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Question of the Month – September

Question: Can data be lost if a USB drive is unplugged before it’s ejected?

Answer:
Many of us tend to simply pull USB sticks out of our computers and ignore the warning we receive from the system telling us the USB drive has not been safely removed. After all, we’ve done it hundreds of times without anything bad happening, how dangerous can it be?

The answer is that you can be taking a big risk not properly ejecting your USB drive. First of all, your data can be corrupted. Computer operating systems usually won’t write a file to your USB device as soon as you tell it to save; generally, it will cache your file until other operations have stopped running. If you remove the USB device while your file is still in the cache, the file not be written to your USB device and the cache will clear as well, meaning that your work could be lost forever. Improper ejection of USB device can also cause logical failures that can corrupt your file system.

One protection against accidentally improperly removing your USB drive is the “write caching” option in Windows, which offers extra security if this happens. This is deactivated as the default setting in Windows; however, you can enable it by going to Control Panel> Device Manager> USB Drive> Properties> Policies> Better performance.

It’s always best to avoid these problems by following the correct procedure. Simply click on the My Computer icon, right click on the USB drive, and select eject. When a message appears telling you it’s safe to remove hardware, you can unplug your USB drive.

If things do go wrong, you could try a recovery application, some of which have free trial versions available that show you what data the application can recover before you commit to buying.

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