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Corrupted data, and avoiding it

This article was been published more than a year ago. The information may be outdated.

I more or less always carry a USB Flash drive with me, for several reasons;

  • They contain EMS information about who I am, my next of kin, important medical history etc.
  • There are a number of documents I like to have with me
  • I run PortableApps off it

The habit of carrying a USB Flash drive started many years ago, and in the beginning, I simply unplugged the drive, not thinking anything of it. One day I plugged it in, and all of my data was gone. Annoyed and sad about the loss of data, I browsed around the web to find out what had happened.

I quickly learned that the cause was my unplugging the drive, which eventually corrupted my data, a problem I had encountered earlier with floppy disks. Ever since then, I’ve unmounted my USB drives before unplugging them. There are a few reasons for this:

  • You avoid data corruption
  • You allow the drive time to write the data to memory
  • You ensure that all ties to the drive are severed before unplugging it

So, now that we know why, here’s how to unmount your drives:

    1. Locate and right-click the “Remove hardware” icon

Remove Hardware

    1. Click “Safely Remove Hardware”
    2. You’ll get this dialog box

Safely Remove Hardware Dialog box

  1. Check the checkbox “Display device components”
  2. Select the appropriate drive and click “Stop”
  3. Alternately, you can simply click on the “Remove hardware” icon
  4. Then click the drive to stop

Stopping the drive will not always work, when it doesn’t work it’s due to one of a few possible culprits:

  • Having the drive open in Windows Explorer
  • Running programs off it
  • Having a file located on the drive open
  • Files being written to the drive
  • Files being copied from the drive
  • Files on the drive having been placed into the Recycle bin, but not finally removed

Any of these, as well as other, related, tasks could cause you not to be able to eject the drive. To resolve this, simply go through the above list, and try to resolve each possible cause (there might be more than one). This advice relates to all USB storage devices by the way, not only flash drives, although flash drives are more prone to these kinds of problems.

4 Comments

  1. RennyBA RennyBA

    I use USB drive a lot too, but haven’t have all that much trouble. This was a very educative and readable post – thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge!

  2. Aleksander R. Rødner Aleksander R. Rødner

    Thank you!

    I’m not really saying, or at least intending to say, that it is common, but I know that it does occur, and it just seems to me to be a simple way to prevent data loss. Mind you, properly unmounting drives becomes even more important in Linux, but that’s a subject for a later post.

  3. Daniel.Kyre Daniel.Kyre

    Properly unmounting devices while running windows is extremely important. Windows will randomly read (and to an extent write) data to drives, be it hard drives or usb memory.

  4. Martin Martin

    Thanks for your information.I have recently lost my data. I have used Stellar Phoenix data recovery software.It is very easy to use and provides good recovery solution.It recovers all my lost data.

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