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External hard drives, smartphones, mice and keyboards. At first glance these four devices may not have that much in common. There is one similarity they do share, they connect to your computer via a USB cable. While the USB devices are convenient, they do have one flaw: unplugging them without ejecting them could harm both the device and your computer.
When you plug in a device using a USB connection, your computer and device essentially shake hands and create a connection. When you plug in a device like your phone or external hard drive, it takes a moment for it to show up on your desktop and you’ll get a message telling you a device has been found and connected.
The whole idea of USB is that it’s what’s called hot swappable. This means you can unplug a device and plug in a new one without having to shut down the computer. This is true, you can easily switch devices, however, both Mac and Windows suggest that you eject, or safely remove the device, before you unplug it.
Why eject or safely remove?
Think of the USB cord as a bridge over a river and the data being transferred are people on it. When you disconnect a device without safely removing it, it’s akin to removing the bridge while there are people still on it. The chances of the people surviving are pretty slim. In other words, unplugging a device while it’s being used could result in lost data.
If you have the device plugged in, but are not transferring data you may think it’s okay to just unplug the device. Not so, in fact, chances are high that your computer will be using the device in the background and if you unplug it, you’ll most likely get an error message.
Some devices like mice and keyboards are normally okay to disconnect without ejecting, as the data normally goes only one way. A good rule to go by is: if there’s information on the device, safely remove it.
How to remove USB devices on Windows
If you’re a windows user, go to the bottom right of your screen, where the icons are, and look for the one that says: Eject USB Mass Storage Device. Click it, Windows will eject it and let you know when you can unplug it.
If you can’t find the icon, open My Computer and find the USB device you’d like to disconnect. if it’s your iPhone or an Android phone, it will be what you named the device. Right-click on it and select Eject.
How to remove USB devices on Mac
If you’re a Mac user, you can remove USB devices by clicking on what you want to remove, holding the left mouse button down, and dragging it to the trash (bottom right of the screen). If done right, the trash icon should change to an eject icon (triangle with a horizontal line below it). as soon as the icon disappears, you can remove it.
Alternatively, you can open the Finder – easiest way to do this is double click on your hard drive – find the device in the left side of the window that opens and hit the eject button. When it disappears from the list, you can remove the device.
Safely removing a USB device is a good business practice that all employees should adhere to, ensuring that data isn’t lost. If you have any questions about USB devices or other technological best practices, please contact us.
Published on 22nd June 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.