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Flash Drive Not Recognized

Subscriber “jkp” wrote to ask for help:

I am running Windows XP Home. The problem I am having is with a Lexar jump drive that I’ve purchased (128MB). My computer won’t recognize it all the time I plug it in..?? Sometimes it works..most times it won’t work. Frustrating as ****.

Any solution to this problem?


I wrote back with advice:

I know of one circumstance where any Windows XP machine will fail to recognize a flash drive. This may or may not be your problem.

If I plug in a flash drive into Windows XP, it normally recognizes the flash drive and immediately sets up the flash drive for use as a regular storage device.

When I want to disconnect the flast drive, I should click on the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon and tell Windows that I want to remove the flash drive. Then, Windows will write any waiting data (Windows XP uses a delayed-write cache to speed up programs) and then tells itself that the drive is not connected. Finally, it tells you that the flash drive can now be removed.

BUT, if you just pull the flash drive out without doing the Safely Remove Hardware step, you may lose the data that you thought was already written to the flash drive. Also, Windows won’t properly turn off its internal settings for the drive. That means, if you insert the drive again, Windows XP won’t recognize it.

The problem lasts until you reboot. After rebooting, Windows XP will recognize the flash drivce.


Jack’s response was that he would go through the Safe Hardware Removal in the future.

By the way, recently, I heard a friend say that he had lost all the data on an SD memory card by pulling it out of the reader without doing the “Safely Remove Hardware” step. He had to reformat the memory card.

It is a common problem — and many times you can get away with just pulling out the flash drive without realizing the problem — as long as you reboot frequently and seldomly use a flash drive.

It takes a little longer to properly let Windows finish with the flash drive and reconfigure itself, but "the penalty if you get caught is severe".

Let’s learn from these mistakes and not suffer from them ourselves.


  1. I have a variation of the problem.
    I always use “safely remove hardware”… but then the drive letter is unavailable until next reboot. If I remove (or don’t remove) the USB from the USB port the port remains unavailabe and unrecognised unto a reboot or restart. Is there a way around this?

  2. I have a Dell laptop that will only recognize flash drives it the unit is rebooted with the drive plugged in. But not by plugging in with XP running.???

  3. My USB card reader will not recognize SD cards smaller than 512MB, although I can see the photos if I put those cards in any camera I have and attach the camera via USB.

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