Almost everyone who uses a computer has dealt with this problem of “This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.” every now and then. This is the result that we get in the form of a pop up window while trying to remove an external media, like a pen drive or a hard disk, from the port of a computer by clicking the safely remove hardware button.  But is this actually a problem?

Most of us simply plug out our devices without knowing the possible risk they are unknowingly putting their data to and the potential threat that their media is being subjected to. This behavior can be because of three possible reasons:

Reason 1: They do not know about safe removal or quick removal and about its importance.

Reason 2: Safe removal takes too much time. 

Reason 3: They have quick removal enabled in their systems.

For both the types it is better to know what this safe removal is and why is it so important. Well only those who have dealt with the results of this issue know how drastic they can be and they do not want to face them again. Just to make it brief, if not taken seriously you can lose all your data stored in the media permanently. Moreover your media (pen drive/ hard disk) might also get damaged beyond repair. Let us try to understand this concept and know about the possible solutions and the ways in which we can save our important data.

Every storage media has a file system that it uses to store, retrieve and update data to and from the media. This file system is of grave importance for the working of the media. This file system manages the access to the content of the media, arranging storage space and updating the properties of your media contents with the properties of the system under which the media is being used (like when you select “do not show hidden files” then the ones in your hard drive also stay hidden). You can intellectualize this file system as a log that contains entries of data and associated operations on this data.

When you are using a media on a computer, its file system gets updated as you perform operations on the media. These operations include adding data to the media, deleting data from the media or updating data. Whatever the operation may be, it gets logged in the file system of the media along with other details like the location of the data.

During safe removal, the operating system stops all such operations on the media so that it can be removed without disturbing its file system. The job of safe removal is to ensure that the drive is not being used by any program and that its file system is not being updated by that program.

If the media is removed while it is being used by some application, there is a fair chance that the file system can get damaged. In that case, the data inside your media also gets damaged. Since the only way to find data in the media is this file system, it needs to be restored to a working state before it can be used again.

Generally the operating system (windows in our case) detects this and can fix this automatically. You might have seen the scan and fix prompt by the operating system when you plug in your media. It is the way in which your computer tells you that your media has a corrupted file system and you should check it and fix it before use. Although it is optional and you can still use your media without any fix. But at times the problem is not that simple. Sometimes the file system gets corrupted so badly that it is beyond the capabilities of your operating system to repair it. Then you are left with only two options:

Format: A format can reset the media to its factory settings and can set the file system to its default state and it can then be used in a normal fashion. But the biggest problem is that you lose all your important data.

Software Tools: There are many software tools that can help you fix this problem with your media. Although the chances are less but it is still a valid option.

So now that we know what safe removal is, let us talk about the other problems.

“I did a safe removal request, and then I waited and waited but nothing happened.” It happens and this is another reason why people hate this safe removal because it never ends. But what could be the reason for this never ending.

The operating system need to stop any operation on the media before it tells you that the drive can now be safely removed. But there are applications that are beyond the reach of operating system like your anti-virus. The anti-virus starts checking your media for viruses and this can go on for a long time without you suspecting it as it works in the background. Now when operating system checks for any application that is manipulating your drive or controlling it, it finds your anti-virus and gives you the message “This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.

The solution is simple, if you get such an error try opening such possible applications, like your anti-virus, and check whether it is scanning this particular media. If so, stop this operation and try removing the media again. 

Another reason for this error could be an open file/folder or an application that is situated in your media. Just close this and eject your media, there will be no error.

If any of this is not helpful, you are still left with a final shot in your gun – a proper shut down. Yes simply shut down your system and remove the media now, it is safe. This works because when the system shuts down it closes all the running programs, be it your anti-virus or anything else. So now you can safely remove your media without any fear of damaging it. But mind the word proper, do not just plug out the power or reset it, go for a proper shut down.

This option enables you to just plug out your media without any safe removal formality. Although it is a default option in the system but there are chances it is disabled. Let’s check for it and if not then enable it. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Plug in the media you want to check for.

Step 2: Go to Control panel > Devices and Printers > Storage Media (double click on it).

Step 3: Change to Hardware tab and select your media under Device Functions by double clicking it.

Step 4: Select Change settings and shift to Policies tab.

Here you will find quick removal. If not selected, select it and press OK. That’s all to it. Now you do not need to use the safe removal option to eject your media.

Although it is a valid option but I still prefer the safe removal option for ejecting my media from system simply because I think it is better and secure to perform all these formalities. I hope this article was of some help to you all. Your suggestions are always welcome and thanks for reading. God bless you all. 


  1. Thank you for your clear instructions! I found that I have quick removal set already. I had been shutting down to remove external drive, because I kept getting that unsafe message.

  2. I have been dealing with this for a while now and also found that I have quick removal set already. Thanks for letting me breathe easy!

  3. This is of interest to me, but I have no "Policies" tab. On clicking "Change Settings", it just re-opens the same window showing "General", "Driver" and "Details". I'm running Win 7 64 bit on an i7.

  4. The people that work for MS can't explain it simple as you. They need more focus groups.