How to Remove Write Protection from a USB
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 of storing digital data. However, sometimes it might so happen that you can’t transfer your files onto a USB because write protection is activated.
This situation can be a real speed bump, especially when you need to bring some of your work along in a hurry. 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.
A Universal Solution
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 even be labeled as Lock or Write Protection. Switch it to the other position, reinsert it, and try to 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, 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 Off Bitlocker
Ever since Windows 7, BitLocker has been integrated into the OS to protect your data with encryption. The software is primarily used for internal drives, but it can also encrypt USB sticks/drives. Bitlocker isn’t turned on by default, but it might be the case that you’ve enabled it before and forgot about it or that someone else did it.
Open File Explorer and look for the storage device you have in mind. If the icon has a padlock, BitLocker got enabled for the device. Right-click on the icon and go to Manage BitLocker. This step will take 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 off.
After you’ve turned BitLocker off, try to copy something on the USB stick and see if this has solved the problem.
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 will come in handy soon. After you’ve confirmed the space limit, plug the USB 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 hit 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 scenario is when 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“, followed by the USB 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, that word is spelled as “readonly.”
- Finally, wait for the write protection removal to finish, type “Exit“, hit Enter, and you’ll exit Command Prompt. Restart your PC and try writing on the USB again after the system has rebooted.
Use the Registry to Disable Write Protect
If you’re not an experienced user, going into the Registry is not recommended. A 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, if you follow our method very carefully, you’ll be able to remove the write protection. Just make sure not to take any action other than the specified steps below.
- Connect the removable storage device to your PC, open the Run dialog (Windows key+R), and type “regedit” without quotes. This procedure will take you to the Registry.
- Find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE in the left sidebar and click on the arrow to expand it.
- Find SYSTEM, expand it, then do the same for CurrentControlSet. The complete path so far should be HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>SYSTEM>CurrentControlSet.
- Expand the Control folder and find StorageDevicePolicies. If you don’t see that folder, don’t be alarmed—continue to the next steps to create it yourself.
- To create StorageDevicePolicies and all the registry entries you’ll need, right-click on the Control folder. Go to New, and choose Key. This step will create a new subfolder under Control. Name it “StorageDevicePolicies“.
- Now, right-click on StorageDevicePolicies, go to New, and hit DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the new entry “WriteProtect” without quotes.
- Double-click WriteProtect and change the Value Data to 0 and Base to Hexadecimal.
- Click OK, exit the Registry, and restart the computer.
After the reboot, check if the USB is now operating as it should. This method will disable write protection on all your drives, so it should make your USB writable again. Beware that editing the 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 intended for storage units that can’t be written on due to a fault with the device itself, while the other involves formatting the drive.
Repair the Permissions
The permissions for your USB drive might be faulty, causing it to be 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 hit Repair Disk Permissions.
If the fault was in the permission settings, the steps above should remove the USB’s write protection.
Format the Drive
One sure way to remove the write protection on Mac is to format the drive. Beware that this will erase all data on the USB device, so make sure to copy any important files to another location before proceeding.
To format the USB, find the drive in Disk Utility, click on it, then go to the Erase tab. Select the format, rename the USB drive if you want to, and hit Erase. Confirm the action in the pop-up window, and the process will start.
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 both 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 and 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 on it, so make 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, open up a terminal using your Applications Menu and typing “terminal” or by using shortcut keys. On some Linux distros, Shift + Ctrl + T or Ctrl + Alt + T will open up a new terminal.
- Next, type “lsblk” and hit Enter to get a list of all attached devices.
- Now, type “sudo hdparm -r0 /dev/sdb” and hit 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.
Able to Write Again
Write protection can be a nuisance, especially when you don’t know how it came to be on your storage device. Luckily, now that you’ve learned how to remove write protection from a USB on your Windows, Mac, or Chromebook computer, the issue will no longer catch you off-guard. With all the methods we’ve explained here, you’ll be able to edit, copy, move, or delete files on your USB or SD card in no time.
Did you encounter the write protection issue on your computer? What method did you use to remove it? Tell us in the comments section below.