SAFELY  REMOVE  HARDWARE  -  OPTIONS

In this section I will teach you how to disconnect removable hardware correctly, such as a Memory Card, DVD RW Drive and Flash (Memory) Drive. The first thing to be aware of is that when removable hardware is installed, by you or preinstalled by the manufacturer, it is configured by Windows 10 as either optimized for Better Performance or optimized for Quick Removal.

Optimized For Better Performance means data is Write Cached. This basically means a removable device, such as a USB Flash Drive, is cached (has a special storage area/memory buffer for recording information) for faster Read/Write access. The removable device's cache (storage area/memory buffer) is used to record information about Sectors, Previous Reads, Information that may be needed later for Write purposes and so on. In others words: It makes the copying (saving) of files, from your hard drive to your usb flash drive for example, much quicker by reducing the number of Reads/Writes.

The idea of caching (recording information) first, as opposed to just writing data (saving files) straight onto the removable device, is so that writing can be done on the removable device at intervals that suit Windows 10 - Normally when the computer becomes idle or not too busy.


The downside of caching is that you can lose your data (i.e. files) during transfer (paste-ing/saving), especially if you suddenly unplug the removable device and/or get a power failure. To cut down on data loss this option, Optimized For Better Performance, requires you to unplug the removable device using the SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon - Doing so informs Windows 10, and in turn any processes/tasks using that removable device, that it should finish any Writes (saves) to the removable device before allowing the removable device to be removed.

So should you use Optimized For Better Performance? Well it depends whether or not it can be switched off (see Optimized Settings below), but in general I would suggest using it if it is available. I have never had any problems with lost/missing data due to using hardware with the Optimized For Better Performance setting switched on or enabled naturally.

Optimized For Quick Removal is the opposite Optimized For Better Performance. It disables the Write Cache feature for a removable device so that data (i.e. files) can be saved onto it straight away.....at the expense of more Reads/Writes, which means more wear and tear of the removable device in the long run. It also means you can disconnect the removable device at any time, without needing to use the SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon, because it is assumed the data was written straight away.

Saying this though; Always make sure a removable device has finished writing data before disconnecting it, either by waiting for its light to go off (if it has one) or by shutting down Windows 10 (if you are in doubt). Removing a removable device whilst files are being saved onto it might corrupt a file and/or not copy all files.

HOW  TO  SAFELY  REMOVE  A  HARDWARE  DEVICE

If a removable device is optimized for Better Performance you should always use the SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon to disconnect it from Windows 10. Disconnecting a removable device without using the SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon could mean you lose some data (see above). You will know if you have any removable devices connected to the computer, that may or may not be optimized for Best Performance, because the Green Ticked USB icon (Fig 1.0) should be in the notification area.

Note: The SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon might be hidden directly from the notification area whereby you have to click on its EXPANSION button to expand the view of available notification icons and therefore view the SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon in order to use it. The SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon is the Green Ticked USB icon.

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.0 - Click on the EXPANSION button to see the SAFELY REMOVE HARDWARE notification icon

If you know only one removable device, optimized for Best Performance, is connected to the computer you can safely remove it by right clicking (or left clicking) on the Green Ticked USB icon - This will bring up the context menu (Options menu) whereby you then need to left-click on the menu-item that states your removable device. So in this example I have clicked on the EJECT ULTRA, which belongs to the removable USB Flash Drive (F:) device currently plugged into my computer.

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.1 - Safely Remove One Hardware Device

After clicking on the EJECT menu-item Windows 10 automatically disconnects itself from the removable device (software-wise) and then no longer recognises that removable device as physically connected to the computer (even though it still is). The only way for Windows 10 to recognise the removable device as connected to the computer again, once you have clicked on the EJECT menu-item, is to unplug the removable device and then plug it back in again. Or leave the it plugged into the computer and then restart the computer.

If all goes well you should see a notification message informing you that the removable device can now be safely removed from the computer. After that the Green Ticked USB icon will disappear to denote that the removable device was successfully disconnected from Windows 10 (software-wise).

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.2 - Windows 10 has disconnected the removable device (software-wise)

If the removable device you want to safely remove is being used by windows 10, a program or another piece of hardware you might not be able to safely remove the removable device. You might get the following error message instead.

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.3 - The removable device is currently in use and therefore can not be safely removed now

If the removable device is suddenly unplugged when you are copying files onto it for example you will see the following error message. Reinserting the removable device will tell Windows 10 to make it available again, ready for copying (pasting) the files again in this case.

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.4 - The removable device can not be found - Try reinserting it

Whether or not Windows 10 back tracks to recopy any files that may have been damaged/lost, or even missing (not copied), at the time of sudden unplug is anyone's guess. This would depend on whether or not you used CUT & PASTE or COPY & PASTE for example.

