Do I need to remove my USB safely (and is life too short)?

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I am always equally amused and annoyed by the dumb posts which are trying to be smart by telling me that “Life is too short to remove USB safely”. What’s even worse is that these are usually promoted by highly disorganized people (in my experience). So do you really need to remove USB safely or you can just disconnect it?

Now, as for the joke, it is mediocre at best – so please stop it! Here is my attempt to put a stop to both, the stupid joke, and the belief that you need to safely remove USB drive.

As many people do not know, Windows has a removal policy for USB disk drives and by default it is set on Quick Removal setting. Here is a screenshot of it:

USB Quick Removal

USB Quick Removal

As you can see from the screenshot, the default option is set to Quick Removal and as the description clearly says: Disables write caching on the device and in Windows, but you can disconnect the device safely without using Safely Remove Hardware notification icon.

So what does it mean?

When write-caching is disabled this means that any pending writes to disk drive will be executed immediately. This results in writes to a device being somewhat slower, but at least they are done immediately, when requested. Write-caching speeds up the process for fixed disk drives by queuing the writes for later (when there is more idle disk time available for the task), so the system can accept more writes and schedule pending writes if needed – which as a result speeds up the disk operation for the user, because he/she doesn’t need to wait as long before requesting another disk operation. Eventually, all the writes are executed – but this doesn’t have to be immediately. But this only is enabled by default for fixed drives like hard disks because it makes sense for them and USB (removable) drives usually have a default value set to Quick Removal.

So does that mean you can remove the USB without using the Safely Remove Hardware? Yes!

However, some small precautions should be noted – if you started copying files to a drive – it still needs some time to copy the files. Writes take time. So wait a few seconds until they are executed and the files are stored on USB drive. If USB drive has a LED light – you can see that the drive has finished writing when the LED is off or no longer blinking. If you are unsure, then use the “Safely Remove Hardware” – that will ensure that saving was done properly. If you only read some files from USB drive, then you probably don’t have to care about that.

So, why did Microsoft implement the Quick Removal for USB drives by default? Because life is too short? No, but because people usually don’t read manuals and they are aware that many of them are not using Windows as they should be using it, so they at least tried to make it easier for everyone.

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