I have a portable USB flash drive that I use with my netbook. When I'm on the go, it is convenient to be able to simply close the lid and remove my flash drive without first having to use Windows's Safely Remove Hardware routine. The netbook changes to sleep mode (ACPI S3 mode) when I close the lid. Is it possible to do this safely with Windows 7 Home Premium? What about for hibernate (S4) and off modes?
The "Safely Remove Hardware" routine finishes cached/delayed writes to the drive, so data isn't left in an inconsistent state when the drive is removed. As far as I know, when your netbook changes to sleep mode it also finishes any writing to the flash drive. You can unplug the drive as soon as the netbook is actually in sleep mode (which can take several seconds after you close the lid).
If the netbook is hibernated, it should be safe to unplug the drive. A poorly-written program may throw errors when you resume if it expects the drive to be available.
If the netbook is off, it's always safe to just unplug the drive.
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It might not generate any problem disconnecting drive while in sleep state.