Tom’s Tech Tips

Tom’s Tuesday Tech Tip: Do I Really Need to Eject My Thumb Drive from My Computer or Can I Just Yank It Out?

Like almost every Certified Legal Nurse Consultant on this planet, I use a USB jump/thumb/flash/portable drive to transfer documents, reports, PowerPoint® shows, programs, videos, photographs, etc., from one computer to another computer using the “sneakernet.” There are many reasons to do it this, but usually it’s one of two: first, the computer I’m moving the file to isn’t networked, or I’m defeating the antivirus software that would block me from emailing an executable file (like an installer) to the user/computer where I need to install or run it.

When you plug a thumb drive into a computer for the first time all sorts of things can happen. Some computers will install the thumb drive or “discover” it, rendering you unable to see or use that drive until the computer finishes the process. Others will simply ask whether or not you want to open up a new window to view the contents of that drive. It depends upon your computer, the age of the thumb drive and what sort of built-in software may or may not be resident on it.

Either way, when you’re done using the drive, either transferring a legal nurse consulting report for your favorite attorney-client onto or off of it, every CLNC® consultant’s first instinct is to yank that drive right out of its USB port and thrust it back into your purse or pocket. But is that a safe practice? I’ll give you my usual answer – it depends. What it depends upon is whether your computer has finished writing or even reading the file(s) on that device.

Take a look at your thumb drive and you’ll probably see a small LED light that’s either steady or flashing. If it’s flashing there’s data moving back and forth; if it’s steady, there probably isn’t. When you properly eject the thumb drive using Windows® built-in software, it allows your system to stop any read/write processes and close the active connection it has with that thumb drive. This will prevent data loss or corruption. The thumb drive’s light will often go out and you’ll get a message telling you it’s safe to remove the drive (think of it as “off”). But if instead you simply yank the drive out, especially while the light is flashing, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a corrupted file(s) or possibly worse. It would be a shame to have put a large number of billable hours into creating a report and corrupting it because you yanked out the thumb drive.

So how do you remove that thumb drive safely? It’s quite simple: mouse over the so-called System Tray in the bottom-right portion of the display of your Windows computer. You’ll see a pop-up label over one of the buttons that says Safely Remove Hardware. Left click once on that button and you’ll see a pop-up list of storage devices plugged into your computer. Left click on Safely Remove USB Mass Storage Device – Drive (D:) (or some other letter) and you’ll see the light on your drive go out and it’s now safe to remove!

If you want to go to a little more trouble to accomplish the same task, double-click on that Safely Remove Hardware button and you’ll see the Safely Remove Hardware window appear. Select USB Mass Storage Device and click Stop. Next you’ll see the Stop a Hardware Device window. Select your drive (usually it’ll be named by the type of USB device or called Generic Volume – (D:) ( or some other letter) – see the picture below.

Select the drive to be removed and click OK. The light on your USB thumb drive will hopefully go out and the device will disappear from the Safely Remove Hardware window. Now just close the window and you’re done.

Now my CLNC® amigos, you can remove your thumb drive without fear of losing any of the precious data you use for your legal nurse consulting business. Remember, although it takes longer, you should always safely remove your drives, especially if you treasure your data.

Keep on techin’,


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