Do you really need to eject your USB drive…?

Are you one of these people that simply plug and unplug USB drives at will taking the term ‘plug and play’ quite literally? Well most people are, but it may be a dangerous game. Don’t become a victim of data recovery services read why you should always eject your flash device.

Mac users will be very familiar with warnings about disconnecting flash drives without ejecting. Windows users perhaps not so much so and you may not even have an obvious eject button in your operating system. Windows often relies on the ‘safely remove hardware’ icon in the system tray. The long and short of it is this – always eject a flash drive before disconnecting it.

bad_USBMost systems use functionality called ‘write caching’ to improve performance. In summary this means that your operating system may not actually write your files immediately, but wait until it has a number of write requests and do all the work in one go. This is more common with smaller capacity files. Larger files are generally written immediately. Clearly you do not want to be unplugging a USB flash drive whilst the write operation is underway. If you press the eject button the cache is cleared out straight away and this might result in all sorts of problems – including file corruption.

However Windows recognises that users simply unplug devices without warning. Hence it does not use ‘write caching’ nearly as much as Mac or Linux operating systems. Indeed Windows actually disables this ‘write caching’ facility as default. To re-enable it you must visit the <USB Device Properties > Policies> and select <Better Performance> to enable ‘write caching’. Be warned, disabling this function increases the chance of data corruption significantly unless you follow the disconnection procedure religiously.

Disconnecting without warning can also cause other issues beyond ‘write caching’. Ever got the error message ‘file is in use’? It may well still be in use somewhere in the Task Manager or perhaps locked the file for a reason unknown except to the operating system! Either way, file corruption is a potential risk.

Jim Cheoros, our data recovery expert says “take the time and safely eject before unplugging your device. You do not want to risk losing your precious data for the sake of two extra seconds!”

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