Shut Down Properly

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Even if a Drive Isn't Actively Being Written to You Still Risk Corrupt Data if You Don't Eject it Properly

Removing an External Drive (e.g. USB) Without Ejecting it Properly Can Corrupt Data:

  • When you save a file to another drive (like a USB drive), most operating systems temporarily store the file in a ‘write cache’
  • The operating system waits until there are a number of files to save, before actually saving them, all at once
  • When you click the Windows "Safely Remove Hardware" icon (or use the ‘eject’ function on a Mac or Linux system), the operating system makes sure all pending actions have been performed
  • This means so you can safely unplug the drive without risking any data corruption
  • Windows actually has a built-in feature to help prevent data loss because, working on the basis that some people are likely to yank an external drive out without properly ejecting it, it disables the ‘write cache’ function for ‘removable’ drives
  • Unfortunately, sometimes Windows incorrectly recognises an external USB drive as non-removable and enables the ‘write cache’, so it is always a safer option to manually eject drives properly

The ‘Write Cache’ Isn't the Only Thing That Can Cause Data Loss:

  • Computers don't like having their power supplies suddenly turned off
  • This is because they have no chance to close down ‘housekeeping’ programs that may be running in the background
  • To minimise the risk of losing data, always make sure you quit all programmes properly before shutting down your computer using the ‘shut down’ function, or the ‘hibernate’ function
  • Unlike ‘sleep’ this saves your machine's current state to a temporary hard-drive file, then shuts down completely
  • When you start it up again, it loads that file and returns you to exactly where you left off