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Safely 'hot-swapping' eSATA drives - September 19, 2010

Now that 'hot-swapping' eSATA drives is becoming more mainstream it's important to be aware of some possible problems and precautions you should do to avoid losing valuable data.

On Windows PC computers (which is what I use) a progress bar will appear when transferring data from your main hard disks to an eSATA storage drive. Be aware that the progress bar only indicates that data has been moved off of the source drive. It does not mean that the data had has been completely written to the destination drive.

If you have a lot of RAM, which is common with Photoshop users, the data will be held in RAM before being written to the drive. For example, if you have 12GB of RAM and are copying 4GB of data, the process will seem to have completed very quickly. Meanwile data is still being transferred to the destination drive and the hard disk light will continue to flicker until the transfer in completely finished.

I would recommend:

1) Always check that the hard disk light has finished flickering before removing an eSATA drive.

2) Turn off the 'Index this drive for faster searching' option for eSATA drives (right click on the drive icon and choose 'Properties'. This will prevent the OS from accessing the drive when its idle.

3) Use the 'Safely Remove Hardware' button on the taskbar and only remove a drive if the 'This device can now be safely removed from the computer' message appears. If it says the drive is still busy doing something, then try to determine what's still accessing that drive or wait a few minutes. If you still cannot get the 'safe to remove' message to appear then you're probeably better off shutting down the computer before removing/changing the eSATA hard disk.

eSATA offers a very fast tool for achiving your images and is save to use if you always confirm that the drive can be safely removed before doing so.

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Disclaimer: Any techniques, advice and opinions offered on this website are a demonstration of my own personal methods of performing certain tasks. While I try to insure there are no errors, please understand that using these techniques is done at your own risk. I make no guarantee whatsoever and I will not be responsible if anything goes wrong. I assume you have a good working knowledge of your camera, computer and any software I discuss herein and have appropriate safeguards in place to protect yourself in the event that something goes wrong. - Russell Proulx