WITH my old XP Laptop, in order to safely remove a flash drive, I only had to left-click twice on the icon down in the System Tray, which told me that it was now safe to remove the drive.
I now have a Windows 7 laptop and if my memory serves me, the same procedure applied initially; but now, a few months later nothing happens if I click the icon. Help says that you can safely remove the drive as long as the icon is present, but my icon is present all the time that the flash drive is connected. Can you please tell me the current correct method?
Robert Woodward, by email
I can’t explain the apparent change in behaviour but the ‘Safely Remove’ and ‘Eject’ operations (in Windows Explorer) are a largely unnecessary belt and braces precaution. In fact you can usually safely pull out a flash drive after it has finished a read or write operation, the drive LED, (if it has one), isn’t blinking or the data transfer bargraph says the file has finished copying. The dire warnings against not doing it usually refer to something called Write Caching. This is where Windows may delay writing data to a drive either because the system is busy or there is a request to transfer multiple files. The argument goes that if you pull out the drive and a write operation is interrupted then data on the drive, or its table of contents, may be corrupted. It is true that it can happen on fixed drives but by default write caching is disabled for removable drives because Microsoft knows that users are impatient and have a tendency to whip out flash drives and memory cards willy-nilly, without properly eject
ing them first. You can check this is so by connecting your flash drive, open Device Manager (Winkey + Break), right-click on its entry under Disk Drives, select Properties and on the Policies tab ‘Optimise for Quick removal’ or ‘Quick Removal’ should be selected.