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Old Feb 12, 2006, 11:36 AM   #1
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I use an 8 in 1 card reader that shows up on the computer as drives F, G, H and I. Only the F drive is used for my SD cards.

Many people tell me that all they do when they want to remove the reader from the USB plug (with the card already having been removed of course), is to just pull it out and ignore any warnings Windows gives about the unsafe removal of hardware.

Others say that you should always 'stop' each drive thus going through the proper procedure before removing the reader. In my case this involves right-clicking or double-clicking the reader icon in the Systray. No problem - it just takes time, especially as I'm only using one of the 4 drives.

Does it really matter?

I'm using WinMe.

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Old Feb 12, 2006, 1:36 PM   #2
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Not knowing which card reader you are using, I cannot be 100% sure.

In general, the computer built-in readers and many of the external readers allow for hot-swapping. This is the case on all the computers I am responsible for at work (3 different brands), as well as two of mine at home and one former USB card reader (the manual so stated). If the activity light is off and all directories or programs that may be addressing the card are closed, then you should be able to pull the card out of a built-in reader. This is especially true of the readers that show up as multiple drives. And you should NOT receive an illegal removal message.

If the device light is on and/or blinking, or you routinely receive the illegal removal message after experimenting a bit, then there is a potential of corrupting the data on the card. Stop the device first, before removing the SD, CF, or whatever card.

With many USB thumb (flash) drives, however, it is best to stop them first, especially those that show a working led at all times. Pull it out when the led is off (meaning it is not being addressed) if, for some reason, you cannot "stop" it first. I always stop a flash drive before removing.

To answer your exact question: the same holds true of other inactive hardware USB devices. Removal should cause no problem if you first do not "stop" them and as long as they are not "working", but it may occasionally require a reboot of your computer (rare) due to a lockup. Generally I always stop the hardware device before removing — keeps me from the occasional necessity to reboot.

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Old Feb 12, 2006, 3:57 PM   #3
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If you have been writing to the drives (and a delete is a write if you're cutting and pasting images), then the operating system may not have completed it's writes (it caches them, depending on the driver) at the time you remove the media.

So, if it hasn't flushed the FAT back to media when you remove the drives, you can get a corrupted FAT (File Allocation Table). If the media has already been removed, then any corruption has probably already happened (at the time you removed the media from the drive).

If you "right click" on your reader under My Computer, then select Hardware, and Properties, you should find a "Policies" tab somewhere (probably under another properties choice under hardware).

It will look something like this. If "optimize for quick removal" is checked, then Windows won't cache writes. Otherwise, it will (and you'll risk corrupting media if you don't use the safely remove hardware icon before removing any cards you're written to).

Personally, I never write to removable media with Windows (and that also goes for deletes), unless I have a special use like transporting documents between computers. Then, I make sure to format the media in the camera (via the camera's menus) prior to using it again (I do this every time anyway).

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Old Feb 13, 2006, 3:37 PM   #4
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Thanks very much, guys, for your replies.

My reader is an apparently unbranded one from Argos - a major catalogue retailer here in the UK that sells very trustworthy products on the whole. I've not had any trouble with it. It does have two lights - one for Access and one for Power. If I unplugged without stopping, I would certainly not do it if the Access light was on, showing that there was a card in there.

Having thought about all this for some time, I must say my own inclination is to stop the drives before unplugging, just to be safe and not sorry, and being a cautious sort of chap. :-)
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