The quick solution is to make sure that the drive is optimized for quick removal.
How to Optimize a USB Flash Drive for Quick Removal
To do this, go to Start -> Search -> Device Manager
Under "Disk Drives" find your USB drive.
Double-click on your USB drive and go to "Policies"
Make sure Quick removal (default) is selected and not "Better performance"
* Most likely, you are already optimized for quick removal, but it is good to check
Are you absolutely sure that it is not working? For so long as the drive no longer appears in Windows, this means that it is dismounted from the operating system. This is a technical term for indicating that the device can no longer be accessed by the operating system, and your interactions with the thumb drive on the computer will no longer work, even if it is plugged in. In some instances, power will still go to the device, even though you have safely removed it in Windows. This is due to the fact that some front-side USB ports handle electronics differently depending on the type of motherboard, and perhaps even drivers, you have. Some systems will simply supply electricity to the device, even if the computer is not accessing it, and even after it is dismounted.
Here is one way to see if you are safely removing the thumb drive.
After you click to remove, navigate to
Start -> Computer to see if the thumb drive is still appearing there.
Also, go to Start -> Search -> devmgmt.msc
This will launch you into the Microsoft Management Console for Disk Management. All drives connected to the system will be listed here. If you do not see your thumb drive listed (its approximate size and drive letter should be listed), it is safe to say that you have safely dismounted the drive from the computer.
If you still see the drive as being active on the computer, even after performing these tests, something must be writing to the drive. Ensure that the drive is not being used for Windows ReadyBoost. Also, make sure that no programs or applications are opened where files would be saved to the drive. Commonly, this would include programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, Adobe Reader, PowerPoint, and other commonly used applications to author files. Make sure that no programs which are being run directly off the drive, if such exist, are open prior to trying to safely remove the drive. There is an extensive way to test disk input/output and whether or not something is writing to the drive, but this may be going ahead of ourselves. You don't want to be spending hours trying to fix something that should be simple.
Are you using the FAT32 filesystem?
Depending on the size of the drive, you may want to re-evaluate the filesystem that the thumb drive uses. Windows Vista SP1 and Windows 7 introduced, natively, the exFAT file system. This file system has been specifically designed for USB flash/thumb drives, but, in fact, you will have extreme difficulty using it with any non-Windows Vista or Windows 7 computers. If the drive is over 8GB, and even if it is not, you may want to seriously consider formatting the device with the NTFS file system. This is because NTFS makes use of security features that make it less likely you will damage your drive by yanking it out of the system or abruptly lose power. If you pull it from the system while hot, you're less likely to encounter a problem with a NTFS-formatted drive. Here is why. The FAT filesystem preceded NTFS and uses less space, so naturally FAT16 and FAT32 are used on flash drives to give you some extra storage. However, NTFS maintains a journaled file system. Removing the drive out before the data has been completely written to the journal, in many cases, will keep the original data on the drive safe. NTFS has many security features that protect files, even when drives are abruptly lost or removed. There are also far less issues removing the drive when it is idle if you use NTFS.
Here is some additional information about these formatting options, which could very well solve your problem:
Thanks for the input.
This is just very strange. When I go to device manager, the quick removal is checked. When I click on remove usb drive, it dissappears in the information bar and in device manager. However, the indicator light remains lit, on the usb drives, and when I do remove the drive, windows plays the sound of removing a live device. Could this be a hardware issue? When I put one of the drives into my laptop, it came up and said it was not removed correctly. Removable drives are part of my livelihood. What do you think?
Once you get the message that you can safely remove the drive, you will still get the sound after removing it. If it doesn't appear in Windows after you safely remove it, and if you get the message that its safe to remove, it can be removed safely. The power indicator just means power is going to the device. This will be the case with nearly any peripheral connected via USB. Your USB controller is not being turned off when you perform this action, and power is still going to any device that is plugged in. The difference is that it is "safe to remove" because Windows is no longer accessing it. Therefore, read and write errors cannot happen.