Cannot Eject External Hard Drive: How to Fix It?

By Dominic Chooper on July 09, 2023

You may have to use an external hard drive or flash drive to store or transfer files to and from your computer system. It is a very convenient and helpful way to do your job, provided it functions properly in the first place.

There may be times when the hard drive you plugged in will work properly but you may not be able to eject it safely after completion of your job.

Do not worry because this is nothing fatal and can be resolved easily by following a few quick methods that are explained in this article.


Why Can’t You Eject External Hard Drive?

When you find that you cannot eject your external hard drive from your PC, the most common reason for it to happen is that the system may still be accessing the files or folders stored in the drive.

This may be due to copying a file from the drive to the PC.

Sometimes there may be some processes or programs still running in the background. If you do not close them, you will not be able to remove the external drive safely.

Another significant reason for this kind of issue occurs is the USB drives that may be malfunctioning or corrupted.

The good news is that there are lots of easy methods in which you can resolve this issue, as you will see if you continue reading this article.

Ways to Fix Cannot Eject External Hard Drive Issue

One of the most obvious yet ignored solutions to the issue of an external hard drive not ejecting is to restart the computer after making sure that there are no programs running in the background or any file open.

If that does not resolve the issue, you can use the Task Manager to end the task for you.

In Windows Computer System

Method 1: Use the Task Manager to End Task

The Task Manager can help you in a lot of ways in resolving minor issues very quickly, and in this case, you can use it as well.


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Selecting End task

This should resolve the issue.

Method 2: Use the Command Prompt

Another useful feature is the Command Prompt that may resolve a lot of issues including an external drive not ejecting properly.


Typing in the command RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll

This will open a new Safely Remove Hardware window.

Clicking on the Stop button

Windows will inform you when it is safe to remove the hardware. When it does, unplug your external hard drive.

Method 3: From Disk Management Utility

External hard drives that cannot be ejected safely at the first go can be ejected by going offline from online from the Disk Management utility.


Clicking on Manage from the options in the dropdown menu

Clicking on the Offline option

It will take a few seconds to indicate that the disk is now offline as shown in the image below:

Disk is now offline

Clicking on Eject External

You will get the Safe To Remove Hardware message that you can now eject your external hard drive safely. As shown below:

Safe To Remove Hardware

Now, sometimes, when you plug in the external hard drive again, it may not work or show in the File Explorer. This is because it is still set to Offline.

You will simply have to repeat the process and change it back to online in order to use your external hard drive.

Method 4: Restart Windows Explorer from Task Manager

It the above methods did not resolve the issue, then you can use the Task manager in a different way this time.


Restart Windows Explorer

Now try to eject your external hard drive and you will see the Safe To Remove Hardware message. Remove the drive.

Method 5: Uninstall from the Device Manager

You can also remove your external hard drive safely after uninstalling it from the Device Manager.


Selecting USB Mass Storage Device

You will see a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark, (indicated by a red circle in the image above), which indicates your external mass storage device is not working properly.

Selecting Uninstall

Confirm Device Uninstall window

Devices and printers

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Clicking on the Remove device option

Remove Device window

You can now unplug your external hard drive safely from your PC.

Alternatively, you may also eject your drive directly from the System tray on the right-side of the taskbar and click on the flash drive icon as you did in Method 3.

However, sometimes the drivers of the USB may have some problem and not let you remove the external hard drive safely even after you followed the above process correctly.

In such a situation, it is easy to resolve the issue by updating the USB drivers from the Device Manager that is creating the problem. (The one with an exclamation mark in a yellow triangle.)

Selecting Search automatically for drivers

Let the process be complete. Click on the Close button when the following window confirms that The best drivers for your device are already installed.

The best drivers for your device are already installed

You will now be able to eject your external drive. Finally, restart your PC.

Method 6: From the Command Prompt

You can run the Windows Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter to resolve this issue and eject your external hard drive safely.


Typing in the command msdt.exe -id devicediagnostic

This will open the Hardware and Devices window.

Troubleshoot and help prevent computer problems

Clicking on Apply this fix

Clicking on Restart your PC

Close the Troubleshooter window

Now, close the Command Prompt window and restart your PC.

Method 7: Check and Change the Hard Drive Policy

Check the hard drive policy because sometimes changing it may resolve the issue and allow you to remove the external hard drive safely.


Select Properties from the drop-down options

Going to the Policies tab in the Properties window

Now restart your computer. This will resolve the issue.

In Mac Computer System

You may also face the same issue if you use a Mac computer system. In that case, you will need to follow these specific steps to remove the external hard drive safely from your system.

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However, right at the outset, you must make sure that the trash is empty. This is one of the most common solutions to issues like this.

Method 8: Try Again or Force Eject

You may give it another try or force eject your external drive as a quick and effective solution to the issue most of the time.


Click on the Try Again button on the left side or Force Eject button on the right side of the message window that says ‘The disk “Backup” wasn’t ejected because one or more programs may be using it’ as shown in the image below:

Force Eject

If this does not resolve the issue, try these following solutions.

Method 9: Close Other Apps

There may be some other apps that you do not know but are getting in the way. Therefore, you will need to close them.


Clicking on the Quit option

Now try to eject your external hard drive.

Method 10: Relaunch Finder

More often than not, relaunching Finder may resolve the issue.


Selecting Force Quit

Force Quit Applications window

Close the window and try ejecting the external hard drive now. It should work.

Method 11: Use the Terminal

You may run a few specific commands in the Mac Terminal to eject the external hard drive.


This will give you the list of the external drives mounted in the system along with the number of each of the drives.

Replace [NUMBER] with the number of the particular external drive you are having a problem to eject. This will eject the drive.

Method 12: Use Disk Utility to Run First Aid

If the external drive plugged into your system is corrupted, it will not eject. You will need to run Disk Utility to run First Aid to remove it.


Disk Utility window

First Aid will repair the issues and when the process is complete, click on the Done button.

You may eject the external hard drive from your computer by clicking on the Eject/Unmount button in the Disk Utility.


You may face different issues with your external hard drive and not being able to eject it safely is one of them.

However, now you know that there is nothing to stress about it. Use any of the methods explained above to fix it.