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Why do I have to Eject my USB Flash Drive?

Why do I have to Eject my USB Flash Drive

Do I have to eject my USB flash drive?

The short answer: No.

The technical answer: Yes.

If the technical answer is yes, the why do I have to Eject my USB Flash Drive?

The difference boils down to the type of file system being used. If the USB is FAT, FAT32 or exFAT you do NOT need to eject the USB flash drive before pulling it out of a computer.

If the USB drive is NTFS, then yes, eject the flash drive before pulling it out of the computer.

So why eject when the USB flash drive is formatted as NTFS?

The NTFS (New Technology File System) is a journaling file system system.

A journaling file system is one that keeps track of changes which have not yet been committed to the main part of the file system by recording the goal of such changes in a data structure known as a “journal,” which is typically a circular log. In the event of a system crash or power outage, such file systems can be restored more quickly and with a lower risk of corruption.

Depending on how it is implemented, a journaling file system may only keep track of stored metadata, resulting in improved performance at the expense of increased data corruption risk. A journaling file system, on the other hand, may track both stored data and related metadata, with some implementations allowing for user-selectable behavior in this regard.

With an NTFS formatted flash drive it is very possible there are journal entries going on in the background which the user is not away of, so if the drive is unexpectedly pulled out of the computer that physical action could corrupt the data on the drive.

Why do people format flash drives as NTFS?

Two common reasons people (wrongfully) format a flash drive as NTFS include:

  1. The user would like to take advantage of security settings which NTFS does offer
  2. The user has large single files and isn’t aware exFAT solves the same problem

NTFS allows an Administrator to assign privileges’ to files and folders and those security settings will remain for said files on the NTFS formatted flash drive. This is probably the ONLY legitimate reason a flash drive should be formatted as NTFS.

FAT and FAT32 have a single file limit of 4GBs so any single file larger than 4GBs will not be copied to a FAT or FAT32 flash drive. To get around this problem, Users will format the drive as NTFS. They select NTFS because it’s the same file system as their host computer… and since it works there… might as well format the flash drive the same way. However, what the users don’t understand is exFAT solves the same problem while at the same time providing a more stable file system – one that isn’t a journaling file system – so a flash drive can be pulled out without ejecting.

Good News – Free USB Eject Software Tool

GetUSB.info reported on this earlier; Eject USB Flash Drive safely, Free Download. The software is free to download, free to distribute and free to embed into other programs.

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Matt LeBoff

Kicking around in technology since 2002. I like to write about technology products and ideas, but at the consumer level understanding. Some tech, but not too techie.

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