Most PC users eject external hard drives frequently. However, many don’t know the correct and safe way to do so. Incorrect ejection of external hard drives can lead to losing data on the drive, or some files can become corrupt.
Whether you’re not sure how to eject an external hard drive or do it safely, keep on reading. This article will walk you through methods to safely eject an external hard drive on your Windows PC.
Why Is Safe Ejection So Important?
Most of us have ejected an external hard drive at least once. However, it’s recommended to do so as safely as possible to avoid damage.
When discussing external USB devices, the phrases “eject” and “disconnect” are sometimes used interchangeably. If you want to “internally” unhook your USB device from your computer, you use the phrase “eject.” If you’re going to unplug your USB device physically, you use the term “disconnect.” So, the first step is to eject the USB device from your computer and then disconnect it physically from the USB port on the PC itself.
First, you instruct your computer to switch off the external USB device’s write cache and acknowledge that you’re ready to detach the device by ejecting the USB device. You can unhook the devices once this step has been completed. Errors in ejecting the disk can damage files and directories, necessitating a reformat of the entire drive and erasing all of your data.
Some external USB devices may not appear in the list of ejectable drives on some computers. These include iLok and eLicenser. But if the device is mentioned, you must eject it from your computer before securely removing it from the device list.
How to Eject an External Hard Drive on a Windows PC
So, now that you know why a safe ejection of a hard drive is essential, let’s see how to do it. Luckily, there are five different ways to choose from.
Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media Icon
This method is the easiest and fastest technique for most users. Here’s how:
- Find the “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media” icon in the system tray and click on it to safely remove the device.*
- You’ll get a list of all of the attached removable storage devices. External hard drives, USB memory sticks, and various other USB devices are all on the list.
- Remove the device from the list of all the existing removable devices by clicking on it. Check the drive letter if you’re having trouble telling them apart.
- At the bottom right of your screen, you should see a message indicating that it is now safe to remove the hardware.
- You may remove the particular storage device from your computer.
* Note that by default, Windows 10, does not display this icon next to the clock and the network icon. It’s possible to reveal hidden icons by clicking on an up-arrow and finding the USB-like symbol indicated below.
The prompt “This device is now in use” appears if Windows 10 or an app is actively using the storage device you wish to remove. Unplugging the storage device might damage the data on it. Please make a fresh attempt after closing all open programs if you see this error. Alternatively, you may try shutting down Windows 10 and unplugging the storage device to see if the problem persists. After that, you may use your computer as usual by restarting it.
Moreover, the “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media” icon may be moved to the system tray to make it more easily accessible. This will make the whole process a little bit easier.
- Open File Explorer and navigate to This PC
- Select “Devices and drives,” where you can view all of your PC’s partitions and disks and any external devices.
- Choose “Eject” from the menu that appears when you right-click or press-and-hold on the drive you wish to remove.
- You will receive a message that says, “Safe to Remove Hardware.” Once you’ve unplugged the device from your Windows 10 computer, you’re done.
The Settings app is a less well-known method, but still an effective one. Here’s how to do it:
- Open “Settings” by pressing Windows + I.
- Navigate to “Devices.”
- Go to “Bluetooth & other devices” on the left side of the page. On the right side of the window, you’ll see an extensive list of devices.
- You may find the external devices linked to your Windows PC in the “Other devices” section. Locate the device, select it, and then click or tap “Remove.”
- A dialog box asking for confirmation will display. Press “Yes.”
- You can now unplug the external storage device.
USB memory sticks can be removed with this method; however, external hard drives cannot.
- Launch Disk Management.
- Use the arrows at the bottom of the list to go through the disks.
- Locate the USB flash device.
- Disk Management’s removable disks have the label “Removable” on them. Right-click on the USB and select “Eject.”
- The USB drive can now be unplugged from your computer or device without risk.
Safely Remove Hardware Wizard
This is an old method that works well in Windows 7. Although it’s still around and somewhat functional in Windows 10, the feature is no longer supported by Microsoft. It will either cease operating or be removed from Windows 10 at some time in the future. USB memory sticks cannot be ejected using this method – only external hard drives can. Here’s how to do it:
- Open the Run window by pressing Windows key + R.
- Type in:
RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll
- Press Enter
- A Safely Remove Hardware window will appear with the devices that Windows has identified as removable.
