USB memory sticks or similar transferable storage devices can be handy if you need to keep your media, photos, and work files on hand. These storage devices have been around for quite some time and are still the most popular way to store digital data. Sometimes, however, you might not be able to transfer files to a USB stick due to write protection.
Failure to write can cause serious problems with a USB stick. There are simple and quick ways to fix the write protection problem, regardless of whether you’re using a Windows PC or Mac. Even if you are using a Chromebook, there is a solution.
Not all SanDisk flash drives (or USB sticks) have an internal protection mechanism. SanDisk claims that if the USB drive experiences power fluctuations or any other potentially harmful error, it will shut down write access and there is no way to retrieve it. They ask that you copy the data to another drive so that it can be replaced.
Make sure you have a Write Protection switch on your computer.
Before we get into the details of how to remove write protection in different operating systems, here’s a quick check. Some data storage units include a physical switch to toggle write protection on/off.
Look for the switch on the USB stick that you tried to write to. It is usually located on the side.
If this works, you can rest assured that your problem has been solved. You’ll need other methods if there is no switch (most commonly), or you can’t write the USB. Let’s get started!
Remove USB Write Protection using Windows
If you own a Windows computer, there are many ways to get rid of write protection on a USB stick. Let’s now take a look at some.
To disable USB Write Protection, turn Bitlocker off
BitLocker has been integrated into Windows 7/Vista Enterprise, Ultimate and Windows 8 and higher Pro and Ultimate editions to help protect your data with encryption. Although the software is primarily used to encrypt internal drives, it can also encrypt USB sticks/drives. For USB encryption, other Windows versions such as Home Editions will require separate downloads. This applies to macOS as well. Yes, Windows also offers Bitlocker for Macs. Bitlocker is disabled by default. However, you might have activated it previously and forgotten about it or another person did.
How to turn off BitLocker from a USB Stick
You must have either the recovery key or password to turn BitLocker off on a USB stick. You will need to format the drive if you don’t have either of these options. Follow the steps below if you have BitLocker’s password or key.
- Open File Explorer to locate the storage device that you are looking for. BitLocker is enabled for devices whose icons have a padlock.
- Right-click the icon to go to Manage BitLocker. This takes you to the BitLocker Drive Encryption window. Here, a list all storage units with their encryption status is displayed.
- You can now click on the USB protected drive and choose to “Turn off BitLocker.” Type the password or choose from other options, and then enter the recovery code. BitLocker will be turned off when the status changes.
Once BitLocker has been disabled, copy the file from the USB stick and check if it works.
Diskpart can be used to disable USB Write Protection
Diskpart allows you to manage all storage units that are detected by your computer. These steps will help you remove Diskpart’s write protection
- First, make sure to check the USB storage capacity. This is a great idea that will come in handy later. Once you have confirmed that the space limit has been met, plug your USB stick into your computer’s port.
- Start “Command Prompt.” To do this, press “Windows key+R” and type “CMD”, or search for Command Prompt in the “Start Menu” to find Command Prompt.
- Type “diskpart” in Command Prompt and hit “enter”. Next, type “list disk” into the Command Prompt and hit “enter” once more.
- A list of all storage drives will appear, with Disk 0, Disk 1, etc. To identify your USB device, you will need to know the capacity information. It will be compared to the “Size” column and you will find the disk number.
- Type Select disk #. If your USB is Disk 1, then type ” Select disk 1” in quotes. Then hit to “enter.”
- Typing “Attributes clear readonly” then pressing the “enter” button Yes “attributes” has an “s” and is one word.
- Wait for the write protection to be removed. Next, hit to exit. Finally, hit to close the command prompt window.
- After the computer has restarted, turn on your computer and then try to write again on the USB stick.
To disable USB Write Protect, use the Windows Registry
If you are not an experienced user, it is not recommended to enter the Registry. Do not worry if you make a mistake. It could cause serious performance issues or render your system unresponsive. If you aren’t familiar with the details of the under-the-hood features, it’s possible to remove the write protection by following our steps. Be sure to follow the steps.
