Windows 10 will soon let you pull out USB sticks at any time

One of the first things that new computer users are warned in the age of external USB storage is to "eject" them before removing them. On Windows, that usually means going through the "Safely Remover Hardware" option. While that may have been the advice for generations, it may no longer be technically necessary on Windows. So starting version 1809, Windows 10 will default to a mode that will let you remove USB storage any time you want.

The technical reason for safely removing USB sticks and hard drives before pulling them out is to ensure that any unwritten or unsaved data is saved to storage. Failure to do so would result in data loss or corruption and, in case of hard drives, potential mechanical damage. Windows, however, has a feature that makes that unnecessary.

Windows 10 can choose between two modes when interacting with USB storage. The current default is for Better Performance, which makes read and write operations fast at the expense of using a cache that needs to be properly flushed before removing the device. This is the behavior we've known for years.

Starting Windows 10 update 1809, yes the problematic update, Microsoft flips the switch to Quick Removal. With this mode, USB devices are always ready to be removed without warning. The disadvantage is that system performance, particularly write operations, may be degraded.

Users who need and prefer performance over convenience can switch back to the old policy as outlined by Microsoft. They'll just have to live with waiting for their USB sticks to be ready before unplugging them.