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Windows 10 Relaxes About External Storage Removal

(Image credit: Jaroslava Nyvltova/Shutterstock)

Microsoft is making Windows 10 less clingy. The company said in a recent support article that it has created a "Quick removal" policy setting that will allow people to grab their flash drives, SD cards and other external storage without having to worry about ejecting it via Windows first.

Windows has long warned its users that removing external storage without ejecting it first can lead to data loss. That makes sense from a technical perspective because the operating system has to make sure processes cached on the device are finished before it's removed. But most Windows users don't care about the technical perspective--they just want to yank their device out of the system as soon as they're done managing their files.

Those desires often lead people to ignore Windows' constant warnings about following the correct external storage removal procedure. It's a lot like telling people the risks of cleaning their ears with Q-tips. Do most people understand? Sure. They haven't had any problems so far, though, which means they don't have a good reason to change their behavior. So they don't.

Rather than continuing to ignore how people actually use their devices, Windows 10 will finally submit by offering two policy settings:

Quick removal. This policy manages storage operations in a manner that keeps the device ready to remove at any time. You can remove the device without using the Safely Remove Hardware process. However, to do this, Windows cannot cache disk write operations. This may degrade system performance.Better performance. This policy manages storage operations in a manner that improves system performance. When this policy is in effect, Windows can cache write operations to the external device. However, you must use the Safely Remove Hardware process to remove the external drive. The Safely Remove Hardware process protects the integrity of data on the device by making sure that all cached operations finish.

Microsoft said that the Quick removal setting is enabled by default in Windows 10 version 1809 (the so-called Windows 10 October 2018 Update). But the Better performance option remains available, and the decision isn't all-or-nothing. The setting can be changed for each device, and "the policy that you set remains in effect if you disconnect the device and then connect it again to the same computer port," Microsoft said.

It's about time Windows 10 learned how to let go of external storage devices without having to make a scene. Sometimes. Microsoft warned in its support article with a big yellow box marked "Important" that "If you use the Better performance policy, you must use the Safely Remove Hardware process to remove the device. If you remove or disconnect the device without following the safe removal instructions, you risk losing data."