Is it safe to disconnect an external drive any time?

By 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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All Answers

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The difference is Moving Parts

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to Is it safe to disconnect ...

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.


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Reponse To Answer

by Healer In reply to The difference is Moving ...

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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To expand on what Col provided

by NickNielsen In reply to Is it safe to disconnect ...

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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Reponse To Answer

by Healer In reply to To expand on what Col pro ...

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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A little more here

by Slayer_ In reply to Is it safe to disconnect ...

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.

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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Reponse To Answer

by Healer In reply to A little more here

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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Reponse To Answer

by Slayer_ In reply to A little more here

I believe all flash drives automatically select quick removal.

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The user must be the same as the user that asked the question!

by Healer In reply to Is it safe to disconnect ...

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

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An added thought

by NickNielsen In reply to Is it safe to disconnect ...

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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Reponse To Answer

by Healer In reply to An added thought

Well, it is as clear as mud.

Aren't external drives removable?

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