How to remove write protection from USB flash drive

USB flash drives and similar transferable data storage devices come in handy if you want your photos, media, or work files ready to go. It has been a while since these storage devices have become the most popular method for storing digital data. However, sometimes it may happen that you cannot transfer your files to USB flash drive because write protection is enabled.

Unsuccessful write attempts can be very troublesome on a USB flash drive. Luckily, there are quick and easy methods to fix the write protection issue, whether you're on a Windows PC or a Mac. There's even a solution if you're working on a Chromebook.

A universal solution

Before going into details about removing write protection in different operating systems, there is one thing to check first. Some data storage units have a physical switch to enable or disable write protection.

Take the USB drive you tried to write to and look for this switch, usually on the side, and it might even be labeled as Lock or Write Protection. Switch it to the other position, reinsert it, then transfer the data to the USB drive again.

If it works, your problem is solved and all you need to do is make sure the switch doesn't accidentally move back to the wrong position. If there is no switch (the most common) or if you still cannot write to the USB drive, you will have to use other methods. Let's start!

Remove USB Write Protection Using Windows

There are several ways to remove write protection from a USB flash drive if you have a Windows PC. Let's take a look at some of them now.

Disable Bitlocker

Since Windows 7, BitLocker has been integrated into the operating system to protect your data by encryption. The software is mainly used for internal drives, but it can also encrypt USB keys/drives. Bitlocker is disabled by default, but you may have already enabled it and forgotten about it, or someone else has.

  1. Open "File Explorer" and find the storage device you have in mind. If the icon has a padlock, BitLocker is enabled for the device.
  2. Right-click the icon and navigate to “Manage BitLocker. » This step will take you to the BitLocker Drive Encryption window, where a list of all storage drives and their encryption status is displayed.
  3. Now all you have to do is click on the protected USB drive and select “Disable BitLocker. » The status shows that the device is being decrypted, and when complete, BitLocker is disabled.

After disabling BitLocker, try copying something to the USB drive and see if that fixed the problem.

Use Diskpart to Disable Write Protection

Diskpart is a command tool that allows you to manage all storage units detected by the computer. To remove write protection using Diskpart, follow these steps:

  1. First, check and remember (or write down) the storage capacity of the USB device. This suggestion will come in handy soon. After confirming the space limit, plug the USB drive into the computer port.
  2. Launch " Command Prompt ". You can do this either by pressing "Windows key + R" and typing "CMD" or by searching for command prompt from the “The Start menu. » If you see the "Access Denied" message, right-click Command Prompt and choose " Execute as administrator. »
  3. In the command prompt, type "part of disc" and press "eenter. » Then type “Disc List” and press " Enter " again.
  4. You will see a list of all memory storage disks, named Disk 0, Disk 1, etc. In this scenario, you will need the capacity information to identify your USB device. Compare it to the "Size" column and you will find out the disk number.
  5. Taper "Select disk #", where "#" is the disk number. For example, if your USB drive was disk 1, type "select disk 1" without quotes, then press " Enter. »
  6. Taper "Clear Read-Only Disk Attributes" and press " Enter. » Yes, that word is spelled as "read only." " 
  7. Finally, wait for the write protection removal to complete, type " To go out ", then press " Enter” to close the command prompt window.
  8. Restart your PC and try to write to the USB drive again after the system restarts.

Use the Windows registry to disable write protection

If you are not an experienced user, it is not recommended to enter the Registry. A wrong entry here could seriously affect your system's performance or even render it unresponsive. Don't worry, though. Even if you are unfamiliar with the features under the hood, if you follow our method very carefully, you will be able to remove the write protection. Just make sure not to take any action other than the steps specified below.

