Questions

Is it safe to disconnect an external drive any time?

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Is it safe to disconnect an external drive any time?

Healer
I have noticed that unlike the portable drive the external drive I connect via a USB port does not have an "eject" option in the context menu. Does it mean it is safe to disconnect it anytime? In fact, I am not too sure which is a portable drive and which is an external drive. I have noticed though small thumb drives always have an "eject" option available.
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    4 Votes
    OH Smeg

    A External Drive has Moving Parts it is a Mechanical HDD that needs it's heads parked before you unplug it.

    A Thumb/Portable Drive is just that a Memory Drive and contains no Moving Parts or if you like a Solid State Drive.

    With any Mechanical Drive you should always use the Safely Remove Option to Park the Heads and then when you are prompted that it's safe to remove the drive unplug it. With Windows that is always on the Start Bar near the clock though the icon does vary between different versions of Windows.

    The reason being that once the heads are parked there is no possibility of the heads touching the moving platters as the power drops down and the heads attempt to park themselves. If you do not use the Safely Remove Option it's just a matter of time till you get a Partition Table Corruption rendering all data on that drive unreadable.

    With memory Drives you should still use the Safely Remove Option to prevent any corruption from occurring though this is less important. The reason to use the Safely Remove Option is that the device may be undergoing a write when you unplug it that is not related to something you have wanted written to the device but something that the OS needs to do. If you unplug during a write operation you will get Data Corruption and possibly corrupt the Partition Tables of the device.

    Col

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    Healer

    Thank you very much Col.

    I've just double-checked with my external drive and memory stick connected to a Windows 7 system via USB ports.

    For some reasons which I am interested to know that the external drive would not have the "eject" option in the context menu whereas that of the memory stick has such option. That's why I had supposed it deson't matter when one can disconnect the external drive.

    Anyway I would follow your advice to disconnect the external drive from the "Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media" option. Since the exteral drives have to be shutdown before disconnection I wonder why Windows systems wouldn't treat the external drive like a memory stick.

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    4 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    1. If you are connecting the drive through an external port, it's an external drive, no matter what else the manufacturer calls it. Thumb drives, key drives, USB drives, portable HDDs, whatever, are all external drives.

    2. You should always use the Safely Remove option to remove external drives. This allows Windows to close any open files on the drive, finish any saves to the drive, and in general make sure the drive is ready for removal.

    3. If you are unable to get Windows to release the drive ("The drive cannot be removed now, please close all programs that might be using it and try again..."), you can usually release the drive by logging off and logging back on.

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    Healer

    Since there is no "eject" option in the context menu of an external drive I didn't expect the Safely Remove option would cover the external drive. That's why I never looked. I thank you for your advice.

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    2 Votes
    Slayer_

    All mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power. So no worries there.

    The Safely remove is the best choice, but if you want to be able to remove it at any time, you need to go into the properties for the drive and enable "quick removal". This will prevent windows from caching any write commands in memory, but can decrease performance of the drive though I have never really noticed it.

    This site explains how to do this.
    http://www.itechtalk.com/thread6526.html

    I personally recommend setting this to disable write caching if any rookie users are going to use the drive, to prevent accidental data loss.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Thanks a lot!

    I've just checked and Windows 7 systems actually default to Quick removal.

    I wish we could do the same on memory sticks.

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    Slayer_

    I believe all flash drives automatically select quick removal.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    I love to select above all as Answers but I keep getting the aboved error message.

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    2 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    From some of your comments, I get the impression you may be confusing removable and external.

    Removable media drives are fixed drives that allow you to change the discs: think CD-ROM/DVD or floppy drives. You will only have the eject option for removable media drives. Some external drives report themselves as removable media to disable write caching and reduce the chances of data loss. (I'm not sure, but I believe Windows 7 may treat thumb drives as removable, but not external hard drives.)

    External drives are as I explained them above, and will not have the eject option unless they also report themselves as removable media. This is why I recommended using the Safely Remove option whenever possible.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Well, it is as clear as mud.