- Press the “Stop” button to eject the selected item.
- A “stopped” device request will appear. Press the “OK” button to choose the item with the drive’s label.
- Once you see the message “Safe to Remove Hardware,” you can safely unplug the device.
You’ll get an error message similar to the one below if you try the same procedures with a USB memory stick. This means you can’t eject or remove the device since it is not detachable.
Eject an External Hard Drive Not Working
This issue can occur due to many reasons. The problem can stem from the fact that the drive’s content is being accessed, or because background processes or programs use files on the external hard drive. Alternatively, the problem might be caused by corrupted Windows USB drivers. Old or faulty USB drives can also be to blame. However, there are ways to fix it and still safely eject an external hard drive.
Restart Your PC
The ejecting external hard drive issue in Windows 10 is nearly always resolved by a fresh reboot. All operating applications and third-party processes are terminated when you shut down your computer.
Safely Remove Hardware Utility
It’s possible to access Windows’ “Safely Remove Hardware” option via a keyboard shortcut. Here’s how:
- Press and hold the “Windows + R” keys together to open the Run application.
- In the shortcut box, enter “
RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll” and press Enter. This should open the Safely Remove Hardware program by default.
- You may remove a drive by clicking “Stop” once you’ve selected it.
- Check to see whether the issue is still present.
Windows Hardware Troubleshooter (Windows 10)
Built-in troubleshooters should be utilized for diagnosing problems if you’re having issues because of third-party hardware. You can sometimes solve issues with hardware or devices by using the Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter. To utilize the troubleshooter, follow these instructions:
- Press the Windows Key + I to enter the Settings menu.
- Go to “Updates and Security.”
- Navigate to the “Troubleshoot” section to get started.
- By scrolling down, you’ll see “Hardware and gadgets.”
- After choosing it, press the “Run the troubleshooter” button.
Make Sure Your USB Drivers Are Up to Date
Using the device manager, you can check if your USB drivers are updated and working correctly.
- Open the Device Manager. Type “device manager” in the start menu to locate it easier.
- Add a Universal Serial Bus controller to the list of available devices.
- Look for an entry that has an exclamation point in yellow. In the context menu, select “Update Driver Software.”
- Delete the driver and restart your computer to allow it to be installed automatically again if there isn’t an exclamation point.
Better to Be Safe Than Sorry
Now you can be sure that no further issues will occur when you eject an external hard drive. You can never be sure if your PC is still accessing files on the external hard drive. Corrupted and deleted files, as well as unreadable media, can all happen due to unsafe external hardware removal. However, removing your external storage safely reduces the chances significantly.
How do you eject your external hard drives? Have you had any issues with ejecting an external hard drive? Let us know in the comment section below!
How do you properly eject an external hard drive? ›
Locate your external storage device's icon on the desktop. Drag the icon to the Trash bin, which will change to an Eject icon. Alternatively, hold the "Ctrl" key and left-click your mouse on the external drive's icon. Click Eject on the pop-up menu.Why wont my external hard drive eject? ›
The first and the most method to solve this problem is to restart your computer. Rebooting your machine can surely solve this issue of ejecting external hard drive on Windows 10. Once you shut down your computer, all the current applications are closed, and third-party processes are also terminated.Why can't I open my external hard drive on Windows 11? ›
If you're having trouble getting Windows 11 to read your external hard drive, you can try using a different USB cable or connecting it to a different USB port on your computer. You can also try reformatting the drive using Windows 11's built-in Disk Management tool.How do I fix ejecting USB mass storage device in Windows 11? ›
You might run the Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter to investigate USB issues to fix the problem. Click on these options: Start > Settings > Update and Security > Troubleshoot, click Hardware and Devices, and Run the troubleshooter to discover and fix the issue.Can I just unplug my external hard drive? ›
When you use external storage devices like USB flash drives, you should safely remove them before unplugging them. If you just unplug a device, you run the risk of unplugging while an application is still using it. This could result in some of your files being lost or damaged.What is the quick key to eject a hard drive? ›
Here are the ways you can eject your external USB hard drive. On your desktop, right-click the icon of your hard drive and select Eject (disk name). Select your hard drive on your desktop, go to File in the Finder menu, then click Eject. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut key command CMD+E.Do you need to eject an external hard drive Windows 11? ›
To avoid losing data, it's important to remove external hardware like hard drives and USB drives safely. Look for the Safely Remove Hardware icon on the taskbar. If you don't see it, select Show hidden icons . Press and hold (or right-click) the icon and select the hardware you want to remove.How do I safely eject my Seagate external hard drive? ›
- Double-click on the Safely Remove icon in your Windows System Tray. ...
