Windows is unable to stop the device: 5 easy methods to fix this error

by Aleksandar Ognjanovic
Aleksandar Ognjanovic
Aleksandar Ognjanovic
Troubleshooting Expert
Aleksandar's main passion is technology. With a solid writing background, he is determined to bring the bleeding edge to the common user. With a keen eye, he always... read more
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windows is unable to stop the device usb mass storage
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There are a lot of users who are just unplugging USB without disabling it first in the “Safely remove hardware and eject media” menu. Others will use this option to prevent possible issues with a USB flash drive or external HDD. However, some of them were unable to safely remove a USB Mass Storage drive as the “Windows is unable to stop the device…” prompt appeared, informing the about USB Mass Storage still being in use.

We made sure to provide you with some solutions for the problem at hand.

What to do if Windows is unable to stop the device

  1. Check the background applications
  2. Restart Explorer.exe
  3. Check for storage errors
  4. Disable background processes
  5. Format USB Mass Storage and start from a scratch

Solution 1 – Check the background applications

As the prompt itself points out, there seems to be a background process using the USB Mass Storage as you try to eject it. Now, even though you’re quite sure that there are no background processes preventing ejection, it’s still advised to double-check in the Task Manager. Some applications will work in the background even if they are seemingly closed.

In addition, if you’re a Windows 10 user, you can easily determine which process is using the USB Mass Storage with the System Event Log. System Event Log keeps track of all errors and prompts and provides a user with in-detail reports about errors. If you’re not sure where to find it, follow the steps we enlisted below:

  1. When the error appears, close the dialog box.
  2. In the Windows Search bar, type System Event and open System Event System Event Logs
  3. Under the “Summary of Administrative Events“, expand Errors and Warnings, respectively, and check for the EventID 225.System Event Log windows is unable to stop the device
  4. There you should find what exact application is using the USB Mass Storage and kill its process in the Task Manager.

Solution 2 – Restart Explorer.exe

If the issue is persistent even after you’ve killed the process, the problem might lie in the Explorer. Explorer.exe tends to prevent the USB Mass Storage from ejecting, as well. Some users were able to safely remove external storage by restarting the process. This can be done through the Task Manager.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Right-click on the Taskbar and open Task Manager from the contextual menu.
  2. In the Processes tab, scroll to the bottom where you’ll find Windows Explorer.
  3. Click once on it to highlight it and then click Restart.Task Manager restart Windows Explorer

Solution 3 – Check for storage errors

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Another thing worth checking in order to avoid future issues is disc corruption. The system should offer you repairs the moment you plug the USB Mass Storage in a USB port. If you’ve ignored it until now, we suggest to use it. On the other hand, even if the system doesn’t recognize drive errors, you can scan for errors on your own.

Here’s how to scan external storage for errors:

  1. Open either File Explorer or This PC.
  2. Right-click on the affected USB Mass Storage drive and open Properties.
  3. Choose Tools.
  4. Under Error Checking, click Check. The scanning process might take some time, based on the data size.Check for errors HDD

Solution 4 – Disable background processes

With the System Event Log, you should be able to identify the exact application which is using the USB Mass Storage. However, the easiest way (although a bit too restrictive for some) to resolve inflictions of background applications is by the Clean Boot sequence. This procedure kills off all non-system services and it should resolve the “Windows is unable to stop the device…” error so you can unplug your USB Mass Storage.

Here’s how to disable background services and, hopefully, resolve the issue at hand:

  1. In the Windows Search bar, type msconfig and open System Configuration.
  2. Under the Services tab, check the “Hide all Microsoft services” box.
  3. Click “Disable all” to disable all active third-party services.System Configuration Clean Boot
  4. Confirm changes and try safely removing the USB Mass Media drive.

Solution 5 – Format USB Mass Storage and start from a scratch

Finally, if you’re unable to resolve this issue with any of the previous steps, we suggest backing up and formatting your USB Mass Storage. This might be a drag, especially if you have a ton of data to back up. However, this is the safest way to avoid further issues with that particular drive.

With that said, we can conclude this article. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the “Windows is unable to stop the device…” error, feel free to tell us in the comments section below.


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