If you've used a USB flash drive or other USB devices like cameras, smartphones, and external hard drives, you've probably seen Windows request you to safely remove the device as opposed to simply unplugging it from the PC when you are done. How important is this? Very.
Think of a passenger jet being loaded with luggage - if the captain starts to taxi the plane before the cargo is loaded there is going to be a problem as some luggage will get lost or damaged. The same can happen with the data on the USB device; abruptly unplugging it while data is being read or written can cause it to be lost or damaged.
Even if you know you aren't copying files from your digital camera or thumb drive, a program could still be operating behind the scenes and using the device.
To disconnect devices correctly, look on the bottom right of your screen in the system tray. You may have to click the arrow to expand and display all icons. Right clicking on the icon will display a menu with the option to Eject USB Mass Storage Device. Click that, and your PC will properly prepare the device for removal. It typically only takes a couple seconds.
If you can't find your device or aren't sure which one to select from the menu, there is an even easier way. Go to My Computer, you should see an icon for your device. Right click on that and select Eject.
Windows will let you know that your device is now safe to remove, and then you can do so.
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