Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Keeping the Flash Drive Occupied.

Keeping the Flash Drive Occupied

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 14, 2020)

For many people on the go, flash drives are the coolest thing since sliced bread. In a small little device, often no larger than a couple sticks of gum, you can carry around many megabytes or gigabytes of data wherever you go. They easily replace CDs, and even entire DVDs of information.

But you can run into a problem when using them with Word, as did Glenn. He opened two Word documents from his hard drive and saved one of them to the flash drive. When he then tried to stop the flash drive so he could remove it, Windows refused to permit the safe removal of the flash drive, as it thought the drive was still in use.

There are a couple of issues at play here, and they can all affect how Windows (which controls the flash drive) views the drive. When you save a file to the flash drive from within Word, then Word starts using that drive as a place to store some of its temporary files. Even after you close the document, Word could still have a temporary file or two open on the flash drive—it all depends on what file operations you have performed with the documents you had open in Word and whether the program still needs those temporary files it created.

To complicate matters, even if Word doesn't have any temporary files still saved on the flash drive, it is possible that Word still considers the flash drive in use, thereby stopping Windows from releasing the drive. Word considers the last-used folder the active one when it comes to opening and saving files. Thus, when you save a document to the flash drive, then the folder on the flash drive becomes the temporary default folder as far as Word is concerned. To turn Word's attention to a different folder (and thereby release the hold it has on the flash drive), you either need to exit the program or perform some file operation—such as loading or saving a file—on a different drive.

If you are interested in more information about how Word creates and maintains temporary files, refer to this Microsoft Office support page:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/211632/description-of-how-word-creates-temporary-files

In the meantime, you can generally force Word (and thereby Windows) to release any hold it may have on files by not only closing your documents, but also getting out of Word entirely.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8928) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Keeping the Flash Drive Occupied.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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