- The Safely Remove window will display any/all detected USB/FireWire devices connected to your Windows computer. ...
- Click on the device (e.g., external drive) you wish to remove and click on the Stop button.
- A confirmation window will appear.
The Remove option in Devices and Printers is more like an Uninstall that requires Administrator privileges. If you are simply unplugging the USB Flash Drive, it's best to use the Eject option.How do I give permission to an external hard drive in Windows 11? ›
- Right click on the folder and go to the Properties window.
- Navigate to the Security tab and click on Advanced.
- In the Owner section, click Change.
- Click Advanced > Find Now > Find your username in the search results > OK.
- Click OK again for the selected username.
Do all external hard drives work with Windows 11? ›
Rest assured Windows 11 is compatible with a 2TB external drive, all drives that worked in Windows 10 will also work in Windows 11.What to do when USB Cannot be ejected? ›
- Restart Windows Explorer. ...
- Check Your Antivirus. ...
- Run the Windows Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter. ...
- Use the Safely Remove Hardware Tool. ...
- Eject the Drive Using Disk Management. ...
- Check the USB Drivers.
When you unplug your USB hard drive without ejecting safely, your data may be compromised because it could still be in the process of writing it into the drive. Meaning that your file may not be saved to the drive or could end up being corrupted.How do I fix my USB full capacity? ›
- Select the USB drive to format. Connect the USB drive or pen drive to your computer. ...
- Set the drive letter and file system on USB. ...
- Check "Yes" to confirm formatting USB. ...
- Apply the changes.
Always eject a storage drive from your computer before physically disconnecting it. Your computer must perform filing and housekeeping operations on the drive before it is removed. Therefore, if you unplug the drive without using the operating system's software, your files can become corrupt or damaged.How do I eject a Seagate external hard drive from Windows 10? ›
Windows. Use the Safely Remove tool to eject a device. Click the Safely Remove icon in your Windows System Tray to view the devices you can eject.Should I turn off my external hard drive when not in use? ›
Todays hard drives are made for 24/7 usage. Having said that, Western Digital recommends “unplugging the drive when not in use, although it is safe to keep a hard drive running.”Which is the eject key? ›
The eject key sits in the upper right corner of most modern Apple keyboards.Where is the eject button on PC? ›
The Eject key is usually located near the volume controls and is marked by a triangle pointing up with a line underneath. In Windows, search for and open File Explorer. In the Computer window, select the icon for the disc drive that is stuck, right-click the icon, and then click Eject.Where is the drive eject button? ›
In the menu bar at the top of the desktop, click File and select Eject.
Why is my hard drive full for no reason Windows 11? ›
Causes for Hard Drive Full But no Files on Windows
You can find the reasons for this issue below: The presence of a virus on a hard disk might create the issue. If you've hidden the files on your hard drive, it can also eat up a lot of memory space. A logical or a system error might also cause the issue.
To open Disk Management, right-click (or long-press) the Start button and select Disk Management. If you need help freeing up space on your PC, see Disk cleanup in Windows or Free up drive space in Windows.What is the difference between safely remove and eject? ›
Eject removes the media from the device (e.g., ejects the CD tray) but doesn't remove the device itself. Safely Remove flushes any pending writes from the cache and removes the entire device.How do I see all hard drives in Windows 11? ›
If you're running Windows 11, Windows 10, or Windows 8, you can view all mounted drives in File Explorer. You can open File Explorer by pressing Windows key + E . In the left pane, select This PC, and all drives are shown on the right.How do I fix permission denied in Windows 11? ›
- Restart your computer and see if it resolves the problem. ...
- Note: If your username is not on the list, you have to add it manually and then change its permissions. ...
- Then you can click Add File or Add Folder to select the files or folders to be backed up.
- Step 1: Run a disk check. Install the boot disk or USB drive, and power the computer on. ...
- Step 2: Run a system file check. Boot the computer from the disk or USB as you did in step one. ...
- Step 3: Complete a startup repair. ...
