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Do you need to “eject” USB flash drives?

On Windows, not usually. Obviously, don’t remove a drive while transferring data, as you’ll corrupt that data, but that’s a no-brainer. The main reason for hitting “eject” or “safely remove hardware” is write caching. With write caching on, even if whatever you’re transferring is “done,” there still may be data hanging out in the cache, waiting for the cue to finish up. Ejecting it sends that message.

But Microsoft has been aware for some time that we like to pop USB drives out at our leisure, so Windows automatically disables write caching for removable flash drives. Starting in Windows 7, if you right-click on a drive and select “Properties,” then find it in the “Hardware” tab, then hit “Properties” again (or get there through the Device Manager in a less roundabout way), and head to the “Policies” tab, you can see that “Quick removal” is the default. That ensures that if it says it’s done transferring data, it’s actually done, and it’s safe to remove the drive.

But because of write caching, make sure you still eject on Mac and Linux. And it’s not a bad idea to just do it on your Window computers anyway just to keep your data safe.


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