    Aren't external drives removable?

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    0 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    Technically, yes, but thumbdrives and external hard drives are removable devices, not removable media devices. The eject command is reserved for removable media devices.

    To (hopefully) clarify, a removable media drive allows you to change the software or data available from the drive without actually changing the drive. For example, you can eject a disc from your DVD drive, you have removed the media. You can insert a new disc without removing the actual drive itself. When you remove a thumbdrive, the flash memory inside the drive goes with it; the device is removable, but the media is not.

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    Healer

    Hi NickNielsen,

    Thumbdrives are not removable media devices but we do get the "eject" option, don't we? I can see it...

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Yes, some thumb drives report themselves as removable media, even though they don't match the technical definition.

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    jimmy-jam

    As long as you don't have nay files ope or programs running from the external drive, you likely as not will not experience data corruption and therefore can just unplug the drive without issue.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Thanks! I can imagine this is absolutely correct.

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    0 Votes
    TobiF

    MS Office, for instance, just LOVES to keep files open in unexpected places.
    Whenever you open or save a file in MS Word, the program automatically starts using the same folder for its temporary files. So, if you start MS Word, creates two empty files, save and close one of the files to your external drive, then Word still keeps a temp file open in the same folder, stopping you from safely removing the device...

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    q8air

    How much damage can be done to your External Hard Drive if you don't disconnect it using "eject"? And can the damage be repaired from this?

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    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Depends on how much money you have to spend and how IMPORTANT the files that you have lost actually are.

    You can always format a HDD again and have it working but recovering your Lost Data "Cheaply" can be a different story.

    While not as common the same also applies to Thumb Drives they can and do stop working or at least the Data on the Drive disappears and to get it recognizable again you have to format it or run a Data Recovery Program over it.

    Col

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    pw2much

    If I'm not mistaking on the right of your Task bar- the System tray there is a small arrow that opens hidden icons in your system tray. If you have any external hhds or the flash drive it will be listed there and if you click on the usb icon it will show you all the removable drives on your system and also allow you to eject it and yes that's for Windows 7. So no it's not safe!! there is always a way to eject it,if you click on any dvd drive or flash drive in start>computer it gives you the option to eject it.I had a flash drive that I use to just pull right out of the port well! it's not accessible anymore, nor is it recognized on my system. When plugging and unplugging devices from your system always do it properly to avoid issues.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    If we are saying all mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power as what Slayer_ has said, then external drives are mechanical drives, aren't they? Mine is a Western Digital. So I suppose I simply need to turn off the power to the drive and then disconnect it.

    On second thoughts however we might not know what could be happening in the background.

    I fully agree with what pw2much said that to be safe, we still need to use the Safely Remove option.

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    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    Optimize for quick removal should still help prevent damage.
    NTFS is surprisingly robust against file system corruption. If you do suffer file system corruption, a chkdsk /R should fix it.

    Though the drives are suppose to park themselves, its not a guarantee, so don't go throwing your drive around :).

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    4 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    1. If you are connecting the drive through an external port, it's an external drive, no matter what else the manufacturer calls it. Thumb drives, key drives, USB drives, portable HDDs, whatever, are all external drives.

    2. You should always use the Safely Remove option to remove external drives. This allows Windows to close any open files on the drive, finish any saves to the drive, and in general make sure the drive is ready for removal.

    3. If you are unable to get Windows to release the drive ("The drive cannot be removed now, please close all programs that might be using it and try again..."), you can usually release the drive by logging off and logging back on.

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    2 Votes
    Slayer_

    All mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power. So no worries there.

    The Safely remove is the best choice, but if you want to be able to remove it at any time, you need to go into the properties for the drive and enable "quick removal". This will prevent windows from caching any write commands in memory, but can decrease performance of the drive though I have never really noticed it.