- Step 4: Try a system restore. ...
- Step 5: Refresh your PC.
Open Control Panel on Windows 11. Click on System and Security. Click the “Change User Account Control settings” option. Select the Never notify option using the slider to disable the UAC feature on Windows 11.How do I access my Seagate external hard drive Windows 11? ›
Simply plug in the power, plug in the USB cable, and the drive should appear in (My) Computer/This PC and Windows Explorer/File Explorer.What is the minimum hard drive size for Windows 11? ›
Memory: 4 gigabytes (GB) or greater. Storage: 64 GB or greater available disk space. There might be more storage requirements over time for updates, and to enable specific features within the OS.
- 1. Make Sure It's Plugged In and Powered On. ...
- Reboot Your Computer. ...
- Try Another Cable, Port, or PC. ...
- Update Your Drivers. ...
- Enable and Format the Drive in Disk Management. ...
- Clean the Disk and Start From Scratch.
What happens if you force eject a USB? ›
When you remove a flash drive without warning the computer first, it might not have finished writing to the drive." This means that pulling your external drive out without warning could result in the file you just saved being lost forever - even if you saved it hours ago.How can I see what is using my USB? ›
- Select Windows logo key+R, enter devmgmt. ...
- In Device Manager, select your computer so that it's highlighted.
- Select Action, and then select Scan for hardware changes.
Click on the Safely Remove Hardware icon on the Windows taskbar. Wait for a message to pop up and then click on “Safely Remove Hardware.” Once a message pops up, you can remove the USB drive. Do not remove the USB when it says “This device is currently in use.”Do flash drives go bad? ›
All USB flash drives will eventually go bad because their internal memory chips can only be used a finite number of times. However, the maximum number of read and write instances will likely never be reached on any device in normal use.How do I turn off USB power limit? ›
Click the Start button and type edit power plan in the Windows Search box. c. Scroll down to USB settings and click the little plus next to USB selective suspend setting to expand the options. Set both the On battery and Plugged in settings to Disabled then click Apply and OK to save changes.How do I know if my USB is overloaded? ›
- Video frame drops / corrupted video / low FPS.
- Audio static / crackling / dropouts.
- Synchronization / timing issues (eg video desyncing from audio)
- Unresponsive input devices.
- PC freezes / crashes / blue screen.
- USB devices disconnecting / reconnecting.
If the drive was formatted using Windows File Explorer or Disk management, it would have formatted only 32 GB of the drive. You can get the whole drive back by formatting with Windows in exFAT format that Windows, macOS, and Linux will use.Should I eject my external hard drive before shutdown? ›
Yes, if you don't want corrupted files, you should safely eject your external hard drive.Should I always eject hard drive? ›
Always Eject the Drive to Avoid Damaging Files or the Drive
Failing to properly eject your USB drive can damage files or corrupt the entire drive. That is why you always want to go through the proper ejection process.
Look for the Safely Remove Hardware icon on the taskbar. If you don't see it, select Show hidden icons . Press and hold (or right-click) the icon and select the hardware you want to remove. If you can't find the Safely Remove Hardware icon, press and hold (or right-click) the taskbar and select Taskbar settings .
Can I just unplug my Seagate external hard drive? ›
Always eject a storage drive from your computer before physically disconnecting it. Your computer must perform filing and housekeeping operations on the drive before it is removed. Therefore, if you unplug the drive without using the operating system's software, your files can become corrupt or damaged.What happens if I force eject my external hard drive? ›
If you pull out the plug before this is done, you run the risk of having incomplete files. What happens if you unplug an external hard drive or SSD without ejecting? You risk leaving the filesystem in an inconsistent state with some writes only partially completed, and an unusable file system.What happens if you remove a drive without ejecting? ›
When you unplug your USB hard drive without ejecting safely, your data may be compromised because it could still be in the process of writing it into the drive. Meaning that your file may not be saved to the drive or could end up being corrupted.Should you eject USB drives before removing them? ›
“Safely removing” your USB drive by ejecting it first ensures that all of the data you've transferred is properly written on the drive. Doing so will guarantee that you do not lose vital data in the process of transfer.Does removing a hard drive delete everything? ›
So will removing my hard drive erase everything ? Yes , If the hard drive is removed from the device it will no longer contain any of your private or sensitive information.