Unplugging a USB drive before it is safe to do so can result in disaster. Corrupting files is one issue. The USB drive not being usable is the second.

If anything, recognizing the importance of removing your USB drive should be understood here. So, here are 5 steps to removing a USB drive safely even Windows tells you that it isn’t:

Step 1: Use the Windows’ Remove Hardware Tool

Click the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the notification area. Select your device. Wait until a message pops up which says ‘Safe to remove hardware’. Now, remove the hardware. If it is says ‘Device currently in us’, then move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Take An Educated Guess

In this case, think about what you loaded from the USB whether it is a portable program, document, photo or any other file. Sometimes the application in which you might have opened a file might still be hanging on to it. So, close that application and try again. Also, check both the Applications and Processes tabs in Task Manager to see if anything is hanging on still.

Step 3: A Third-Party Utility Might Be Useful

One example is USB Safely Remove which replaces the Windows Safely Remove tool. Only difference is that if it can’t remove the USB safely, it tells you which program is causing the trouble. It costs about $20. If you buy it, then you might never have to move to step 4.

Step 4: Log off and Turn It Back On

Now, you can log off your computer. It will close every file you’ve opened. But it’s annoying and also time consuming. You’ll have to save all files that you’ve opened. Of course, if another user account is holding on to a file, then you might have to move to step 5.

Step 5: Shut Down Your PC

While this one is time-consuming, it always works. Remove the external drive after shutting down. Then boot your computer. That’s all.