Tips for Using USB Drives

Written by Barry Dysert (last updated April 26, 2021)

2

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

Creating a System Restore Point

System restore points are created automatically at strategic times in the operation of your computer. You can also ...

Discover More

Modifying or Deleting a Program's Schedule

Windows makes it easy to define tasks and to run them on a regular schedule. If you later want to modify or delete a ...

Discover More

Switching between Users in Windows

You can switch between users (and come back) without having to close down your current workspace. This tip tells you how ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Introducing Microsoft Garage

Microsoft Garage is a way to test out new innovative programs or features that help developers looking to expand or test ...

Discover More

Performing a Factory Reset

Executing a factory reset is the final option if your computer is not working correctly. This tip shows you how to reset ...

Discover More

Adjusting Speaker Volume

Adjusting your computer's speaker volume is a quick process. Windows gives you simple access to the overall volume level ...

Discover More
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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 one less than 7?

2021-04-26 14:47:37

MW

According to MS' website, the Windows 10 v1809 update included an automatic setting called "Quick Removal" that allows you to pull out your USB devices without first 'ejecting' them, but you also can change that setting back to the old version:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/client-management/change-default-removal-policy-external-storage-media

Nonetheless I still always eject my USB devices before unplugging them (if you are using File Manager to navigate in the USB, right click on the USB root and select "eject.")

But if like me you have a bunch of different USB devices usually plugged in, it can be confusing finding which one you want to eject when you are viewing a folder tree in File Manager.

So using File Manager I always rename each new USB stick with letters, e.g., AA, BB, CC, etc., and also hand write the corresponding letters on the outside of the stick.

That makes it much easier to find and correctly identify which USB stick you want to remove/eject before you pull it out.


2021-04-26 12:16:52

Bill

The Safely Remove function still exists on my Windows 10 recent upgrade, but when I click it, not much happens. Specifically the "OK to Remove" message never appears. I have gotten to the point where I simply wait 5 seconds or so, and then yank the drive. That's kind of uncomfortable. A Google search shows that many people experience this issue, but so far there seems to be no answer. If you could contribute toward a fix, it would be much appreciated.
Bill


Newest Tips