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Problems with USB drives

You insert a USB flash (pen, thumb) drive or other USB storage device into a USB port but Windows doesn't seem to "see" it.

If the drive appears in the "Safely Remove Hardware" in the System Tray but not in Windows Explorer/My Computer, you may be able to access it in one of these ways:

Another trick that may lead to a more permanent fix:

Another possibility: if you have network drives mapped to letters, make sure that there are at least a few unmapped letters between your last physical hard drive/CD and the first network drive. If your last physical drive letter is followed immediately by a mapped network drive letter, USB drives may become "hidden behind" the network drive letter(s).

You try to stop a working USB drive and Windows tells you the drive can't be stopped, try later ... again and again ...

Basically, anything that holds a file open from the drive will prevent its being safely stopped, so first, shut down any programs that may have opened files from the drive (and shut down PowerPoint if it's so much as looked at the USB drive for any reason ... it tends to hold files open long after it has any reason to). Shut any open Explorer or command prompt windows.

If that does't work, here are some other things to check, and thanks to Geeky Ramblings for some of these great ideas:

Note: Just shutting down, or even totally removing Norton or other Symantec products may not be enough. They tend to leave all sorts of junk behind and running and sometimes interfering with your system even when you (think you) have totally uninstalled. In addition to fervently wishing them an eternity in a very very warm locale, have a look here or google SymNRT for a tool that'll allegedly do a full exorcism.
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Problems with USB drives
Last update 07 June, 2011