How to Remove a USB Pen/Flash Drive in Windows XP

When you want to disconnect a USB pen/flash drive from the socket, it is important to ‘inform’ Windows XP before you do so. Here's how:

Note: It's not exactly obvious that you have to do this, but the consequences of not doing so can be disastrous (you'll discover at the worst possible moment that the file isn't on the USB drive, and you are miles from the PC that has it). When you copy a file to a USB drive, Windows does not always write the file to the drive immediately — it may wait until the computer is inactive, in order to improve overall performance. By telling Windows you are about to remove the drive, you are forcing Windows to write any pending files to the drive.


The quick and simple way to remove a USB Flash drive is to click once on the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon in the System Tray. Then click on the “Safely remove USB Mass Storage Device” button. See below.


The following is the long–winded method, which gives more control, and which might be useful in more complicated situations.

  1. The first step is to double–click, or right–click, on the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon in the System Tray. See below.
  2. Next, click on the “Safely Remove Hardware” button.
  3. A dialog box will appear. Just click the “Stop” button.
  4. Another dialog box will appear. Just click the “OK” button.
  5. The previous dialog box is revealed, with an empty ‘pane’. Just click the “Close” button.
  6. You can now remove the USB drive.
  7. If you want to reread the USB drive, remove it, and then plug it back in again.

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Content last updated: 2005-03-21