  1. Connect the removable storage device to your PC, type "regdit" in the Cortana search bar, then select the "Registry Editor" app and click " Open. »
  2. Click on the "right chevron" (angle bracket) symbol next to " HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE » in the left sidebar to expand the directory structure for that folder.
  3. Repeat the procedures of "Step 1" for the "SYSTEM to expand it, then do the same for « CurrentControlSet. The full path so far should be "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> CurrentControlSet".
  4. Repeat the procedures of "Step 1" again to extend the "Control" folder, then confirm whether “Storage Device Policies” is present. Otherwise, go to "step 5" to create it yourself. Otherwise, proceed to “Step 7”.
  5. Right click on the "Control" case. To select "New" and choose “Key. » This step will create a new subfolder under "Control".
  6. Rename the newly created folder to « StorageDevicePolicies ».
  7. Now right click on « StorageDevicePolicies », to choose " New, " then select "DWORD (32-bit) value". Name the new entry “Write Protect” without quotes or spaces.
  8. Double click on “Write Protect” and replace "Value Data" with "0" and "Base" for "Hexadecimal. " 
  9. Click on " OKAY, " exit the registry and restart your computer.

After reboot, check if the USB now works as it should. This method disables write protection on all your drives, so it should make your USB drive writable again. Be careful, modifying the Windows registry by yourself can mess up your computer, so after following our instructions, it is better not to go back to it.

Remove write protection on a Mac

There is much less flexibility when fixing the write protection issue on Mac compared to Windows. You only have two options available: one is for storage units that cannot be written to due to a device fault, while the other involves formatting the disk.

Option 1: Repair permissions

Your USB flash drive's permissions may be faulty, making it write-protected. If so, you should try to fix the error using “Disk Utility”. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. After plugging in the USB device, open "Utilities" and select “Disk Utility. »
  2. Find the drive you want to repair on the left sidebar and select it.
  3. Click on the " First aid " tab, wait for the scans to finish, then select "Repair Disk Permissions".

If the fault was in permission settings, the above steps should remove write protection from USB.

Option 2: Format the disk

A sure way to remove write protection on macOS is to format the drive. Be aware that this process erases all data on the USB device, so be sure to copy any important files to another location before proceeding.

  1. To format the USB drive, find the drive using “Disk Utility” and click on it
  2. Go to " Wipe off " tab, select « format, » rename the USB drive if desired, then click " Wipe off. " Confirm the action in the pop-up window to start the formatting process.

Once the disk is formatted, the write protection should disappear. When choosing a format, note that some of the options are exclusive to Mac, while others, like "exFat", can be used universally with both Mac and Windows computers.

Remove write protection on a Chromebook

If you're using a USB flash drive with your Chromebook and think it's write-protected, formatting the drive is your only option. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Go to "Applications" and click " Files. » Otherwise, press Alt + Maj + M on the keyboard.
  2. Right-click on the drive and choose “Format device”.
  3. Confirm the action by clicking " OKAY " in the pop-up prompt, then wait for the process to complete.

Unfortunately, this is the only reliable method to remove write protection from a USB drive on Chromebook. As mentioned earlier, formatting the drive will erase all data on it, so be sure to back it up first.

Remove write protection from a USB flash drive in Linux

For those inclined to use Linux, this section might interest you.

  1. First, run the « Menu Applications () ", then find and click «Terminal» or type "term" in the search bar at the top to find and launch it. You can also use keyboard shortcuts to directly launch Terminal. On some Linux distributions, " Maj + Ctrl + T » or " Ctrl + Alt + T » launch the terminal.
  2. Then type « lsblk » and press " Enter " to get a list of all connected devices.
  3. Now type « sudo hdparm -r0 /dev/sdb » without quotes and press " Enter. » In this example, the USB is mounted at "/dev/sdb". Adjust your order accordingly. Note that you may need to unmount and remount the USB drive through the terminal with write protection disabled.

In conclusion, write protection can be a nuisance, especially when you don't know how it happened to your storage device. Luckily, you have learned how to remove write protection from USB flash drive on Windows, Mac, Linux and Chromebook computers. The problem should no longer catch you off guard, but there are no guarantees. With all the methods explained here, at least one should have you editing, copying, moving, or deleting files on your USB drive or SD card in no time!

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