Safely Remove Your USB Device…
Even now it is misunderstood and maligned. Stop for a second and ask yourself, do you safely remove your USB devices?
How often are we in a rush and just tug that External Hard Drive, Jump Drive or other USB device out without a thought?
How can it be in the 21st Century, after all these years, now we have reached USB 3.0 that we still need to go through that malarkey just to disconnect?
If You Are Puzzled…
Windows requires users to safely disconnect your USB devices from the USB port they are connected to or plugged into. Sometimes we see the consequences of not doing this the next time we plugin and Windows doesn’t recognize the device.
So for those who are unfamiliar here is how to Safely Remove Your USB Device: –
Why Can’t I Just Pull It Out?
As I mentioned before the short-term consequences may be that Windows will not recognize the USB device next time you plug it into the same USB port.
This means you can end up with an External Hard Drive, Jump Drive or other device that won’t work with your laptop but long term there are other ramifications.
Windows has total recall for every single device you ever plug into your USB ports and its metadata. This is all stored in the registry and it can get very bloated there.
I had to deal with a laptop with Windows 7 installed that was failing to recognize any USB devices. At first I thought, “It’s an old laptop, maybe the actual hardware is faulty.” However, investigation and some testing led me to believe that it wasn’t the case. I was ending up with unrecognized USB devices. The most frustrating was the wireless mouse. I suspected that there was some issue with the registry storing USB device history but really didn’t want to have to search through the whole Windows Registry nor did I want to do a full format and reinstall of Windows to test my hypothesis.
Thankfully a refresher on the subject courtesy of Bing discovery reminded me where to find the tools to handle this easily. The awesome Nirsoft run by Nir Sofer is an incredible site which has amongst its many tools something called USBDeview.
This is a tool that will allow you to see every USB device you ever plugged in to your PC, view its details and choose from the following: –
- Enable / Disable devices
- Disconnect connected devices
- Uninstall previously used devices
The last was the one that most interested me. There were several screens worth of devices. This computer had been used to connect to about 15 different smartphones for testing and each of those were present. USBDeview showed me when each had last been unplugged and much more.
Sample screenshot from USBDeview
Once all this legacy bloat had been removed USB devices connected and worked on the spot. You are probably asking where the link to download USBDeview is but, since this is not for the faint of heart I’m going to leave the bolder and more experienced who feel capable of using this tool safely to find it on the site themselves. This is a tool that makes changes to the Windows Registry, if you are going to use it then backup the registry first and consider yourself warned.
The Warptest POV
Safely Remove Your USB Device are words to live by. The better you treat your Windows OS, the better it will treat you. In the long run the Windows registry has a finite capacity for bloat so anything you can do to minimize this will almost certainly maximize the time until you need to format and reinstall.
When I discussed the problem of this older laptop with a skilled Windows tech I know, their response was,
“Sounds like hardware, time to replace that laptop.”
Don’t get me wrong there are cases where replacing hardware are a must. This isn’t automatically one of them.
The moral of the story is unless you are sure there is physical damage to hardware, don’t be in a rush to write off a PC that has problems.
((Free tip: whatever repairs need doing, always ensure all your data is backed up off the PC either to an External Hard Drive or Cloud Storage beforehand.))
So, the next time you’re about to just yank that External Hard Drive out of the port, ask yourself if you shouldn’t safely remove your USB Device. You’ll be glad you did.