As soon as you’ve started using computers and thumb drives, you’re constantly told one thing.
Ah girl ah, before you pull out your USB stick, must right-click and “Safely Remove Hardware”, okay?
If not all your dirty photos will be lost.
By dirty photos, I meant that picture of your 5-year-old self with chocolate covered lips. What were you thinking?
But Is That True?
Despite the warnings, many of us have been in the situation where we are in a rush (or a state of apathy) that results in the accidental (or not) yanking out of our external storage devices without going through the “proper steps”.
If you’re using macOS, unless you wanted to corrupt your file, you’re almost definitely going to regret that. Windows users, however, you’d have been safe.
Quick Removal vs Better Performance
Recently, Microsoft released this support page on Windows 10, version 1809.
(To get the latest version, simply wait for Windows to remind you for an update. For your info, it will eventually be updated to the latest version, because an outdated Windows version could have security vulnerabilities.)
On their support page, they drew attention to the 2 options in the removal policy, and pointed out that the default is Quick Removal rather than Better Performance.
What does that mean exactly?
For those who are interested in the nerdy details:
This is a feature that stores your commands on the local memory storage first, and only engages the external storage devices at intervals when you’ve accumulated a number of requests for your OS to execute at one.
This speeds things up because your computer is better at writing to its local memory storage than a slower external hard drive.
Choice 1: Better Performance
This option uses write caching, so ejecting your flash drives before pulling them out will allow your computer to flush the cache and make sure all pending commands have been executed.
Choice 2: Quick Removal
This option disables write caching, so that when you’ve saved your files on external storage devices, it really is saved in there, with no extra information floating around in your computer pretending to be present in thumb drive when it really isn’t.
For those who are not interested in the nerdy details (TL;DR), it is as it says in the picture:
Quick Removal allows users to remove their flash drives anytime but with slower performance. Better performance, however, will give you a faster performance, but you can’t just pull out your flash drive.
A New Feature?
Going back to our introduction, Windows users haven’t been losing anything when they disconnect their flash drives because they’ve have been enjoying this privilege for a while now. Microsoft has long anticipated our haphazard ways and set Quick Removal as the default option. In other words, this isn’t exactly new, or an update at all.
For macOS (and Linux), the default and only choice is Better Performance, which explains why you should always eject your USB sticks.
So Windows users, if you’ve been getting mixed signals in the past with some people religiously reinforcing the supreme need for safe removals, while others are very lax about it.
Now you know for sure that is indeed safe as long as your settings are correct (which should be correct if you didn’t change anything since it’s supposed to be the default!)
However, even with this confirmation, some people still insist that ejecting your media regardless would be safer because write cache isn’t the only cause of data loss.
Certain things could go wrong like if your file is still in use, or something continues running in the background that you didn’t see or your program locking a file on the drive even if it’s not being used.
In these cases, unplugging your flash drive may still cause problems when safely ejecting your media ensures that everything is truly alright.
With that, it’s really up to you
Take the extra precautions or live life on the edge?
As Frank Wang, a PhD candidate in computer science at MIT attested: “I’ve been pulling out thumb drives since the last five years and I haven’t had a problem.”