Posted by: Barinas | December 8, 2012

In a Flash… Not!

Flash drive - MH900433879

One of the pesky side effects of using flash drives (other than losing those tiny little things all the time), is coming across the following error when trying to unplug it:

USB error about not being able to stop the device

I googled around for an answer and found some good suggestions at techdows, tomshardware, troublefixers, pcworld, and gearhack.  I then condensed all that I have read in those pages into the following troubleshooting strategies.  Try the first one and if it doesn’t work, try the second approach.  If the second one fails, try the next one, and so on.

  1. Close all other running programs, then wait about a minute and try again.
  2. Stop the drive.
  3. Use Unlocker.
  4. Try the grandaddy of all troubleshooting strategies: Reboot!

On a side note, all these troubleshooting might have you thinking why is it even necessary to click on the “Safely Remove Hardware” option in Windows or the “Eject” option in Macs.  I wondered the same thing too.  The most informative pages I found regarding this subject were in techguy, pcworld, and tomshardware.  From reading these pages I learned that essentially it is not the end of the world to just simply yank out your flashdrive as long as write caching is disabled.  That is supposedly the default setting (see image below), but if you want to make sure of that, read the steps on how to do it at pcworld.  (And if someone knows how to do the same in Macs, please let me know).

But let me just add that if you are working on a killer project on your flash drive that has taken you forever to make, if I were you I play it safe and do the “Safely Remove Hardware”.  Like the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Flash drive write caching and safe removal - windows screenshot - flash



  1. On a Mac when the drive is in use and won’t eject, the first step is the same; quit any applications that might be communicating with the drive. That usually solves the problem. It is only when one encounters an application that won’t quit that a “force quit” needs to be invoked.

    There is also a small application in the Utilities folder called Activity Monitor that allows you to see what processes are running and stop selected ones if needed. You have to know what you’re doing here, though, as it would be possible to stop an application that is essential to the functioning of the operating system.

  2. Gotta say that by the looks of it, Macs are easier to troubleshoot when it comes to safely ejecting flash drives. Thanks Dr. Ransom!

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