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Why Can’t I Eject My USB Device?

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management

Suzette from Jacksonville, FL writes:

Every time I try to eject my USB drive, I receive the following message: “This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.” Prior to using Windows 7, I never had this problem.

The Windows “Safely Remove Hardware” feature lets you know when you can unplug your USB devices without corrupting any files or ruining the drive. Sometimes when trying to unplug your device you may get this annoying message, however:

USB Error Message

This problem is usually caused because a program you might not expect is accessing the drive in the background without actively notifying you. For instance, programs like Windows Media Player frequently search the drives connected to your computer for new music files to build up its internal library.

To make sure none of these programs are currently active, you will first need to manually shut down any software running in the background. To see a list of active programs, tap the “Ctrl,” “Alt,” and “Delete” keys at the same time and then click the “Start Task Manager” button. Navigate to the “Processes” tab and click “Image Name” to see all the active processes in alphabetical order.

Click any program that could be accessing files on the USB drive – such as media players or word processing programs – and then click the “End Process” button at the bottom of the window. Repeat this process with any other programs running in the background.

Windows Task Manager

Try safely removing the USB drive again and see if the problem persists. If you continue to receive the error message, your computer may be trying to make use of the memory available on the USB drive to boost its speed.

Open the Start menu and click “Computer,” then right-click the name of your USB drive. Select “Properties” from the pop-up menu and then navigate to the “ReadyBoost” tab.

USB Properties

Click the radio button labeled “Do Not Use This Device” and then click “OK” and attempt to safely remove the USB device again.

Turning Off ReadyBoost

In the event the problem persists, you will need to download a third party tool that specifically checks for all open connections to the USB port and shuts them down. Download and install a program such as Process Explorer, and then click the “Find” button at the top of the screen and select “Find Handle or DLL.”

Process Explorer

Type the name of your USB drive letter in the search box, such as “E:\” if it is the “E” drive, and tap enter. The tool will bring up a list of every program currently connected to that drive. Right-click the program and select “Close Handle” to shut it down and the USB drive should now be ready to be safely removed.

~ Ty Arthur

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5 Responses to “Why Can’t I Eject My USB Device?”

  1. Shanker says:

    That is a detailed answer Ty Arthur. Thanks!

    Another instance where an unrelated program is causing problems!

  2. Tom says:

    Really! How friendly is that? Not very. One should not be a GEEK just to use a computer. Instead of the cryptic “This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.”, Windows should say “The following software is accessing the device. Do you wish to close the access and eject the device?” Now isn’t that much friendlier that jumping through several hoops to just remove a USB device? No wonder so many “ordinary” folks HATE the current Windows.

  3. Carol Lawrence says:

    Thank goodness for this fix I lost three complete back ups.

  4. Victoria says:

    I have a similar problem that I can’t find an answer to. When I click the “safely remove hardware and eject media” icon, I am told that it is safe to remove, however when I then remove my flash drive, my computer automatically shuts down anyway. I would really appreciate an answer to this problem, thanks for reading and please reply with a solution.

  5. Ka Hing Lee says:

    My experience. Do you have ‘Task Manager’ started? Just close it, and try to eject again. It works for me.

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