Your SanDisk USB stick is no longer removable – and it’s Microsofts fault!

I came across something curious last week that failed the question:
Can I find a quick answer for this in Google?

I had purchased a new SanDisk USB stick to boot Linux.   The script I was using to configure it had a check to make sure the disk target (e.g./dev/sdb)  I was installing Linux onto was removable media.   The script kept complaining that my new USB stick was not! I found an older SanDisk USB stick and with that one, my script ran without error.

Had I bought a bad USB stick?   It formatted without issue and I could write to it and read from it without any errors.

I then compared the dmesg output for the two sticks:

Newer USB stick:

[833126.592645] scsi 10:0:0:0: Direct-Access SanDisk Cruzer Switch 1.26 PQ: 0 ANSI: 6
[833126.592794] sd 10:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg2 type 0
[833126.593499] usb-storage: device scan complete
[833126.596965] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] 15633408 512-byte logical blocks: (8.00 GB/7.45 GiB)
[833126.601274] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] Write Protect is off
[833126.601276] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] Mode Sense: 43 00 00 00
[833126.601278] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
[833126.609031] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
[833126.609042] sdb: sdb1
[833126.634951] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
[833126.634954] sd 10:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI disk

Older USB stick:

[151567.256075] scsi 2:0:0:0: Direct-Access SanDisk Cruzer Switch 1.20 PQ: 0 ANSI: 5
[151567.256497] sd 2:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg2 type 0
[151567.257279] usb-storage: device scan complete
[151567.261777] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] 7821312 512-byte logical blocks: (4.00 GB/3.72 GiB)
[151567.265883] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] Write Protect is off
[151567.265888] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] Mode Sense: 43 00 00 00
[151567.265897] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
[151567.278033] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
[151567.278041] sdb: sdb1
[151567.287932] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
[151567.287935] sd 2:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI removable disk

I noticed the difference between the newer SanDisk USB stick and the older USB stick was the killer line at the end.  The old stick was identified as a ‘removable disk’ while the new stick was identified as a ‘disk’.

The other difference was simpler to spot.  The ‘removable’ variable was ‘1’ on the old stick and ‘0’ on the new stick.

 # cat /sys/block/sdb/removable
0

I then found this on the SanDisk web site which explained what I was seeing and confirmed that there was nothing wrong with this new USB stick:

Flash Drive shows as Hard Disk Drive (Fixed Disk) in Windows Explorer

Where it told me:

NOTE: SanDisk is beginning production of flash drives configured as fixed disk in 2012 to meet new requirements for Windows 8 Certification.

Historically, flash drives have been configured as removable disks and Windows Explorer displays them as ‘Removable Media’. Windows 8 Certification requires flash drive manufacturers to configure flash drives as fixed disks. Flash drives configured as fixed disk will show up in Windows Explorer as ‘Hard Disk Drives’. Flash drives configured as fixed disks still function the same as those configured as removable disks.

NOTE: SanDisk does NOT support configuring flash drives as bootable device for running an OS.

This change (regardless of what SanDisk says) does not stop you using these new sticks as USB boot media.  But it does mean my Linux install script can no longer programmatically identify SanDisk USB sticks as removable media… and its all because of Microsoft.

I can only imagine Steve Ballmers reaction on learning this:

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About Anthony Vandewerdt

I am an IT Professional who lives and works in Melbourne Australia. This blog is totally my own work. It does not represent the views of any corporation. Constructive and useful comments are very very welcome.
This entry was posted in advice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Your SanDisk USB stick is no longer removable – and it’s Microsofts fault!

  1. Isn’t it amazing to see MS still has the ability to make well-established vendors and well-established standards to be submissive to MS just to get certification.

  2. Rob Turk says:

    Technically it is just a single bit in the Inquiry command to indicate removable or not. What baffles me is why Microsoft demands this change. What do they stand to gain from demanding this in their certification for Windows 8?

  3. Shayne says:

    Good ol Microsoft. Always making things difficult, well almost always. After all they did just bring the start button back. So they can’t be blamed for all the wrongs in the world.

  4. kat says:

    So how do I configure the flash drive as removable disk?

    • Hi Kat.

      I struggled with the same question myself.
      It seems it is a hardware attribute of the thumb drive… so unless you have some tool to reflash the ‘firmware’ I don’t think it is possible.

      • Kat says:

        Oh i see. What are other thumb drives that are recognized as removable disk? I need it to create a recovery file for my new laptop. Thanks!

  5. artie says:

    So can I safely remove the drive without losing data if I can no longer access the “Eject” or “Safely Remove Media” options? Do I simply pull it out at any time, or do I need to shut down my PC to do this?

