Tips for Using USB Drives

by Barry Dysert
(last updated April 16, 2018)

USB drives are a boon to those using computers because they are portable, reliable, fairly fast, and have a good deal of capacity. USB drives are well suited for transferring large amounts of data between computers that aren't connected by a fast network.

When selecting a USB drive for use with your system, you'll always get the best performance if you match the "generation" of the USB drive to what is supported by your system. In other words, if your system has USB 2 or USB 3 connectors on it, then you will get the best performance by using a USB 2 or USB 3 drive. You can use older generations of drives with newer generations of connectors, but the transfer speeds will only go to whatever speed is the slowest between your system and drive. (For example, a USB 2 drive won't perform at USB 3 speeds even if your system is capable of USB 3 support.)

One thing to be aware of when using USB drives is that if AutoPlay is turned on, the disk will be searched every time it's plugged in. When you plug in a drive, you'll see the AutoPlay dialog box appear. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The AutoPlay dialog box.

Don't be fooled into thinking that you must wait until the search is finished before you can use the device. Instead, simply click the Open Folder to View Files option near the bottom, and you'll immediately see an Explorer window appear for your USB drive. You can then navigate the drive just as you would any other disk drive.

Another unnecessary cause that may concern you is that occasionally nothing happens when you plug in a USB drive. When this happens, it's usually because the USB connectors need to be reseated. Simply remove the USB drive from the USB port and plug it back in. You should then see your drive appear.

Finally, it's recommended that you always safely remove the USB drive instead of simply pulling it out of the USB port. You safely remove a device by clicking the Safely Remove icon in your system tray. It looks like a USB cable with a check mark next to it. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Safely Remove icon.

Once you click the Safely Remove icon, Windows shows you the USB devices it detects on your system. Click the name of the device you want to remove and Windows will shortly let you know if it is OK to remove it. Once you're notified, you are free to unplug it.

 This tip (12371) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...

MORE FROM BARRY

Using Your Own Picture as an Account Picture

You can easily customize your computing experience by using your own picture as your account picture. This tip explains how.

Discover More

Creating an XPS Document

Creating an XPS document is as easy as printing a document. This tip explains how.

Discover More

Copying Data with XCopy

XCopy is a file and directory copy utility built into Windows. If you have a lot of file management to do that can't ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Searching From the Start Menu

You can be more efficient if you get used to using the search functionality from the Start menu. This tip discusses that.

Discover More

Understanding Processes in the Task Manager

Your computer is typically running scores of processes behind the scenes of the relatively few windows you may have open. ...

Discover More

Starting Programs Automatically at Startup

If you have programs that you want to automatically start when your system starts, this tip tells you how to set them up.

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five less than 7?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.