Can’t Eject External USB Hard Drive Or USB Device? Here is the Solution

Few months ago we wrote an article on solving a common USB device issue – How to solve “Windows was unable to complete the format” error. Today we’ll try to solve another common USB device issue. Unable to eject or safely remove the device is most common problem among Windows users. Even though Windows 7 has a better Safely Remove Hardware-Eject Device mechanism compared to earlier Windows OS versions, sometimes it is not capable to do what must be done in case we get the following message:

This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.

When I tried to eject my LaCie external hard drive, I faced the incapacity to do it from Windows 7 safely remove assistant. So how to find out which program is causing this in order to stop it and then to safely remove the external USB drive.

Many programs can be responsible for this, such as an Antivirus tool with USB monitoring feature, Windows cleaning tools that clean USB drives or even a backup software that has real time option. So, it is complicated to manually investigate which software is using the USB device. Hence, let us look at few freewares that comes handy in safely removing USB drives.

1. Sysinternals’ Handle :

We will first start with Sysinternals’ Handle software. First download Handle (zip file) and then follow the below steps.

  • Extract the executable to C:\Windows\system32. (We are extracting to system32 folder to lessen the work of typing (browsing to) the path of Handle folder in command prompt. If you are familiar with command prompt you can extract Handle’s zip file to any folder as you like.)
  • Then, Run command prompt as administrator.
  • At the command prompt, type: handle H:\, where H is the drive letter of your device.
Using Handle to find which process is using the USB drive

Using Handle to find which process is using the USB drive

Now, observe the result from Sysinternals’ Handle. in my case I saw that CleanMyPC was actually preventing the ejection. Closing CleanMyPC will fix the issue. But, what if closing CleanMyPC from Windows task manager is not successful and still can’t eject LaCie hard drive? Sometimes we face the issues where processes can’t be killed by task manager. That’s where the excellent Process Explorer software from Sysinternals, comes to the rescue.

Using Process Explorer to kill processes

Using Process Explorer to kill processes

  • Download & launch then software and then click on Find-Find Handle or DLL
  • Type the hard drive letter or if you know the PID (you can get it easily from above step)
  • Use this software to shut down the process and eject your USB drive.

Download : Handle || Process Explorer

2. LockHunter :

The above is a 2-step process that requires some time. Now let us look at an easier way, that is to use LockHunter. Following are the features of LockHunter :

  • Shows processes locking a file or folder.
  • Allows to unlock, delete, copy or rename a locked file.
  • Allows to kill locking process.
  • Allows to remove locking processes from hard drive.
  • Integrates in to Explorer menu.
  • It deletes files into the recycle bin, so you may restore them if deleted by mistake.
  • Supports both 32 and 64bit Windows.
LockHunter quickly kills the processes using USB drives

LockHunter quickly kills the processes using USB drives

As you can see LockHunter also pointed CleanMyPC and with simple click on Unlock It stopped the process and I could eject my LaCie external hard drive without problems or file corruptions.

Download : LockHunter

Finally, if you are in a situation where you do not get the safe to remove hardware popup message from Windows after clicking on the safely remove hardware and eject media icon on the task bar. Try this:

  • Right click on an empty area of the Taskbar.
  • Click on Properties then click on Taskbar tab.
  • Under Notification area, click on Customize button.
  • In the Window that pops up, scroll down to ‘Windows Explorer – Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media’.
  • Choose “Show Icon and Notifications” from the list on the right.
  • Click OK.

Alternative way with Ultimate Windows Tweaker, under Personalization un-check Disable balloon tips.

Hope this will help you in case you face similar problems.

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