Go on, you little rule breaker, admit it — you don’t always safely eject your USB stick before unceremoniously yanking it from its safe little home in the side of your computer, do you? Yeah, me either.
Deep down, you know you probably should go through this process each and every time, but sometimes you don’t have those extra 15 seconds to spare, or you just can’t be bothered. So does it really matter how you eject your USB?
Short answer: yes, it does. Yep, it might actually be worth taking note of the condescending, judgemental pop-up that alerts you to your naughty USB-ejecting ways.
The good people at Science Alert and Gizmodo have investigated the potential risks of removing your external drive without following proper procedure, and found it can cause you to lose hours (or days!) worth of data regardless of when you last saved. (Post continues after gallery.)
It all comes down to your computer’s operating systems, which are designed to treat external drives (that’s your USB, zip drive, etc) like they’re just a permanent fixture of the computer.
The system assumes these files will always be accessible and unless you click ‘Remove USB safely’, it has no warning that you’re about to yank out the source. This means your computer won’t bother backing anything up unless you tell it things are about to change.
So, understandably, when you go and rip out your USB (I’ve seen you) your computer gets all in a tizz. It’s confused, it’s unsure of itself, it doesn’t know what the heck is going on. It’s actually not all those precious Mad Men episodes living on your USB that you need to be worried about — it’s the brains of your computer (i.e. the exy bit to fix).
If this happens it’s likely you’ll score yourself some lost data, corrupted files and crashing programs — all the fun things about computer use that leave us hurling expletives (or hurling the danm thing itself).