  6. Ralph says:

    This should really be no surprise to anyone. What else do you expect from Microsoft. The LAST THING IN THE WORLD they want is for you to be able to install Win 7. They want you on Win 8, in the Metro where they can spam you and spy on you. All Apps require you go to the MS store, programs that work in the “old” desktop do not and they do not want you to have that freedom. They are envious of Apple and its monopoly on its users via the Apple Store. Why do you think MS goes out of there way to TRICK new Win 8 users in to logging in with their personal email account instead of a local account. How else can they can tell EVERY TIME you start your PC, who you are and EVERYTHING you do on it so that they can give to the NSA for free without a warrant and sell it to everyone else and lock you in to their Monopoly waiting to happen, also know as the Cloud, and the MS store. They want the desktop dead so that developers will forever after have to give them a cut of their profits for the privilege of putting their product in the MS store, the ONLY way to get a Metro App and to sell one. As for the so called return of the “start” button, not really. If you click on it like you did, and no doubt your old tried and true habit would naturally have you do, ie a left click, it will take you back to the Evil Monopoly in waiting Metro and out of the desktop. You have to right click on it to get the old start menu. HOW DESPICABLE OF MS. I strongly recommend the installation of the “Classic 8” start button. It will let you skip past Metro and go straight to the desktop. No one should be with out it. Metro needs to die and all techs need to help their customers delete the email log in, and switch to a local account and install a proper start button that will let them go straight to the desktop without ever see the Metro. (Never install Win 8.1 as it will hide the local account log in and again try to trick you into giving them your personal email account. HOW EVIL OF THEM.)

    PS I am an IT tech with over 30 yrs exp.

    Ralph

  7. Larry says:

    You bunch of whiny linux babies. Microsoft did this because of their Windows To Go program. Currently, a UEFI boot disk is required to be formatted as FAT32, which limits the file size to 4GB. this means that your standard Windows Image files (WIM) won’t fit on a FAT32 drive. By making it a fixed drive, you are able to create multiple partitions, the first one being a UEFI capable FAT32 partition that holds the WinPE boot environment and a second NTFS partition that holds that Windows Image file. In the end, it was up to Sandisk as to whether it was more important to support Linux distro’s or Microsoft’s, and they are in the business of making money. If you don’t like it, start your own flash drive company.

    • Anon says:

      Newsflash for Larry. You could make multiple partitions on USB flash disks marked properly as “removable” devices as well. Which means this change is yet another MS incompatibility to prevent their monopoly from falling apart.

      Unfortunately for them, they are on the way out, so it won’t matter eventually

  8. Pingback: Adding 128GB of Flash to the Venue 8 Pro - Page 8

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sandisk reverted to the removable option at the end of last year as seen below:

    Hi ,

    My name is Allen from SanDisk support. For a limited period in 2013, SanDisk USB Flash drives were produced with Fixed Disk configuration. At the end of 2013 SanDisk reverted to producing USB Flash Drives with Removable Disk configuration”. For detailed information, please contact SanDisk support at 1-866-SANDISK or submit a support request at http://www.sandisk.com/support.

    Thank you,
    SanDisk Support.

    • Chris says:

      Hello Allen,

      How do we fix this? In public safety (fire department) we have equipment we need to operate and for updates we use a thumb drive. The options for the program to find the updates are Removable drives or Bluetooth.

      These don’t work in our systems! We purchased a few hundred of these for exactly that purpose and they don’t work.

      I’ve found applications to change this from removable to fixed disk but nothing to do it the other way around.

      Do you have a utility that will fix this???

  10. Mistofeles says:

    Is this somehow connected to the infamous habit of Win8 to destroy USB sticks that hold Linux installation packet ?
    Win8 ‘destroyed’ six of our sticks before we found what was happening. It took some time before we found a way to salvage the sticks.
    After this incident we have avoided Microsoft products as much as possible.

  11. Kyle says:

    Recently, I contacted SanDisk Support with the following question.

    “How do I make my 4GB SanDisk Cruzer Glide USB Flash drive, purchased on May 5, 2014, appear as removable in Windows 7?”

    I received the following answer.

    “In mid-2013 SanDisk changed production of its USB Drives configured as fixed disk to meet a perceived certification requirement. SanDisk USB Drives with either removable or fixed disk configuration will work the same when used for data storage on Windows PC and Mac computers. SanDisk is in the process of reverting back to producing USB Drives configured as removable disk.
    NOTE: There is no tool available to change SanDisk USB Drives between fixed and removable disk configuration.”

    All one can do is wait for SanDisk to start producing a new batch of USB Drives configures as removable disk. Unfortunately, SanDisk Support has not been informed whether or not production will even start during 2014, and less sure of when they’ll reach retail stores.

    SanDisk Support provided the following regarding obtaining an RMA for the USB Drive.

    “You can get it replaced from the place of purchase, but if they deny then we will replace the drive for you. Please provide the below information to check the warranty status for possible replacement.

    Your Phone Number
    Your complete physical address ( No P.O. Box please )
    Place of Purchase
    Exact or approximate Date of Purchase in the format of MM/DD/YYYY
    How was the product packaged at the time of purchase?
    Do you have any important data on the product?
    Do you to allow us to share your information with our shipping provider?

    Mentioned below is the RMA procedure followed by SanDisk;

    Once the RMA gets approved you will receive two emails, first email will have the Return Instructions with the RMA# mentioned in it and the second email will have the link for the prepaid UPS Shipping label. Please print the label within 10 days as it will expire after that. Once you print the label you are required to put the product in the padded envelope without any accessories, tape the label on top of it and take it to any UPS drop box or store, you can also use a UPS envelope available at most of the drop boxes and UPS Stores. Once we receive the product it will take 7-10 business days for the processing then we will ship out the new product.”

  12. regg ed says:

    How about it is to prevent autorun from spreading viruses (the autorun feature is disabled for fixed drives IIRC)?

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