USB Flash Memory – Safely Removing From A Windows Based ME/2000/XP Computer

USB flash memory drives, aka thumb drives or handy drives, are a great way to store information and to transfer information from computer to computer. Simple to use and very affordable, the popularity of these drives has increased over the years. These drives are now as common as were the old floppy disks that they have replaced.

But are you aware that when using Windows ME/2000/XP there is a procedure to follow before unplugging the USB flash memory stick from the USB port?

When you plug in a USB flash memory device into an available USB port, the USB monitor icon will appear in the system tray of the taskbar. You know, the area down where the time is located at the bottom right of the screen. You may also hear a sound once the memory drive is inserted.

To remove the USB flash memory drive after you are done, follow this procedure:

  • Confirm that all activity has completed. Normally the light on the USB drive will cease to flash.
  • Click on the USB monitor icon in the system tray of the taskbar.
  • A “Stop USB Mass Storage Device -Drive E” pop-up list should appear next to the icon.
  • Click on the pop-up list and a “Safe to Remove Hardware” windows will appear.
  • Click “OK” to close this window and then unplug the USB device.

That’s it – you’re done.
[tags]USB, flash, memory, drive, windows, me, 2000, xp, safely[/tags]

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • mcwhite

    i know its just to be safe, but why is this nessary? ive never done it before besides running through the steps to do it. im not computer illiterate, i know errors can happen due to applications running or things running in the background, but just for normal day to day unpluging why is this nessary?

    thank you

  • ben ward

    Hey. I would like to know this too!

  • Ron Schenone

    Hello mcwhite and ben,
    Like most everyone I always just yanked the usb stick out. It seems by following the above procedure it does two things. Turns off the juice to the stick and MAY, just MAY prevent file corruption on the stick. Your mileage may vary.

    I know take the time to to it properly. However, this is more of a safety precaution than being cast in stone. :-)

    All the best and thanks for the comments, Ron

  • Philip T

    I have LOST data by simply unplugging the USB drive. Windows sometimes soes a delay write to the USB drive. By stopping the drive properly it writes any data to the drive that may be in the delayed write cache.

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Philip T,
    Thanks for the info.

  • adam

    is it safe to leave a usb in your computer?

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Adam,
    On my Vista box I’m using a USB drive for Ram Boost and leave it in all of the time. So far no problems. :-)


  • Melissa

    I tried to install the sp3 update from Microsoft’s site and my computer would boot to a blue screen. I had to have a tech from Friendly Computers come to my house to fix my computer. It took him about 45 minutes, and their rates were really reasonable. I am not sure what the problem was, but if you are having any problems, I recommend their services. Their site is and you can find the closest location on their site.

  • Ron Schenone

    Thanks Melissa

  • Jack Alexander

    If one is running ‘Buzzsaw’ defrag service you must first stop that service to safely remove a thumb drive. Otherwise the user will most likely get a message to try again at a later time.

  • Doha

    I am using windows vista home premium and the USB monitor icon does not show at all on my task bar. How can I safely remove my usb flash memory? or is it not needed in Viista?

    Thank you

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Doha,
    Check this article. You should have a USB icon with a green check mark next to it.

  • Doha

    Thanks Ron for the reply,

    But still I do not have it, I tried to figure out how to make it show but it does not… Can you tell me how to make it show?


  • Ron Schenone

    Hello Doha,
    Try this – which I found on the Elder Geek forum:
    ‘Did you make any hardware or software changes before this problem occurred?
    If no changes were made and this just “happened”…you could try running a System Restore, to a time or day before the problem.

    Did you inadvertently disable the Plug and Play service? Look in Administrative Tools, Services…scroll down to Plug and Play and see if this service is set to “Automatic”…if not this could be the problem with the Safely Remove Hardware icon….

    Something else you could try is, to go into Control Panel and click the Add Hardware icon and have Windows check for new hardware…even if there isn’t anything new…it may reset some internal software value that got mysteriously hosed up…it happens’

    If this still doesn’t work, let me know. Some software installs, i.e. Nokia software, may disable the USB icon. :-)

  • Lester

    Hey guys,

    I know this is somewhat of an old topic but I thought I’d contribute.

    To Doha:
    There should be an icon in your taskbar, but if you don’t it shouldn’t be a problem. I always do it this way, anyway. On Vista, go to Start -> Computer and then look for your device on the left pane. Right-click on it and then choose Safely Remove. A few seconds later and your device should disappear from the list and a bubble should appear on your taskbar telling you it’s OK to disconnect.

    I prefer doing it this way because I tend to have multiple devices connected via USB, so it’s easier to tell which one I’m safely removing.

  • Ron Schenone

    Thanks Lester for the advice.

  • rob snell

    with some memory sticks, sometimes there is a message like “the device cannot be stopped right now, Try stopping the device again later”. This usually means an application like PowerPoint was used to open a document. Even though you closed the document, the PC ‘thinks’ it still needs access. If you shut the application and try again, you should be able to get the usual “its ok to remove it” message

  • Ron Schenone

    Thanks Rob.

  • Jeff

    Excellent post, this is motivation for me to keep it up. It’s not easy, but it’s extremely rewarding; more so than text, would you agree?

  • Jmgray

    Please change the text back to Black.

    • Chris Pirillo

      Wait, what’s wrong?

  • Chris Pirillo

    Good call!

  • Chris Pirillo

    …for a LOT of people.

  • Chris Pirillo


  • Chris Pirillo

    I’ve been wrong more than once. :)

  • Dan

    It would have made a great internet machine. Any Linux distro would have made it a machine that would have satisfied 90% of people’s needs.

  • satori

    Currently using a Pentium 4 HT 3.0 GHz socket 478 machine – on a board which supports DDR2 RAM and PCI-E graphics. And it still works like a charm ^^

  • Anonymous

    Had to add that there’s a great company in Issaquah, WA called 1GreenPlanet (don’t know if they have other locations, sorry) and they will take all used electronics, scrap metal, TV’s, and all of the other electronic stuff you feel guilty throwing in the trash for free. I make routine trips over there myself.

    • Chris Pirillo

      I had no idea. That’s awesome! I hope I remember them… :)

  • Andreas Hartmann

    I personally love restoring very old hardware to a usable state. While my primary machine is a Phenom II quadcore I also have a P4 1.8 ghz and a celeron 1.4 ghz notebook which are still perfectly ok. But my favorite machine on which I am proudly using my own LFS Distro to surf the web on WLAN is a Pentium MMX Notebook with 80 MB of RAM and a 2 GB Hard Drive.

  • Corey Watford

    My brother’s computer has 256mb of ram and a 1ghz intel processor, and a 60gb Hardrive-that trash above is truely a treasure he could have used

  • Edward Holmes

    I think it is very wasteful to of thrown such a thing away. If it was very old then yes but some people would love to have a machine like this. Not to mention it could have been sent to a third world country free of charge to you! Many charities exist that do this recycling for free!

  • Robert Frederick

    among other things, I recently restored a Zenith Z 248 system that was military surplus. it’s a 286 8mhz system with a 40 gig hard drive and 1mb of ram. it’s my definition of a very old system. and the oldest PC I have to date. but I do sometimes question myself on why I keep older computers. I have several built that do not seem to be going anywhere at the moment. as my outlet for donating these has dried up, so I guess I’m not alone anymore in terms of that question. part of me screams “No!, it’s a good computer!” but the logical half knows that I would run out of room really fast if I kept even half of the working systems that I’ve come across.