Every time you connect an external peripheral to your Mac, such as an SD card, an external hard drive, or a USB flash drive to transfer files, you should safely eject it when you’re finished using it.

In this post, we’ll talk a little bit about why it’s important to follow this process, and we’ll also show you various ways of doing it.

Why to safely eject media drives from your Mac

When you’re not careful to eject media from your Mac safely, bad things can happen.

Your Mac is not always going to be 100% finished using your drive just because you are. For this reason, you need to let your Mac know that you’re done using it by ejecting it safely. If you don’t, you may damage data on the media drive itself.

Some examples of where removing a drive too early can damage the drive or your computer include:

  • When you’re performing installations from files via the drive
  • When you’re copying files to/from the drive
  • When an open application is using files from the drive
  • When the drive is in the middle of being erased or formatted
  • And more…

This can lead to corruptions that essentially cause you to have to reformat the drive completely, which really sucks if it’s your only backup of something important; trust me, I’ve been there and done that.

When you fail to eject media drives safely, as in you remove it before ejecting it, your Mac will give you an error message saying that the disk was not removed properly. This warning message is there to help teach you to develop a habit of ejecting your drives safely:

Mac Disk Not Ejected Properly Error

How to properly eject media drives from your Mac

There are multiple ways to eject media drives such as SD cards, external hard drives, and USB flash drives from your Mac, so you should really get used to using one of the methods we’re about to show you rather than getting comfortable with just pulling the drive out of its plug when you’re done using it.

Method 1: The right-click method

When you have a media drive connected to your Mac, it will typically show up on your Desktop unless you’ve specifically configured your Mac not to show drives on your Desktop.

To eject drives using the right-click method, simply right-click on the drive you want to remove, and click on the Eject “[insert drive name here]” button.

Eject Media With the Right Click Menu on Mac

Then, just wait until the drive disappears from your desktop before pulling it out. This can sometimes take up to 5 seconds.

Method 2: The Finder menu method

Another way to safely eject media drives from your Mac is to open a Finder window while you have a drive plugged in to your computer.

At the bottom of the sidebar in the Finder window, you should see the drive you are meaning to remove under the Devices list. Simply click on the Eject button to the right of the media drive’s name to safely eject it.

Eject Media With Finder Window Button

Now, just wait until the drive disappears from the sidebar; when it does, you’re safe to remove it from your computer.

Method 3: The Trash method

The last way we’ll be showing you to safely eject media from your Mac is the Trash method.

With this method, you can simply click and drag any connected media drive icon to the Trash icon on your Dock, and the Trash icon will be replaced with an Eject icon.

After dragging, you can release it over the Eject icon and this will safely eject the drive from your Mac to be removed.

Eject Media With the Mac Trash Icon on the Dock

Now, just wait until the icon disappears from your Desktop before you remove the drive, and you’re good to go.

Wrapping up

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of removing your media drives safely. It doesn’t always happen, but if you fail to remove your drives properly while they’re busy doing something, you might just mess something up on the drive itself.

It has happened to me before, and take my word for it; it’s not a very fun experience at all.

Also read:

Which method do you use to eject drives from your Mac? Share in the comments!

  • What about selecting the drive and pressing Command E ?

  • Connecting Mac User 

    Off topic.. Is there anyway iDB can do screen color calibration on MacBook Pro Retina or others? Without recommending some hardware devices.. Having little hard time on this and sure most Mac users would love to see this, probably the best fitted and a correct calibration. Even share calibrated profile will be great. Greetings to iDB team and thanks for all your hard-work so far.

  • Blip dude

    The problem emerges however when the PC insists that a program is still using the drive but everything is already fully closed (force quiting all the programs + Explorer/Finder) and yet it still says the media drive is in use. My only way around that is to shut down the computer completely before removing it and I don’t even think that’s a safe way of removing the drive out.

  • Orion Reyes

    I can’t seem to find this information anywhere. I use a micro SDXC card in my MacBook Pro with an (nifty) adaptor that lets me expand my storage. Since the adapter sits flush in the computer, and it doesn’t poke out, I decided to leave it there as permanent storage, so it also works as a dust cover. I even moved all my iTunes and Photos libraries to that card. The question is, can I leave it inserted all the time? Do I have to remove it every once in a while? Thanks!

    • No, you can just leave it in forever. SanDisk and others make card drives that essentially do the same thing: allow you to have another drive attached to the MBP all the time, using the card slot. I use one that’s 128GB, works great for running large VMWARE or PARALLELS files from.

  • Walker Black

    I’ve been wondering about this for a very (1994, with lc3) long time. When, as you say
    “Your Mac is not always going to be 100% finished using your drive just because you are. For this reason, you need to let your Mac know that you’re done using it by ejecting it safely. If you don’t, you may damage data on the media drive itself.”
    Why doesn’t it tell me?
    When, for instance I’m done moving media from an external drive to the internal, or any other way, I get a prompt letting me know the job is done.
    Why isn’t that enough for me to just eject?

    • David

      You are totally right. Any delayed write should not be long at all on a mac, and it should eject properly when its done. However it never does.

      Because Mac OS is broken on this front. It should interrupt indexing and other crap to let us eject our disks, but somehow it doesn’t. And if thats not the issue, i don’t know what is, because nothing is using my drive, but it almost always refuses to eject bc the “finder is using it”.

      This problem does not exist on windows with the same drive, but practically every time I put my drive on my mac, I have to shut the whole computer down because the finder NEVER stops using it, even though its doing NOTHING.

      Fix this broken crap, apple.

  • Adam Logan

    How about a way to see what applications are interacting with the external drive? I can’t seem to find an answer for this.