Here’s a question we get asked a lot: does it really matter if you properly eject your USB device before you disconnect it from your computer?
Both PC and Mac users struggle with this one. When you plug in a USB device like a pen drive or an external hard drive, Windows will often notify you that it sees it by flashing a notification in the lower right corner of your screen. However, on both PC’s and Macs, if you just pull the plug to disconnect it, you will often get a warning that you didn’t “eject” it before disconnecting it, or that it was not safely removed.
Why does it matter? On both types of machines, even after you have copied files to the external drive and it says the transfer is complete, the operating system is often still talking to the drive in the background, and therefore still using that drive. If you just disconnect it, you have a greater risk for causing permanent damage to the drive if it’s in the process of talking to the drive and you disconnect it. It could significantly shorten the lifespan of your drive- or worse- corrupt the files you have already copied to it (and that statement right there is alone enough for anyone who has lost data before!)
Bottom line, If your drive is important to you, and it is used as permanent backup or storage, you should always safely eject or disconnect it before you just unplug it. To do that on the PC, right click on the “Safely Remove Icon” in the right hand corner and select eject (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/safely-remove-devices-from-your-computer), or right click on the drive in question on a Mac, and select “Eject”. Other USB devices like mice, keyboards, and printers do not need to be properly ejected before disconnecting (because they’re not writing data or anything). As far as flash drives/USB sticks….they’re never great for permanent file storage, so if you don’t properly eject them, don’t be surprised when they die prematurely on you. The bottom line: eject your devices if you care about what’s on them….but occasionally forgetting to do so isn’t going to kill you.
If you’re interested in more information on this topic, see this PC Gamer article PC (http://www.pcgamer.com/do-you-need-to-eject-usb-flash-drives/), and this Gizmodo article (http://gizmodo.com/does-safely-ejecting-from-a-usb-port-actually-do-anythi-1715969743).