Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Before you can remove a removable device, Windows needs to make sure no programs are still accessing it. If one or more are, you can't "safely remove".
I bought a new 1TB external hard drive the other day and installed it on my laptop right away, everything was working fine until I tried to safely remove it. Whenever I click safely remove it says "Windows cant stop your generic volume device because it is in use". I checked everything and I didn't have a single program running. I don't want to shut it off manually because I have hundreds of important files on it and I don't want to lose them. can you help?
Oh, just because you don't have a program running, doesn't mean that there aren't other programs running. Heck, that's all Windows itself is: a computer program.
What we have is a situation very much like How can I find out who is using a "file in use"? - except that we don't know the name of the file, or whatever else might be "in use".
I'll show you my technique, which looks very similar to the file in use scenario, as well as cover an easily overlooked common cause or two.
I'd guess the most common cause of an unexpected device in use is having Windows Explorer open and viewing the contents of the drive.
That's enough for the device to be considered "in use". The solution? Simply either close the Windows Explorer window, or select and view some other drive.
The same's true for the Windows Command prompt:
The problem is that the removable drive is the "current" drive in the Windows Command prompt. The solution is to close the window, or change the current drive.
Now, the problem gets more complex, because this concept of a "current" drive is actually common to all Windows programs, and is frequently handled differently by each. For example in some applications if you do a "File Open..." and open a file on your removable drive, the application will set the "current drive" to be that drive - and leave it that way even after you've subsequently closed the file. In fact, it may not change until you perform some other kind of open or save operation using a different drive.
Or, of course, you can close the application.
And yes, often the "application", for lack of a better term, is Windows itself, making it difficult to understand exactly what is still accessing the device, not to mention whether or not you can close it or change what it's accessing.
One approach is to break out one of my favorite diagnostic tools, Process Explorer.
Download process explorer, if you haven't already, and run it. Type CTRL+F (or hit the Find menu, Find Handle or DLL ... menu item), and type in the drive letter of the device, followed by a colon. In the examples above where my flash drive was the H: drive, I'd type in H:, and then click on Search.
What you're seeing in this example are the two processes on my machine that have the device in use: the Windows Explorer and Windows Command prompt that I used for my examples above.
Now that you've identified which process has the device in use, you can take appropriate action: something in the program - like changing the current drive in a Windows Command prompt - or by closing the program itself, if that makes sense.
And finally, as mentioned in a related article on the topic, you might well find that the culprit is your anti-malware tool scanning the device, or the Windows indexing service, or other tools that might be accessing your drives.
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