    This site explains how to do this.
    http://www.itechtalk.com/thread6526.html

    I personally recommend setting this to disable write caching if any rookie users are going to use the drive, to prevent accidental data loss.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    I love to select above all as Answers but I keep getting the aboved error message.

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    2 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    From some of your comments, I get the impression you may be confusing removable and external.

    Removable media drives are fixed drives that allow you to change the discs: think CD-ROM/DVD or floppy drives. You will only have the eject option for removable media drives. Some external drives report themselves as removable media to disable write caching and reduce the chances of data loss. (I'm not sure, but I believe Windows 7 may treat thumb drives as removable, but not external hard drives.)

    External drives are as I explained them above, and will not have the eject option unless they also report themselves as removable media. This is why I recommended using the Safely Remove option whenever possible.

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    0 Votes
    jimmy-jam

    As long as you don't have nay files ope or programs running from the external drive, you likely as not will not experience data corruption and therefore can just unplug the drive without issue.

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    0 Votes
    q8air

    How much damage can be done to your External Hard Drive if you don't disconnect it using "eject"? And can the damage be repaired from this?

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    0 Votes
    pw2much

    If I'm not mistaking on the right of your Task bar- the System tray there is a small arrow that opens hidden icons in your system tray. If you have any external hhds or the flash drive it will be listed there and if you click on the usb icon it will show you all the removable drives on your system and also allow you to eject it and yes that's for Windows 7. So no it's not safe!! there is always a way to eject it,if you click on any dvd drive or flash drive in start>computer it gives you the option to eject it.I had a flash drive that I use to just pull right out of the port well! it's not accessible anymore, nor is it recognized on my system. When plugging and unplugging devices from your system always do it properly to avoid issues.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    If we are saying all mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power as what Slayer_ has said, then external drives are mechanical drives, aren't they? Mine is a Western Digital. So I suppose I simply need to turn off the power to the drive and then disconnect it.

    On second thoughts however we might not know what could be happening in the background.

    I fully agree with what pw2much said that to be safe, we still need to use the Safely Remove option.

  • +
    4 Votes
    OH Smeg

    A External Drive has Moving Parts it is a Mechanical HDD that needs it's heads parked before you unplug it.

    A Thumb/Portable Drive is just that a Memory Drive and contains no Moving Parts or if you like a Solid State Drive.

    With any Mechanical Drive you should always use the Safely Remove Option to Park the Heads and then when you are prompted that it's safe to remove the drive unplug it. With Windows that is always on the Start Bar near the clock though the icon does vary between different versions of Windows.

    The reason being that once the heads are parked there is no possibility of the heads touching the moving platters as the power drops down and the heads attempt to park themselves. If you do not use the Safely Remove Option it's just a matter of time till you get a Partition Table Corruption rendering all data on that drive unreadable.

    With memory Drives you should still use the Safely Remove Option to prevent any corruption from occurring though this is less important. The reason to use the Safely Remove Option is that the device may be undergoing a write when you unplug it that is not related to something you have wanted written to the device but something that the OS needs to do. If you unplug during a write operation you will get Data Corruption and possibly corrupt the Partition Tables of the device.

    Col

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Thank you very much Col.

    I've just double-checked with my external drive and memory stick connected to a Windows 7 system via USB ports.

    For some reasons which I am interested to know that the external drive would not have the "eject" option in the context menu whereas that of the memory stick has such option. That's why I had supposed it deson't matter when one can disconnect the external drive.

    Anyway I would follow your advice to disconnect the external drive from the "Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media" option. Since the exteral drives have to be shutdown before disconnection I wonder why Windows systems wouldn't treat the external drive like a memory stick.

    +
    4 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    1. If you are connecting the drive through an external port, it's an external drive, no matter what else the manufacturer calls it. Thumb drives, key drives, USB drives, portable HDDs, whatever, are all external drives.

    2. You should always use the Safely Remove option to remove external drives. This allows Windows to close any open files on the drive, finish any saves to the drive, and in general make sure the drive is ready for removal.

