumb Drives from Windows PCs - dummies

Safely Remove Thumb Drives from Windows PCs

By Dan Gookin

If storage devices are removed improperly, they can cause loss of data or Windows malfunctions. To prevent that, familiarize yourself with the proper way to remove drives.

The media is the thing that stores computer information; the drive is the thing that reads the media.

Before you remove an external storage device, you must let Windows know that the drive is going bye-bye or else Windows gets angry at you. To prevent that, follow the appropriate set of steps for your version of Windows:

In Windows 7, remove an external drive or media card reader by following these steps:

  1. From the Start menu, choose Devices and Printers.

    If this item is missing from the Start menu, open the Control Panel and choose View Devices and Printers, found beneath the Hardware and Sound heading.

  2. Click on the drive you want to remove.

  3. Choose Eject from the toolbar.

  4. Disconnect the drive from the computer.

In Windows Vista, heed these directions to remove an external storage gizmo:

  1. Open the Computer window.

  2. Right-click on the drive you want to remove.

    The drive can be empty, or it can have media attached.

  3. From the pop-up menu, choose Safely Remove.

  4. After the confirmation message appears, disconnect the drive from the computer.

In Windows XP (as well as in Windows 7 and Windows Vista), you can use the Safely Remove icon in the notification area to disconnect external disk drives or media card readers. Here’s how:

  1. Review the Computer window to confirm the letter associated with the drive you want to remove.

    Follow this step because today’s PCs can sport several drive letters and not always assign the same letter to a removable device.

  2. Point the mouse at the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the notification area.

    You know that you’ve found the right icon when the pop-up bubble says Safely Remove Hardware.

  3. Click the Safely Remove Hardware icon.

    A pop-up list appears, detailing any removable hardware that’s attached to your PC.

  4. Choose the hardware you want to remove from the list.

  5. When you see the prompt Safe to Remove Hardware, disconnect the device.

    Windows 7 may not prompt you to remove the hardware, but you can do so.

For an external hard drive, you can either unplug the USB cable or merely turn off the drive’s power; it doesn’t matter which, at this point.

Even if you don’t see the prompt that it’s okay to safely remove hardware, Windows plays a “dink-donk” sound whenever a media device has been unmounted from your PC. That is, unless you’ve configured Windows not to play the sound or your PC’s speakers are broken.

There’s a difference between removing (ejecting) media and unmounting the drive that reads the media. Ejecting media doesn’t disconnect the drive or media card reader.