I have a 1TB external hard drive. Whenever I try to safely remove it, it says that the device is still in use.

I looked through all my processes and I can't find anything using the device. It's annoying since I always have to unplug the device, which I know is not good.

I recently installed a clean version of Windows 7 and the problem still occurs. What could be the cause?

  • 1
    Try using process monitor to see which service is accessing the usb drive. – Bibhas May 6 '12 at 17:15
  • I'm not quite sure how to use the process monitor. I opened it, and it's just filled with processes that access files/registry data. How do I know if it's accessing that hard drive? – de1337ed May 6 '12 at 17:28
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    Go to task manager->performance->resource monitor->disk . In disk activity , sort by file . See if any file from the drive is being accessed – Akash May 6 '12 at 18:02
  • when you mean clean, does that mean you haven't installed an antivirus. Usually those things love to make hooks to external files – jay May 7 '12 at 6:55
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    Have a look at DiskMon from SysInternals. It will capture all read and write events to all drives. That will let you know if anything is actually being read/written to the drive. I don't think it takes into account caching, but at least it will help you know if anything is being read/written from that drive immediately. – Trav Jan 5 '13 at 1:16

Have you tried changing the drive's specific policies tab to Quick Removal?

enter image description here

It would look something like that. Otherwise, are you certain Windows is not indexing the drive.

And when you say "clean version of Windows 7" do you mean the ONLY things you have installed other than the OS are the hardware drivers? Or do you mean that you wiped and reinstalled Windows 7 and the drivers, and all the software you normally use?

  • I found the policies tab, and it says "quick removal". Now, how would I make sure that windows is not indexing the drive? Also, when i said "clean version", i meant that i wiped everything and reinstalled windows7 + drivers + normal software – de1337ed May 6 '12 at 16:48
  • Device Manager - expand Disc Drives - right click on the drive in question, choose properties. Click on Policies tab. And you are sure that this "normal" software isn't still accessing the drive in some way? – Bon Gart May 6 '12 at 16:51
  • So the policies tab says that it's in "quick removal" mode. And i really don't have much software on this thing right now. I can't think of any software that would be accessing the hard drive. Any other ideas? – de1337ed May 6 '12 at 17:24
  • @de1337ed -- Note that the text with that option implies that you don't need to click "remove" to remove the device. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 5 '12 at 23:35

Try downloading unlocker from here and right click on drive and click on unlocker.Now choose kill all processes and then try to safely remove it


In this case, you have 2 ways..

  1. Use third party software.
  2. Do it manual.

1.Third party softwares.

  • IObit Unlocker
  • unlocker

2.Manual methods

  1. Press “Ctrl”+ “Alt”+ “Del” together, then the Task Manager window will appear. Click Process tab, and search for “rundll32.exe” under the Image Name. Select the “rundll32”process, and click End Process. Then you can remove your USB device safely. If there are more than one “rundll32”process, you need to end all of them.

  2. Try to empty your clipboard. when we copy a files from USB drive, the file will be put in the clipboard of the system and always keep a stand-by state. If we want to remove the USB drive at this moment, then the prompt will exit. so Try to empty your clipboard

source - http://www.gogorapid.com/how-to-fix-problem-ejecting-usb-mass-storage-device/

  • Or just set the "quick removal" attribute and, after it's had a chance to "take", unplug the drive. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 23 '16 at 13:28

I've seen this before, it was caused by a task monitoring a directory for changes.


Usually it won't matter if you unplug your USB device when it's not performing data operations. However, if you really want to use the safely remove your device feature but it doesn't work, A tricky solution is available. You only need to end your explorer.exe process at windows task manager. Then at the time when explorer.exe is reloaded, you perform the safely remove.

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