Windows

Fix: USB Error This Device is Currently in Use

This specific error appears when users try to safely eject their external removable storage drives. The error message appears along the following lines:

This device is currently in use. Close any programs or windows that might be using the device, and then try again.

This Device is currently in Use

The error message appears to be quite self-explanatory but users have reported that even closing everything properly doesn’t prevent the error from appearing; long after the device has ceased to be used. Still, there are useful methods which can be used to resolve this problem and we have prepared them for you below.

What Causes the “This Device is currently in Use” Error?

The list of causes for this error is short but it properly explains just how the error can come to be and how it can be resolved based on that knowledge:

  • A simple bug can cause the error message to appear when using the option from the taskbar but now when using it in This PC
  • A process may really be using a file from your removable drive and you may need to find out what it is and end it.
  • Your USB drive might be formatted as NTFS which can be problematic on some versions of Windows

Solution 1: Use This PC to Eject the Drive

Even though these two methods should be exactly the same, ejecting the drive by opening This PC and locating the drive inside has actually worked for plenty of users. When using the option to safely eject the drive which can be located from the taskbar, the error appears but you can circumvent this by following the instructions below.

  1. Open your Libraries entry on your PC or open any folder on your computer and click on This PC option from the left side menu. If you are using an older version of Windows (Windows 7 and older), simply open My Computer from your Desktop.
  2. Right-click on the removable drive you want to format and choose the Eject option from the context menu which will appear.
Ejecting the removable drive
  1. A small warning window will open up to make sure you still want to proceed with the process. Click on Continue and be patient for the “safe to remove” message to appear over the taskbar as it would if the error hadn’t appeared in the first place.

Solution 2: Use Event Viewer to Find out which Process is Problematic

As the error message suggests, there might be a program or a process which may be using data from the drive without your knowledge or without a visible window being preset on your screen. This process is impossible to track via Task Manager but you can use Event Viewer to check for the error message and locate the ID of the process which is triggering the error message.

  1. Open Control Panel by locating it in the Start menu. You can also search for it using the Start menu’s search button.
  2. After the Control Panel window opens, change the “View by” option at the top right part of the window to “Large Icons” and scroll down until you locate the Administrative Tools entry. Click on it and locate the Event Viewer shortcut at the top. Click on it to open it as well.
Opening Event Viewer using Control Panel
  1. From the left-side menu, right-click the Applications and Services Logs section and choose View >> Show Analytic and Debug Logs.
  2. After that, navigate to Windows Logs >> System. You should see a long list of different events. Look for the one from “Kernel-PnP” and the text should look something like this:

The application System with process id xxx stopped the removal or ejection for the device…

The problematic error in Event Viewer
  1. There should be an actual number instead if the ‘xxx’ placeholder. Take note of that number by remembering it or writing it down somewhere.
  2. Use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc key combination by pressing the keys in the same time to open the Task Manager utility.
  3. Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl + Alt + Del key combination and select Task Manager from the popup blue screen which will appear with several options. You can also search for it in the Start menu.
Opening Task Manager using the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination
  1. Click on More details at the bottom left part of the window in order to expand Task Manager. Right-click somewhere around the names of the columns and check the box next to the PID entry in the context menu.
  2. Look for the process whose PID corresponds with the number you took note of above. Select it by left-clicking and choose the End task option from the lower right part of the window.
Ending the problematic task in Task Manager
  1. Click Yes to the message which is going to be displayed which should warn about how ending various processes may affect your computer so make sure you just confirm it.
  2. Check to see if you are now able to safely remove your drive!

Solution 3: Format the Drive as exFAT (USB Drives)

Sometimes this problem can appear with USB removable drives which have been formatted as NTFS. This can cause the drive to be locked by the Windows Transactional NTFS feature which wrongly treats NTFS drives as non-removable ones no matter if they really are removable or not.

A solution is to either format the drive as FAT32 or exFAT. FAT32 doesn’t support storing files larger than 4GB so exFAT should be the way to go!

  1. Open your Libraries entry on your PC or open any folder on your computer and click on This PC option from the left side menu. If you are using an older version of Windows (Windows 7 and older), simply open My Computer from your Desktop.
  2. Right-click on the USB Removable Drive you want to format and choose the Format… option from the context menu which will appear.
Formatting the drive
  1. A small window will open up named Format so make sure you click on the menu under File system and choose the exFAT file system if it’s not already selected. Click on Format and be patient for the process to finish. Try to safely remove your USB once again!

Solution 4: Use Process Explorer

Using Process Explorer is a sort of an easier way of performing the Solution 2 without the need of Event Viewer. This tool is available for free and it’s available as an official Microsoft program. The tool is used to show which handles, DLLs, and files the processes on your computer have opened.

  1. Download Process Explorer from this official Microsoft link. Click the Download button after scrolling, simply unpack the archive and double-click the executable.
Downloading Process Explorer
  1. Click Find, Find Handle or DLL (Dynamic Link Library) in the tool menu. Type the drive letter of the USB device in the Handle or DLL substring textbox, and press the Search Button.
  2. Find the process and its PID (Process Identifier) in the following box. In the system process tree view, find the process according to the Find Handle or DLL dialog box.
Find Handle or DLL
  1. Press Ctrl + H to show Handles in Lower Pane View. Find the File according to the drive letter, and right-click it, choose Close Handle. Check to see if you are now able to remove your drive correctly!

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Expert Tip

Fix: USB Error This Device is Currently in Use

If the issue is with your Computer or a Laptop you should try using Reimage Plus which can scan the repositories and replace corrupt and missing files. This works in most cases, where the issue is originated due to a system corruption. You can download Reimage by clicking the Download button below.

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