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How to fix ‘This device is currently in use’ error for external drives on Windows 10

You no longer need to safely remove external drives on Windows 10. As of Windows 10 1809, the default setting for external drives and USBs allows you to just disconnect them. That said, old habits die hard and you may still stop your drive before you remove it. If you’re constantly getting the ‘This device is currently in use’ error message for all your external drives and USBs, despite nothing running on your system, you can fix it fairly easily.

You should know that you can still just disconnect the drive even if it isn’t stopping but constantly getting this error is something you should fix anyway.

Initial checks

Make sure that this problem occurs for all drives and USBs that you connect to your system.

Additionally, make sure you don’t have data on your external drive or USB that an app or system is using. For example, perhaps your entire Steam library is on your external drive and the Steam client running on your system is reading files from it. In this case, Windows 10 is right when it tells you the drive is currently in use. If you’re certain that there is nothing running on the drive or USB, proceed with the fix below.

Fix ‘This drive is currently in use’

Connect the drive, or any drive or USB, to your system. Open Disk Management by searching for it in Windows Search. With the app open, right-click the title of the drive on the left and select Properties from the context menu.

Go to the Policies tab. Assuming you’re running Windows 10 1809 (the latest build at present), the Quick Removal policy should be selected by default. Change it to the Better Performance policy and restart your system when prompted.

After you restart your system, repeat all of the above steps but change the Removal Policy back to ‘Quick Removal’. Again, restart your system.

After this, when you next try to remove an external drive or USB by stopping it first, Windows 10 will be able to stop it and allow you to remove it safely.

It isn’t necessary to revert the Removal Policy to Quick Removal. That’s just the default for Window 10 1809, If you prefer to keep the policy set to Better Performance, you can. The trick to fixing this little bug is to change the removal policy to anything that isn’t the current one, and restarting your system. For some odd reason, that tends to fix the problem.

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