Please explain the eject button

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macOS and Mac Apps

I have a mac with the latest update. I plugged in a thumb drive. When I was done with it, I hit the eject button and pulled out the drive. Then I got a message saying the drive was not ejected properly. I tried again and closed the drive window before pulling it out and got yelled at, again. Why does Apple have to be so picky about how I unplug a device?

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Submitted by Tyler on Sunday, July 11, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

My understanding is that it is recommended that devices not be disconnected until they have been successfully ejected, when they disappear from the desktop.

The eject key on your keyboard is a holdover from when Macs had removable media such as floppy disks and CD-ROMs. The eject key was hardwired to the ejection hardware in the drive itself and would spit out the disk or open the CD tray.
Because your Mac can have multiple USB devices, network drives and servers connected to it, Mac OS doesn't know which drive you're ejecting when you hit the eject button. Although, you'd think that highlighting the device on your desktop and pressing eject would be a logical thing for Apple to code into the OS, but here we are.

You need to eject your media by choosing Eject from the File menu in the Finder, or pressing Command-E after highlighting the drive you want to eject. This is what tells the Finder to stop working with any files (including hidden files) on your drive and prepare the drive for being removed. If you don't do this, you can get corrupted file allocation tables and other unpleasant effects on your drive the next time you insert it.