Failed write attempts can be quite an inconvenience on a USB stick. Luckily, there are quick and easy methods to solve 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.
USB memory sticks and similar transferable data storage devices are convenient if you want to have your photos, media, or work files ready to go. It’s been quite some time since these storage devices have become the most prevalent method for storing digital data. However, sometimes it might happen that you can’t transfer your files onto a USB because write protection is activated.
Before we go into details about write protection removal in different operating systems, there’s one thing to check first. Some data storage units have a physical switch for toggling write protection on or off.
Take the USB stick you’ve tried to write to and look for that switch, usually located on the side, and it might also be labeled as “Lock” or “Write Protection.” Switch it to the other position, reinsert it, and then transfer data to the memory stick again.
If that works, your problem is solved, and all you need to do is ensure the switch doesn’t accidentally get moved in the wrong position again. If there’s no switch (most common), or you still can’t write to the USB, you’ll need to employ other methods. Let’s get started!
Remove USB Write Protection using Windows
There are several ways to remove write protection from a USB stick if you have a Windows PC. Let’s take a look at some of them now.
Turn Bitlocker Off to Disable Writer Protection
Ever since Windows 7, BitLocker has been integrated into the OS to protect your data with encryption. The software primarily gets used for internal drives, but it can also encrypt USB sticks/drives. Bitlocker is off by default, but you may have activated it before and forgot about it, or someone else did it.
How to Turn Off BitLocker on a USB Stick
- Open “File Explorer” and look for the storage device you have in mind. If the icon has a padlock, BitLocker was 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 display.
- All you need to do now is click on the protected USB drive and select “Turn Off BitLocker.” The status shows that the device is getting decrypted and, upon completion, BitLocker is turned off.
After you’ve disabled BitLocker, try to copy something on the USB stick again and see if the problem got resolved.
Use Diskpart to Disable Write Protection
Diskpart is a command tool that lets you manage all storage units that get detected by the computer. To remove write protection using Diskpart, follow these steps:
- First of all, check and remember (or write down) the storage capacity of the USB device. This suggestion comes in handy later. After you’ve confirmed the space limit, plug the USB stick into the computer port.
- Launch “Command Prompt.” You can do this either by pressing “Windows key+R” and typing “CMD” or searching for Command Prompt from the “Start Menu.” If you see the “Access is denied” message, right-click on Command Prompt and choose “Run as Administrator.”
- In Command Prompt, type “diskpart” and press “enter.” Then, type “List disk” and press “enter” again.
- You’ll see a list of all memory storage disks, named Disk 0, Disk 1, and so on. This step is where you’ll need the capacity information to identify your USB device. Compare it to the “Size” column, and you’ll find out the disk number.
- Type “Select disk #”, where “#” is the disk number. For example, if your USB was Disk 1, type “select disk 1” without quotes, then hit “enter.”
- Type “Attributes disk clear readonly” and press “enter.” Yes, “attributes” has an “s” and “readonly” is one word.
- Finally, wait for the write protection removal to finish, type “Exit”, then hit “enter” to close the command prompt window.
- Restart your PC and try writing on the USB stick again after the system has rebooted.
Use the Windows Registry to Disable Write Protect
If you’re not an experienced user, going into the Registry is not recommended. The wrong input here could seriously affect your system performance or even render it unresponsive. Don’t worry, though. Even if you’re not familiar with the under-the-hood features, you’ll be able to remove the write protection if you follow our method very carefully. Just ensure not to take any action other than the specified steps below.
- Connect the removable storage device to your PC, type “regedit” in the Cortana Search Bar, then select the “Registry Editor” app and click on “Open.”
- Click on the “right-facing chevron” (angle bracket) symbol next to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE” in the left sidebar to expand the directory structure of that folder.
- Repeat “Step 1” procedures for the “SYSTEM” folder 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 expand the “Control” folder, 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” folder. Select “New” and choose “Key.” This step will create a new subfolder under “Control.”
- Rename the newly created folder to “StorageDevicePolicies.”
- Now, right-click on “StorageDevicePolicies,” choose “New,” then select “DWORD (32-bit) Value.” Name the new entry “WriteProtect” without quotes or spaces.
- Double-click on “WriteProtect” and change “Value Data” to “0” and “Base” to “Hexadecimal.”
- Click on “OK,” exit the Registry, and restart your computer.
After the reboot, check if the USB is now operating as it should. This method disables the write protection on all your drives, so it should make your USB writable again. Beware that editing the Windows Registry on your own can mess up your computer, so after you’ve followed our instructions, it’s best not to revisit it.
Removing Write Protection on a Mac
There’s much less flexibility when resolving the write protection issue on Mac versus on Windows. You only have two options available—one is for storage units that can’t be written to due to a fault with the device, while the other involves formatting the drive.
Option 1: Repair the Permissions
The permissions for your USB drive might be faulty, causing it to become write-protected. If that’s the case, you should try fixing the error using “Disk Utility.” To do so, follow these simple steps:
- After plugging in the USB device, open “Utilities” and select “Disk Utility.”
- Find the drive you’d like to repair in the left sidebar and select it.
- Click on the “First Aid” tab, wait for any scans to finish, and then select “Repair Disk Permissions.”
If the fault was in the permission settings, the steps above should remove the USB’s write protection.
Option 2: Format the Drive
One sure way to remove the write protection on macOS is to format the drive. Beware that this process erases all data on the USB device, so ensure you copy any important files to another location before proceeding.
- To format the USB, find the drive using “Disk Utility” and click on it
- Go to the “Erase” tab, select “format,” rename the USB drive if you want to, then click on “Erase.” Confirm the action in the pop-up window to start the formatting process.
Once the drive is formatted, the write protection should be gone. When choosing a format, note that some of the options are Mac-exclusive, while others, like “exFat,” can be universally used with Mac and Windows computers.
Removing 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. You can do this by following these steps:
- Go to “Apps” and click “Files.” Alternatively, press “Alt+Shift+M” on the keyboard.
- Right-click on the drive and choose “Format Device.”
- Confirm the action by clicking “OK” in the pop-up prompt, then wait for the process to finish.
Unfortunately, this is the only reliable method to remove write protection from a USB on Chromebook. As previously stated, formatting the drive will erase all data, so be sure to back it up beforehand.
Remove Write Protection From a USB on Linux
For those inclined to use Linux, this section might interest you.
- First, launch the “Applications Menu (),” then look for and click on “Terminal” or type “term” in the search bar at the top to find it and launch it. You can also use hotkeys to launch Terminal directly. On some Linux distros, “Shift + Ctrl + T” or “Ctrl + Alt + T” launch Terminal.
- Next, type “lsblk” and press “enter” to get a list of all attached devices.
- Now, type “sudo hdparm -r0 /dev/sdb” without quotes and press “enter.” In this example, the USB is mounted at “/dev/sdb.” Adjust your command accordingly. Note, you might need to unmount and remount the USB drive via the terminal with write-protect off.
In closing, write protection can be a nuisance, especially when you don’t know how it happened on your storage device. Luckily, you’ve learned how to remove write protection from a USB on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook computers. The issue should no longer catch you off-guard, but there are no guarantees. With all the methods explained here, at least one should allow you to edit, copy, move, or delete files on your USB or SD card in no time!