MULTIPLE  REMOVABLE  DEVICES  -  HIDDEN  REMOVABLE  DEVICES

If you have one or more removable devices, configured as optimized for Better Performance, connected to the computer you simply do as above to remove each device. In this example I am removing my USB DVD RW Drive, which physically ejects the dvd disc before disconnecting the dvd rw drive (software-wise).

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.5 - Safely eject a dvd disc and then disconnect the dvd rw drive (software-wise)

Not all removable devices are registered/associated with the notification icon. Some usb removable devices are managed by the Devices And Printers control panel, which is accessible by clicking on the OPEN DEVICES AND PRINTERS menu-item on the notification icon or by using the DEVICES AND PRINTERS control panel. Either method will open the Devices And Printers control panel window. You can also use the START MENU >> SETINGS >> DEVICES >> DEVICES AND PRINTER link, but that is the ong way around.

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.6 - Click on the OPEN DEVICES AND PRINTERS menu-item to open.....

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.7 - .....the Devices And Printers control panel window.

In the above example the Full HD 1080p Video Webcam is not listed on the notification icon menu-items, but is listed on the Devices And Printers control panel window. By right clicking on FULL HD 1080P VIDEO WEBCAM, to bring up its context menu (Options menu), the option REMOVE DEVICE is available. That option would uninstall the webcam (hardware deice), but not its software drivers. Meaning, the webcam would be disconnected from Windows 10 (software-wise) whereby the webcam would need unplugging and then plugging back in again before Windows 10 would reinstall it using existing/previous software drivers.


REMOVE DEVICE is good when experiencing problems with a hardware device because it allows that hardware device to be removed (uninstalled), which in turn is great for diagnostic purposes for example. However, ALWAYS have the Installation DVD/Drivers DVD available just in case Windows 10 can not or does not recognise the hardware device thereafter; for whatever reason(s).

IS  A  HARDWARE  DEVICE  OPTIMIZED  FOR  PERFORMANCE?

To find out if a hardware device is configured as optimized for Better Performance or Quick Removal you must use the Device Manager control panel (program) and/or contact the hardware device's manufacturer if possible.

Fig 1.8 below shows that the Internal Hard Drive has Write Caching support, which is currently enabled (ticked), but it has no Quick Removal support - This makes sense because you would not really want to unplug an internal hard drive when the power is switched on.....unless you want to experience a computer with a damaged/dead motherboard. The Flash Drive on the other hand (Fig 1.9) can be configured as either optimized for Quick Removal (Write Caching disabled) or optimized for Better Performance (Write Caching enabled) because it supports Write Caching and Quick Removal.

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.8 - The Internal Hard Drive supports Write Caching only

Safely Remove Hardware Explained

Fig 1.9 - The Flash Drive supports both Write Caching and Quick Removal

Using device manager to check which removable devices support Quick Removal and which removable devices support Best Performance you can better decide if it is safe to just unplug a hardware device (because you are sure it is configured as optimized for Quick Removal) or if you should play safe by using the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon. In other words, do not be ignorant and just unplug. This two minutes checking time, if that, can save you time and money.

CACHE  FLUSHING

By default Windows 10 periodically tells a removable storage device, such as a Flash Drive, to empty its cache (stored data). Or put another way, Windows 10 tells a flash drive: "Empty your stored (cached) data straight away - I do not want too much data storing up in case I crash/freeze or the power goes off".

With many devices, when you tick the option called ENABLE WRITE CACHING ON THE DEVICE cache flushing is switched on by default. To switch off cache flushing tick the option called TURN OFF WINDOWS WRITE-CACHE BUFFER FLUSHING ON THE DEVICE.

CACHE  DISABLING

Disabling (switching off) any kind of cache feature in general means things will be Read/Written to straight away, and not stored for later, which means your files get copied straight away - Good in case the power goes off or the computer crashes/freezes. However, not so good performance-wise - More wear and tear of the device for example.

WINDOWS  WILL  NOT  RELEASE  MY  DEVICE

If Windows 10 (Safely Remove Hardware) will not release (eject/disconnect/uninstall/disassociate) itself from your hardware device it could be that it is still in use by another process/task (program), in which case you could try and stop that process/task (see the SHUTDOWN examples in the Crashed / Frozen section for more general information).

If the process/task can not be stopped, perhaps because you can not identify which application/program is associated with (using) your hardware device, the best thing to do is restart or shutdown Windows 10 - A restart or shutdown is normally only needed when your hardware device (i.e. Flash Drive) will not stop flashing.