Normally, when we are done using USB-enabled devices such as external hard drives or memory sticks, we click on the small USB icon on our PC’s system tray and then select the Safely remove option. When a balloon pops up saying that it’s now safe to remove your USB device, that’s the time you can physically unplug it from your PC.

So, in a nutshell, what does it mean to “safely remove” a USB device? Does it have to be done on all USB devices?

How “Safely Remove” Works

Why is there a need to go through the “Safely remove” feature, and what happens if we fail to do so?


In order for us to have a better understanding, we need to understand how computers process files or documents. For example, you open a text document on your PC that is stored in a USB flash drive. Your computer will take the document and load it into the RAM, where you can make the necessary changes to it. If in case you experience a sudden power outage or computer crash, you’re aware that any changes you make to the document while it’s in the RAM is lost when the computer loses power. This is where the “Save” command comes in to play and save our work — it’s when the PC takes what’s on the RAM and writes it to the permanent storage of our choice, and that is the USB flash drive.

The thing is, saving to a physical media isn’t a real-time process. The computer has to write the data from the RAM to the USB flash drive. So what could possibly go wrong if midway through the writing process the USB drive was suddenly removed from the computer? Since the data writing process was not able to complete, there’s a possibility that the file on the USB drive would become corrupt and suffer from data loss, which can result to it becoming unreadable. This is perhaps the main purpose of the “safely remove” feature, that is to allow the computer to finish up its write jobs before you can remove the USB drive.

A simple accepted analogy of this is if you’re hand-writing a document for someone. You have started writing the document, but halfway through the process the person who requested you to write it says he wants the document gone and suddenly snatches it out from under your pen. Not only is the document not done, there’s also the chance that it got ruined in the process. In a way, this is what similarly happens to documents when the USB drive is removed during a write process.

Do We Need to Do the Safely Remove Process on Every USB Device?


Since we’re now familiar on how data is processed to and from the USB device, it just makes sense that the “Safely remove” feature on your computer is only designed for USB devices that have data stored in it. That means other USB-enabled peripherals such as the mouse, keyboard, game controllers, and Wi-Fi adapters does not require to be safely removed unlike with USB external drives and flash drives. Therefore, in case you want to replace your defective mouse or keyboard, you can immediately unplug it since you don’t have to worry about losing any data in the first place.


This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 6:06:14 AM and is filed under Tech Tips & Tricks.

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