How to Eject an External Hard Drive on a Mac

When you’re done using your external hard drive, you have to “Eject” it before physically removing it. This action allows you to unplug the device safely. Without ejecting it first could affect some of the data or cause an inaccessible error.

How to Eject an External Hard Drive on a Mac

There are three ways to eject an external hard drive without losing any data. Read on to learn what the methods are and what to do if you can’t eject or see your drive.

How to Eject an External Hard Drive on a Mac

Ejecting your external hard drive can be done in any of the following ways. Once the drive is ejected successfully, you can physically remove it. Here’s how to eject your external hard drive, USB flash drive, or SD card etc. on your Mac:

Select the Drive

  • Select your hard drive, then from the main menu select “File” then “Eject.”

Use Finder

  1. Navigate to “Finder.”
  2. Find your external drive and select “Eject” next to it.

Use Trash

  • Via your desktop, drag the hard drive icon into the “Trash.”

Reasons Why You’re Unable to Eject an External Hard Drive

If you receive the following error message “The disk wasn’t ejected…” or similar using one of the ejection methods above, it means ejection was unsuccessful. Here are some possible reasons why the ejection didn’t work:

  • The external hard drive or files on the drive are currently in use.
  • The drive is engaged by a processing program.
  • Some drivers or apps are using the drive in the background.
  • A data protection mechanism may be preventing ejection.
  • A possible malware infection or virus, etc.

If your external hard drive doesn’t eject, do not physically remove it to keep the drive and files intact. Before trying the following tips, close any programs or apps using the drive.

What to Do When You’re Unable to Eject an External Hard Drive

Try any of the following five methods to resolve the problem of ejecting your external hard drive.

Stop Running Apps

When you’re unable to eject an external hard drive from your Mac, it could be because one or more apps or programs are running in the background. You can use the “Activity Monitor” tool to find and stop all running apps, then eject the hard drive. This tool is pre-installed, so there is no need to download anything. It helps to identify and monitor the processes running on particular disks.

Follow these steps to stop running apps using “Activity Monitor:”

  1. Access “Spotlight” by clicking on the magnifying icon from the toolbar on the top right.
  2. Enter a search for “Activity Monitor” and open it.
  3. Select the “Disk” tab from the options at the top, then find the “QuickLookUIService” process name. Or you can enter a quick search for it from the top right corner.
  4. Select it, then click on the “Close” icon towards the top left.
  5. To quit the process, choose “Force Quit.”
  6. Now try ejecting the external hard drive again.

Log Out and In to Your Apple Account

Try logging out and in to your Apple account if closing all the apps has not resolved the issue. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the Apple menu icon at the top left corner, then choose “Log Out.”
  2. Choose “Log In” and enter your Apple account credentials.
  3. Now, try ejecting your hard drive again.

Shut Down or Force Quit

To resolve the error, you receive when attempting to eject your external hard drive, you can also try shutting down or forcing your Mac to quit. Before trying this method, remember to save all your work and close all programs, then follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple menu icon from the top right.
  2. Select “Shut Down” or “Force Quit” from the pull-down menu.
  3. Once your Mac has shut down, disconnect your external hard drive.

Eject External Hard Drive Using Terminal

The “Terminal” app is also pre-installed, so there’s no need to worry about downloading anything. Running a command in “Terminal” to eject the hard drive will force quit the drive. So again, ensure all your files are saved with no programs running in the background. Here’s how to quit the external hard drive using “Terminal:”

  1. Click on the Apple menu icon and select “Go” then “Utilities.”
  2. Open “Terminal.”
  3. Next, enter the following commands:
    • diskutil list external
    • diskutil eject disk(number). Replace (number) with the number of your external hard drive.

Your Mac should safely eject the drive without affecting the files.


Why can’t I see my external hard drive on my Mac finder?

If your external hard drive isn’t detected once you’ve plugged it in, usually you’ll just need to make a few changes in “Preferences.” However, occasionally the problem can be more severe, like a short power supply. Try the following to get your external hard drive to show up in Finder:

1. Go to the “Finder” menu, then click “Preferences.”

2. From “General,” select “External disks” to ensure that it shows on the desktop once you connect an external drive.

From the sidebar tab, you can select which folders and devices to display in the left-hand column of the “Finder” window.

How to repair a failed external hard drive

The most common reason that your external hard drive is detected but can’t be accessed is because of a problem with the file system. To resolve this issue, try using the “First Aid” tool. This tool will check for errors and repair them. It helps to fix a range of issues related to start-up HD and external hard drive issues. Here’s how to run “First Aid” on your external hard drive:

1. Open the “Disk Utility,” either by entering a search via “Spotlight” or going to “Finder,” “Go,” then “Utilities.”

2. Check the box next to your hard drive, select the “First Aid” tab, and choose “Run” to start diagnostics.

Giving Your External Hard Drive the Boot

The safest way to tell your Mac that you’re done using the external device and want to remove it is by ejecting it first. This ensures that your Mac is not using the device, so the files and the device itself will remain intact.

There are three main ways to eject an external hard drive. You can select it from the desktop and click“ Eject,” eject is in “Finder,” or drag it to the “Trash.” If there’s a problem using the standard methods, there are a few other ways, including “Terminal.”

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