    3. If you are unable to get Windows to release the drive ("The drive cannot be removed now, please close all programs that might be using it and try again..."), you can usually release the drive by logging off and logging back on.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Since there is no "eject" option in the context menu of an external drive I didn't expect the Safely Remove option would cover the external drive. That's why I never looked. I thank you for your advice.

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    2 Votes
    Slayer_

    All mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power. So no worries there.

    The Safely remove is the best choice, but if you want to be able to remove it at any time, you need to go into the properties for the drive and enable "quick removal". This will prevent windows from caching any write commands in memory, but can decrease performance of the drive though I have never really noticed it.

    This site explains how to do this.
    http://www.itechtalk.com/thread6526.html

    I personally recommend setting this to disable write caching if any rookie users are going to use the drive, to prevent accidental data loss.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Thanks a lot!

    I've just checked and Windows 7 systems actually default to Quick removal.

    I wish we could do the same on memory sticks.

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    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    I believe all flash drives automatically select quick removal.

    +
    0 Votes
    Healer

    I love to select above all as Answers but I keep getting the aboved error message.

    +
    2 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    From some of your comments, I get the impression you may be confusing removable and external.

    Removable media drives are fixed drives that allow you to change the discs: think CD-ROM/DVD or floppy drives. You will only have the eject option for removable media drives. Some external drives report themselves as removable media to disable write caching and reduce the chances of data loss. (I'm not sure, but I believe Windows 7 may treat thumb drives as removable, but not external hard drives.)

    External drives are as I explained them above, and will not have the eject option unless they also report themselves as removable media. This is why I recommended using the Safely Remove option whenever possible.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Well, it is as clear as mud.

    Aren't external drives removable?

    +
    0 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    Technically, yes, but thumbdrives and external hard drives are removable devices, not removable media devices. The eject command is reserved for removable media devices.

    To (hopefully) clarify, a removable media drive allows you to change the software or data available from the drive without actually changing the drive. For example, you can eject a disc from your DVD drive, you have removed the media. You can insert a new disc without removing the actual drive itself. When you remove a thumbdrive, the flash memory inside the drive goes with it; the device is removable, but the media is not.

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    0 Votes
    Healer

    Hi NickNielsen,

    Thumbdrives are not removable media devices but we do get the "eject" option, don't we? I can see it...

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    0 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    Yes, some thumb drives report themselves as removable media, even though they don't match the technical definition.

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    0 Votes
    jimmy-jam

    As long as you don't have nay files ope or programs running from the external drive, you likely as not will not experience data corruption and therefore can just unplug the drive without issue.

    +
    0 Votes
    Healer

    Thanks! I can imagine this is absolutely correct.

    +
    0 Votes
    TobiF

    MS Office, for instance, just LOVES to keep files open in unexpected places.
    Whenever you open or save a file in MS Word, the program automatically starts using the same folder for its temporary files. So, if you start MS Word, creates two empty files, save and close one of the files to your external drive, then Word still keeps a temp file open in the same folder, stopping you from safely removing the device...

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    0 Votes
    q8air

    How much damage can be done to your External Hard Drive if you don't disconnect it using "eject"? And can the damage be repaired from this?

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Depends on how much money you have to spend and how IMPORTANT the files that you have lost actually are.

    You can always format a HDD again and have it working but recovering your Lost Data "Cheaply" can be a different story.

    While not as common the same also applies to Thumb Drives they can and do stop working or at least the Data on the Drive disappears and to get it recognizable again you have to format it or run a Data Recovery Program over it.

    Col

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    0 Votes
    pw2much

    If I'm not mistaking on the right of your Task bar- the System tray there is a small arrow that opens hidden icons in your system tray. If you have any external hhds or the flash drive it will be listed there and if you click on the usb icon it will show you all the removable drives on your system and also allow you to eject it and yes that's for Windows 7. So no it's not safe!! there is always a way to eject it,if you click on any dvd drive or flash drive in start>computer it gives you the option to eject it.I had a flash drive that I use to just pull right out of the port well! it's not accessible anymore, nor is it recognized on my system. When plugging and unplugging devices from your system always do it properly to avoid issues.

