USB memory sticks and similar portable data storage devices are convenient if you want to have your photos, media, installations or work files ready to go. It has been some time since these storage devices became the most common method of storing digital data. However, sometimes it may happen that you cannot transfer your files to a USB stick because write protection is enabled.
USB sticks and storage are not considered fixed drives, so they are mounted as removable media.
Regardless, failed write attempts can be inconvenient on a USB stick. Fortunately, there are quick and easy methods to fix the write protection issue, whether you’re on a Windows computer or a Mac. There’s even a workaround if you’re working on a Chromebook.
please note: Some SanDisk USB sticks (flash drives) and possibly other brands have an internal protection mechanism. According to SanDisk, if the USB drive experiences a power surge or other potentially harmful error, it disables write access, and there’s no way to get it back. They expect you to copy the data to another drive and replace it.
First check for a write protect switch
Before we get 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 turn write protection on or off.
Take the USB stick you’ve been trying to write to and look for that switch, usually on the side, and it may also be labeled “Lock” or “Write Protect.” Switch it to the other position, reinsert it, and then try to transfer data to the memory stick again.
If it works, your problem is solved, and all you need to do is make sure that the switch is not accidentally moved to the wrong position again. If there is no switch (most common), or you still can’t write to the USB, you’ll have to use other methods. Let’s get started!
Remove USB write protection with Windows
There are several ways to remove write protection from a USB stick if you have a Windows computer. Now let’s look at some of them.
Turn off Bitlocker to disable USB write protection
BitLocker is integrated into Windows 7/Vista (Enterprise and Ultimate) and Windows 8 and 10 (Pro and Ultimate) editions to protect your data with encryption. The software is mainly used for internal drives, but it can also encrypt USB sticks/drives.
Other versions of Windows, such as Home editions, require a separate download to decrypt the data. This scenario also applies when using macOS. Yes, Windows also has a Bitlocker decryption tool for Macs. Regardless, Bitlocker is off by default, but you may have enabled it before and forgotten about it, or someone else did it for you.
To turn off BitLocker on a USB stick, you must have the password or recovery key. You will need to reformat the drive if you don’t have either option. If you have the key or password for BitLocker, follow the steps below.
- open file explorer and find the storage device you have in mind. If the icon has a padlock, BitLocker is enabled for the device.
- Right click on the icon and go to Manage BitLocker. This step takes you to the BitLocker Drive Encryption window, where a list of all storage units and their encryption status appears.
- All you need to do now is to click on the protected USB drive and select it Turn off BitLocker. Enter the password or select other options, then choose to enter the recovery key. The status shows that the device is being decrypted, and BitLocker is turned off after completion.
After disabling BitLocker, try copying something to the USB stick again and see if the problem goes away.
Use Diskpart to disable USB write protection
Diskpart is a command line tool that allows you to manage all storage devices detected by the computer. Follow these steps to remove write protection with Diskpart:
- Check the storage capacity of the USB device and write it down. This will come in handy later. After confirming the space limit, insert the USB stick into the computer port.
- Start Command Prompt. You can also do this by pressing Windows key+R and type cmd or search for Command Prompt from the Start Menu. If you see the message “Access is denied”, right-click on Command Prompt and select Start as administrator.
- Type in Command Prompt disk partition and pressure enter.
- Next, tap list disk and pressure enter again.
- You will see a list of all storage drives, named Disk 0, Disk 1, and so on. Use the storage capacity you wrote down in “Step 1” to identify your USB device. Compare it with the size column, and you will find the disc number.
- type select disk# where “#” is the disk number. For example, if your USB was “Disk 1”, type “select disk 1” without quotes and then press enter.
- type Properties disk clean read only and pressure enter. Yes, “features” has an “s,” and “read-only” is one word.
- Finally, wait for the removal of write protection to finish, type exitthen press enter/return to close the command prompt window.
- Restart your computer and try writing to the USB stick again after the system reboots.
Use the Windows registry to disable USB write protection
Going to the Windows registry is not recommended for inexperienced users. The wrong input can seriously affect your system performance or make it unresponsive. Don’t worry though. Even if you are not familiar with the under-the-hood features, you will be able to remove the write protection if you follow our method very carefully. Just make sure you don’t take any steps other than the specified steps below.
