How to safely remove a USB flash drive from an iPad?

With iOS 13 (iPadOS), your iPad now supports external drive support. This means you can plug in an external drive on your iOS device (via a lightening to USB dongle) and start managing files that are on there: SD cards, thumb drives, … will all work.

Managing the USB flash drive

The default built-in app on iPadOS to manage files that are stored on external USB storage devices, is the Files app. Via the Files app, you can easily copy files from the USB thumb drive and copy it over to your iPad, such as photos and videos. Now iTunes has been decommissioned by Apple, you can also use transfer videos to iPad without iTunes.

The new Files app on Apple iPadOS now supports hard drives, thumb drives and SD memory cards that you plug in via the lightening or USB-C port

Safely ejecting an external drive from iPad

Apple does not give an option to safely remove an external drive from the iPad. This is different than in Windows for example, where it is always a good idea to safely eject an external storage device from the system.

Given Apple doesn’t offer the possibility to safely remove an external drive from iPad running iPadOS, it’s up to you to play safe. Before removing the device from your iPad, here are a number of things to check or actions to take:

  • No data transfers should be ongoing. If you are copying files from or to the iPad, you should most definitely not disconnect the device as it may corrupt the drive and cause data loss.
  • Manually close the Files app. By doing so, you are more sure that any interaction between your iPad and the external drive is discountinued.
  • If you are using a thumb drive that has a LED indicator, it may be a good idea to check if the LED is blinking. If it is indeed blinking, this may indicate it is busy: it is being consulted or files are being written to it.
  • Last option – and the most secure – is to fully turn of your iPad before ejecting the external drive. This way, you are completely sure the hard drive plugged in is fully disconnected.

However, it should be noted that unless you are actively using the external drive (copying files), it should be no problem to disconnect that device without hesitation.


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8 thoughts on “How to safely remove a USB flash drive from an iPad?

  1. Hello

    Thanks for your article. So sad Apple didn’t add this function. Two times out of three, my thumb drive breaks down, after I uploaded movies or large files. I’ll do what you suggest. Switch off the ipad and remove the key :/

  2. I have tried to shut down the iPad completely before removing the flash drive. However, if I plug in the flash drive into Microsoft Windows system PC, it will state that the flash drive is Write-Protected and I cannot access it in Microsoft Windows system PC anymore.

  3. Yes, this author has given a few answers for this problem, but has failed to actually check if they work. If I could down vote this imbecile, I would.

    To the Author:
    Stop filling my search with answers that are completely fabricated and don’t work!

    1. I am sure that the author would welcome constructive feedback, but you have chosen to insult him without explaining what you think is wrong with any of his suggestions – all of which look pretty sensible to me.

      This article was very useful in confirming that iPads lack the USB device disconnection tools of Windows. Following his advice has worked for me, though I have never gone as far as turning off my iPad.

    2. To the cretin named Don Knots:
      This Don Knots needs a chill pill. Unfortunately, the internet has an abundance of truly ignorant assholes who criticized everyone else, but offer nothing in return.

      To the author, Thomas:
      Personally, I find this article to be very informative and helpful. Thanks for a job well done.

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