- Connect the removable storage device and your computer by typing “regedit” into the Cortana Search Bar. Next, select “Registry Editor” app, and then click “Open.”
- To expand the directory structure for that folder, click on the symbol (right-facingchevron) next to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE symbol in the left sidebar.
- To expand the SYSTEM folder, repeat “Step 1”, then “CurrentControlSet ” for the “CurrentControlSet ” folder.
- Repeat “Step 1” procedures again to expand the “Control” folder, then confirm if “StorageDevicePolicies” is present. Continue to “Step 5” to create it. Skip to Step 7.
- Right-click on the folder. Select “New” and then choose ‘Key.” You will now have a new folder 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 “WriteProtect”, and change “Value data” to “0” or “Base” (Hexadecimal).
- You can click on the “OK” button, close the Registry and restart your computer.
Check that the USB is operating correctly after the reboot. This will disable the write protection on all drives. Your USB should now be writable. You should be aware that editing Windows Registry can cause serious problems. It is best to not re-edit it after following our instructions.
Try searching for third-party applications if none of these options remove file protection from USB sticks.
Remove USB Write Protection from a Mac
Resolving the issue of write protection on Mac is more difficult than for Windows. There are only two options: one is for storage units that cannot be written to because of a fault with it, and the other involves formatting it.
Option 1: Repair Permissions
Your USB drive permissions might be incorrect, which could cause it to become “write-protected.” Follow these steps:
- After plugging the USB device in, open ‘Utilities’ then select ‘Disk Utility.
- Select the drive that you want to repair from the left sidebar.
On the tab, wait until any scans are complete, then choose “Repair disk permissions.”
If the problem was in the permission settings then the steps below should be used to remove the USB’s writing protection.
Option 2: Format the Drive
Formatting the drive is a sure-fire way to get rid of the macOS write protection. This process will erase all data on your USB device. Make sure you backup any important files before proceeding.
- Start “Disk utility,” locate the USB drive, and then click on it.
- Click on the “Erase” tab and select “format.” If you wish to rename your USB drive, click on the “Erase” button to begin formatting.
After formatting the drive, you should remove the write protection. Some options can only be used on Macs, such as “exFat,” while others, such as “Mac-exclusive” and “Mac-exclusive,” can be used on both Mac and Windows.
Remove USB Write Protection from a Chromebook
Formatting the USB drive is your only choice if you suspect that it may be write-protected. To format your USB stick or drive that is locked, follow the steps below.
- Click “Apps” to open “Files” or press “Alt+Shift+M”.
- Right-click on your drive and select ‘Format Device.”
- Click “OK” in the popup prompt to confirm the action. Wait for the process finish.
This is unfortunately the only way to remove USB write protection on Chromebook. Formatting the drive will erase all data. Back it up before formatting.
Linux: Remove Write Protection
This process will unlock the write protection on your USB stick or drive if you’re a Linux user.
- Launch the “Applications Menu”, then click on “Terminal” to launch it. You can also launch the terminal from Linux distros by pressing ” Shift+ Ctrl+ T”, or ” Alt + T”.
- Next, type ‘lsblk’ then press enter> for a complete list of attached devices.
- Enter and type the command “enter.” This will mount the USB at “/dev/sdb.” Make adjustments (sdb/sda, etc.). The “-r0” turns off the read-only permission. Once read-only has been turned off, you might have to mount/unmount the USB drive using the terminal.
The above example/procedures will identify the drive and change its read-only permissions. Next, unmount the drive using the terminal.
Write protection can be annoying, especially if you don’t know what caused it. You’ve now learned how to remove USB write protection on Windows, Mac and Linux. Although the issue shouldn’t catch you by surprise, there are no guarantees. Using the many methods described here, you should be able to edit, copy and move files on your SD or USB card within minutes.