- Connect the removable storage device to your computer, tap regedit in the Cortana search bar, then select the Register Editor app and click on Open up.
- Click on the right-facing chevron (angle bracket) symbol next to it HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE in the left sidebar to expand the folder structure of that folder.
- Repeat “Step 1” procedures for the SYSTEM guide to expand it, then do the same for CurrentControlSet. The complete path so far should be HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> CurrentControlSet.
- Repeat “Step 1” procedures again to extend the Control directory, then confirm if StorageDevicePolicies is present. If not, continue to Step 5 to create it yourself. Otherwise, skip to Step 7.
- Right click the Control guide. Choose New and choose Key. This step will create a new subfolder under Control.
- Rename the newly created folder to StorageDevicePolicies.
- Now, right-click on it StorageDevicePolicieschoose Newthen choose DWORD (32-bit) value. Name the new entry Write Protect without spaces.
- Double click on Write Protect and change value data on 0 and Base on hexadecimal.
- Click on OK, exit the registry and restart your computer.
Check the reboot if the USB is now working as it should. This method disables the write protection on all your drives, so that should make your USB writable again. Beware that editing the Windows registry on your own can mess up your computer, so after following our instructions, it’s better not to revisit it.
If none of the above options removed file protection from your USB stick, try searching for a third-party application.
Remove USB write protection on a Mac
There is much less flexibility in solving the write protection issue on Mac versus Windows. You only have two options available—one is for storage units that cannot be written to due to an error with the device, while the other involves formatting the drive.
Reset the permissions
The permissions for your USB drive may be incorrect, causing it to become write-protected. If this is the case, you should try to fix the error using “Disk Utility.” To do this, follow these simple steps:
- After plugging in the USB device, open Utilities and choose Disk utility.
- Find the drive you want to restore in the left sidebar and select it.
- Click on the First aid tab, wait for any scans to finish, and then select Reset disk permissions.
If the error was in the permission settings, the steps above should remove the USB’s write protection.
Format the Drive
One foolproof way to remove the write protection on macOS is to format the drive. Beware that this process will erase all data on the USB device, so make sure to copy any important files to another location before proceeding.
- Start to format the USB disk utility, find the drive and then click on it.
- go to the one day select tab format, Rename the USB drive if you want and then click on One day
- Confirm the action in the pop-up window to start the formatting process.
Once the drive is formatted, the write protection should disappear. When choosing a format, note that some options are Mac-exclusive, while others, such as “exFat,” can be used universally with Mac and Windows computers.
Currently remove USB write protection on a Chromebook
If you’re using a USB with your Chromebook and suspect it’s write-protected, formatting the drive is your only option. Follow the steps below to reformat your locked USB drive/stick on your Chromebook.
- go to applications and click Files. Alternatively, print Alt+Shift+M on the keyboard.
- Right click on the row and select Format device.
- Confirm the action by clicking okay in the popup prompt, then wait for the process to complete.
Unfortunately, this is the only reliable method to remove write protection from a USB on a Chromebook. As mentioned before, formatting the drive will erase all data, so make a backup of it beforehand.
Remove write protection from a USB on Linux
If you are a Linux user, this process unlocks the write protection on your USB drive or stick.
- First start the Applications menu (), then search and click on Terminals or type “term” in the search bar at the top to find it and start. On some Linux distributions, Shift + Ctrl + T or Ctrl + Alt + T also start the terminal.
- Next, tap lsblk and pressure enter to get a list of all attached devices.
- type sudo hdparm -r0 /dev/sdb without quotes and pressure enter. In this example, Linux mounted the USB at “/dev/sdb.” Adjust accordingly (sdb, sda, etc.) The “-r0” turns off the read-only permission. You may need to unmount/remount the USB drive via the terminal once read-only is disabled.
In the example/procedures above, you identify the drive, change its read-only permissions to off, then unmount and remount it via the terminal, not by ejecting it.
In conclusion, write protection can be a nuisance, especially if you don’t know how it happened on your storage device. Fortunately, you’ve learned how to remove write protection from a USB stick or device on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook computers. The problem shouldn’t catch you off guard anymore, but there are no guarantees. With all the methods explained here, at least one should enable you to edit, copy, move or delete files on your USB or SD card in no time!