    +
    0 Votes
    Healer

    If we are saying all mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power as what Slayer_ has said, then external drives are mechanical drives, aren't they? Mine is a Western Digital. So I suppose I simply need to turn off the power to the drive and then disconnect it.

    On second thoughts however we might not know what could be happening in the background.

    I fully agree with what pw2much said that to be safe, we still need to use the Safely Remove option.

    +
    0 Votes
    Slayer_

    Optimize for quick removal should still help prevent damage.
    NTFS is surprisingly robust against file system corruption. If you do suffer file system corruption, a chkdsk /R should fix it.

    Though the drives are suppose to park themselves, its not a guarantee, so don't go throwing your drive around :).

    +
    4 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    1. If you are connecting the drive through an external port, it's an external drive, no matter what else the manufacturer calls it. Thumb drives, key drives, USB drives, portable HDDs, whatever, are all external drives.

    2. You should always use the Safely Remove option to remove external drives. This allows Windows to close any open files on the drive, finish any saves to the drive, and in general make sure the drive is ready for removal.

    3. If you are unable to get Windows to release the drive ("The drive cannot be removed now, please close all programs that might be using it and try again..."), you can usually release the drive by logging off and logging back on.

    +
    2 Votes
    Slayer_

    All mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power. So no worries there.

    The Safely remove is the best choice, but if you want to be able to remove it at any time, you need to go into the properties for the drive and enable "quick removal". This will prevent windows from caching any write commands in memory, but can decrease performance of the drive though I have never really noticed it.

    This site explains how to do this.
    http://www.itechtalk.com/thread6526.html

    I personally recommend setting this to disable write caching if any rookie users are going to use the drive, to prevent accidental data loss.

    +
    0 Votes
    Healer

    I love to select above all as Answers but I keep getting the aboved error message.

    +
    2 Votes
    NickNielsen Moderator

    From some of your comments, I get the impression you may be confusing removable and external.

    Removable media drives are fixed drives that allow you to change the discs: think CD-ROM/DVD or floppy drives. You will only have the eject option for removable media drives. Some external drives report themselves as removable media to disable write caching and reduce the chances of data loss. (I'm not sure, but I believe Windows 7 may treat thumb drives as removable, but not external hard drives.)

    External drives are as I explained them above, and will not have the eject option unless they also report themselves as removable media. This is why I recommended using the Safely Remove option whenever possible.

    +
    0 Votes
    jimmy-jam

    As long as you don't have nay files ope or programs running from the external drive, you likely as not will not experience data corruption and therefore can just unplug the drive without issue.

    +
    0 Votes
    q8air

    How much damage can be done to your External Hard Drive if you don't disconnect it using "eject"? And can the damage be repaired from this?

    +
    0 Votes
    pw2much

    If I'm not mistaking on the right of your Task bar- the System tray there is a small arrow that opens hidden icons in your system tray. If you have any external hhds or the flash drive it will be listed there and if you click on the usb icon it will show you all the removable drives on your system and also allow you to eject it and yes that's for Windows 7. So no it's not safe!! there is always a way to eject it,if you click on any dvd drive or flash drive in start>computer it gives you the option to eject it.I had a flash drive that I use to just pull right out of the port well! it's not accessible anymore, nor is it recognized on my system. When plugging and unplugging devices from your system always do it properly to avoid issues.

    +
    0 Votes
    Healer

    If we are saying all mechanical drives now will automatically park themselves when they lose power as what Slayer_ has said, then external drives are mechanical drives, aren't they? Mine is a Western Digital. So I suppose I simply need to turn off the power to the drive and then disconnect it.

    On second thoughts however we might not know what could be happening in the background.

    I fully agree with what pw2much said that to be safe, we still need to use the Safely Remove option.