How to Safely Remove a Drive on Windows 10

How to Safely Remove a Drive on Windows 10

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When you’re done using a USB drive on your Windows 10 machine, most people simply unplug it. But depending on the settings of your machine, it’s usually best to tell Windows before removing the drive to minimize any chance of data loss. Here’s how.

When Is It Safe to Just Unplug a USB Drive?

By default, you can often safely remove a USB drive from a Windows 10 machine by simply unplugging it—unless something is actively writing to it, and you don’t necessarily know when that’s happening in the background. It’s a good idea to safely remove drives if you’re concerned about data loss.

If you have enabled write caching on your USB drive (by selecting “Better Performance” in Device Manager), you will always need to use the “Safely Remove Hardware” notification icon to remove the drive safely.

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If you’d like to check if write caching is enabled on your removable drive, open the “Start” menu and type “Device Manager,” then hit “Enter.” Under the “Disk Drives” heading, locate the external drive, then right-click and select “Properties.” Under the “Policies” tab, look at the “Removal Policy” section.

Checking USB drive removal policy in Device Manager in Windows 10

If “Quick Removal” is selected, then it’s safe to simply unplug your drive (when it’s not in use) without telling Windows.

If you have “Better Performance” selected, you’ll definitely need to use the “Safely Remove Hardware” notification icon to remove the drive safely. Here’s how.

How to Safely Remove a USB Drive on Windows 10

If you have a USB drive plugged into your Windows 10 machine and you’d like to safely eject, locate the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon (which looks like a USB plug) in your taskbar notifications area, which is usually in the lower-right corner of your screen. If you can’t see it, click the carat-shaped up arrow to see hidden icons.

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Click the carat-shaped arrow in the taskbar notification area to see hidden icons in Windows 10.

Once the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon has been revealed, right-click it.

Right-click the Safely Remove Hardware icon in Windows 10.

In the menu that pops up, locate the name of the drive you’d like to remove; It will have the word “Eject” in front of it. Click it.

Click "Eject" and the name of the USB drive you'd like to remove in Windows 10.

If there are any write operations in progress, Windows will make sure that everything is complete before ejecting the drive. Once the drive is safe to remove, Windows will alert you with a notification pop-up titled “Safe To Remove Hardware.”

A "Safe to Remove Hardware" notification in Windows 10.

It is now safe to unplug the drive from your PC.

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Lucila is a freelance writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to study new things. She enjoys checking out the latest grammar books and writing about video games more than anything else. If she's not running through Colorado’s breathtaking landscape, she's indoors hidden away in her cozy game room trolling noobs and leveling up an RPG character. She is a Final Fantasy IX apologist (although she loves them all… except XV), coffee aficionado, and a bit of a health nut. Lucila graduated from Western Kentucky University with a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing.

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