How do you safely eject an external hard drive?

Safely ejecting an external hard drive is an important step to avoid potential data loss or corruption. When you plug in an external hard drive to your computer, the operating system loads the necessary drivers to allow your computer to communicate with the drive. Simply unplugging the hard drive without properly ejecting it first could potentially damage files on the drive.

Why should you eject an external hard drive before unplugging it?

There are a few key reasons why you need to safely eject an external hard drive before unplugging it:

  • Prevents data loss or corruption: If you unplug the drive while files are still being written or read, it could corrupt that file. Ejecting forces all pending operations to finish first.
  • Avoids damage to the drive: Improperly removing a drive could potentially damage it and make stored data inaccessible.
  • Lets the OS unregister the drive: Ejecting lets the operating system know you are no longer using the drive so it can unregister it and related drivers.

How to eject an external hard drive in Windows

There are a few different ways to safely eject an external hard drive in Windows:

Using the Safely Remove Hardware icon

1. Click on the upward arrow icon in the lower right system tray to show hidden icons.

2. Look for the “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media” icon, it looks like a USB plug.

3. Click on this icon and it will show you a list of removable devices and drives, including your external hard drive.

4. Click on the external hard drive name in the list to eject it.

5. A confirmation message will appear letting you know it is safe to remove the hardware.

Using the Eject option in File Explorer

1. Open up File Explorer and locate your external hard drive under “This PC” or “Devices and drives”.

2. Right click on the drive and select Eject from the menu.

3. A pop-up will appear confirming it is safe to remove the hardware.

Using the Eject button on an external drive enclosure

Many external hard drives have a physical eject button on the drive enclosure. Press this button and wait for any activity lights to turn off before unplugging.

How to eject an external hard drive on Mac

On Mac computers, you eject an external drive through these steps:

Drag the drive icon to the Trash

1. Locate the external hard drive icon on your Desktop or in the Finder window sidebar.

2. Click and drag the drive icon to the Trash icon to eject it.

3. The drive icon will disappear once ejected.

Right click the drive icon and select Eject

1. Locate the external hard drive icon.

2. Right click on the icon.

3. Select Eject from the menu.

Use the Eject button in Finder

1. Open a Finder window.

2. Click the Eject button in the Finder menu bar.

3. Select your external drive from the dropdown menu.

What happens if you unplug without ejecting?

If you accidentally disconnect your external hard drive without ejecting it first, a couple things could potentially happen:

  • Data corruption: Files being written to could become corrupted if interrupted mid-transfer.
  • Drive errors: The hard drive itself could have connectivity issues next time you plug it in.
  • Unable to access drive: Your computer may have trouble accessing the drive again without rebooting.

In most cases, nothing disastrous will happen. Modern operating systems have safeguards in place to prevent serious damage. But ejecting properly each time avoids needlessly putting your data at risk.

Tips for safely ejecting external drives

Follow these tips for smooth ejecting every time:

  • Close all files and programs: Make sure nothing is still open or accessing files on the drive.
  • Wait for operations to finish: After clicking eject, wait for the confirmation message before unplugging.
  • Disconnect accessories: Unplug any connected cables, adapters, or hubs along with the drive.
  • Reboot if necessary: If your computer is still having trouble accessing the drive, a restart may help.


Always properly ejecting your external hard drives using the operating system tools prevents errors and keeps your data secure. Safely ejecting is quick and easy on both Windows and Mac systems once you know the different methods. Getting in the habit of safely removing external storage protects your important files and avoids potential drive issues.

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