How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

write protected usb   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB StickYou’ve got your trusty USB flash drive plugged into your computer, and you go to copy some files to it. Then you get this – “The disk is write protected. Remove the write protection or use another disk.” Then you say, “Whaaaaaa….?!?!” How did this happen? This is your USB stick, you should be able to read, write and do whatever you want with it!

Deep breath and stay calm. It is just an error message. You and I are going to go through a few simple steps to fix write protection on USB drives and make your USB flash drive work again, in the manner that you expect it to. It’s just technology, we can fix it.

Step 1 – Check The USB Drive For Viruses

Every time you plug a USB drive into your computer, you should be automatically scanning it for viruses – especially if you have used it on computers that you don’t own, or public computers. Viruses often act in a manner that will fill your USB drive with nonsense files and this can make your USB drive respond with the Write Protected error.

Depending on the antivirus software that you have, you may be able to configure it to automatically scan USB Drives when they are plugged in. If not, usually you can navigate to the USB drive in Windows Explorer, right-click on it and make your antivirus software scan it manually.

usb virus scan   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

If you do find a virus, then it would be best to eliminate it using your antivirus software. I’d also recommend performing a scan with at least one other antivirus scanner, as not all antiviruses are 100% complete in their anti-virus definitions. Chances are where there is one virus, there are two or more.

I recommend reading Joel’s article, “Make Sure You’re Clean With These Free One-Time Scan Antivirus Tools“.

Step 2 – Check The USB Drive Body

Normally I’d make something this simple, step one. However I’d rather see you protected from viruses first and then have you check the simple thing factor. Some USB flash drives have a mechanical switch on them that puts them into Write Protect mode.  This can be a very small slider switch which may have caught on something in your pocket or computer case.

If this is the situation, then simply move the switch to the unlocked position and try to copy files again. It should work now.

usb switch   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

On the upside there aren’t a lot of USB sticks with these locks on them anymore. So there is a good chance that’s not the issue for you. On the downside, if this isn’t the issue the following fixes are slightly more complicated.

Step 3 – Check To Make Sure the Flash Drive Isn’t Full

If your USB stick is full, you may also get the Write Protect error message. So, simply pop into Windows Explorer, find your USB Drive, right-click on it and select Properties. This will give you the nice pie chart display of the Used and Free space available on your USB Stick.

(Fun Fact: The scientific reason why pie charts are so popular is that people like pie). It appears that my drive is barely used at all!

usb check capacity   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Step 4 – Is It Just That File?

Make sure that it isn’t just the file that is write protected. Yes, you would get a different error message, but maybe you jumped to conclusions and thought it was the whole USB flash drive. It happens. If I can freak out like that, so could you.

file write protected error   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Right-click on the file that you’re trying to write to and then click on Properties. Now you’ll see some options at the bottom of this window and one of them is Read-only. Make sure this box is unchecked and then click on the Apply button. You should now be able to write to this file.

file write protected   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Step 5 – Diskpart Command Line Utility

Have you ever worked in the command line on Windows? Well you’re about to. It’s not as scary as one might think, and as such it is the next logical step before going into the Windows Registry.

Click on your Start Menu and type cmd in the Search for programs and files field. Now, hit your Enter key. You’ll see a window looking like the following:

diskpart 0   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Type in the command diskpart and hit Enter. Diskpart is a disk-partitioning tool that is built into Windows and is accessible through the Command Line Utility. With it, we can change the values associated with your USB drive.

A new command line window will open. Type list disk and then hit Enter. You’ll now see a list of disks available in Windows. If your USB drive isn’t listed here, this won’t help you any. You can see in my example below that all that is showing are the two partitions on my computer’s hard drive. My USB drive doesn’t show up in here for whatever reason.

diskpart 1   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

If it is listed here, make a note of the number beside it. Make sure that this is indeed your USB drive! Now type the command select disk 3, assuming your USB drive is number 3, and hit Enter. Type attributes disk clear readonly and then hit Enter. You have now cleared any Read-Only attribute that might be on that USB drive.

Type exit and hit Enter to leave the DiskPart utility. Try your USB drive again. Still getting the Write Protect Error?

Step 6 – Into the Registry We Go

If none of the previous steps helped you out, then we have to do something a little dangerous – we are going into the registry. If you are not comfortable going into the registry, I understand. You may want to skip to Step 7, but that means going on to formatting your USB drive. Or, you can have a friend who is a computer technician check the registry for you. Or you can try it out yourself. This is a fairly simple registry change, so hang in there. I think you can do it.

Click on your Start Menu and type regedit into the Search for programs and files field. You’ll see something like the image below.

run regedit   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Hit your Enter key. The Registry Editor window will now open. By clicking on the arrows next to the menu items, navigate to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies

and look for a key named WriteProtect.

storagedevicepolicies writeprotect 1   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

If that key exists, right-click on it and click on Modify.

write protect modify   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Now, you’ll probably find that the value for this is set to 1. 1 means “Yes, write protect my USB storage device.” So you can guess that 0 means “No, don’t write protect my USB storage device.” Now change that value to 0 and click on the OK button.

write protect zero   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

Close Registry Editor, remove your USB device and then plug it back in again. You should now be able to write to your USB stick.

If not, it is Disk Formatting Time.

Step 7 – Format The USB Drive

WARNING: Make sure that you back up all the files and information from your USB drive to your computer. All data will be lost once the USB drive is formatted.

Formatting the hard drive is a last resort. However, it should make your USB drive able to be read and written to. Prior to formatting the USB drive, determine what kind of file system it already has – NTFS or FAT32. Normally the file system that it already has will be the file system that is best suited for the drive.

Remember how we went into Windows Explorer, right-clicked on the USB drive and selected Properties back in Step 3? Let’s do that again.

format properties file system   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

There it is – File system: FAT32. If you want more information on file systems and formatting USB Flash Drives, Tina has a solid article on that, called, “How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need To“.

Close out the Properties window and right-click on your USB drive in Windows Explorer again. Click on Format.

format 1   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

In the Format window, you’ve got some options. We’ve already determined that we’re going to use the FAT32 File System for this particular drive. For Allocation Unit Size, select the highest amount you can if you’ve got a USB drive with a capacity over 1GB, go smaller if your USB drive is smaller. I don’t know of too many people with a USB flash drive less than 1GB so 64 kilobytes should be fine.

format settings   How To Fix Write Protection Errors On a USB Stick

You can make the Volume label something that is meaningful to you. I’m just leaving it as KINGSTON for now. Because we may be dealing with a USB drive with hardware issues, I suggest unchecking the Quick format box. That will force the format to do more than just erase files. If there is a bad sector on this USB drive, a full format will will throw an error. If that’s the case, then you may want to check out my article, “How To Make Corrupt USB Jump Drives Work Again“.

The formatting shouldn’t take too long. Of course, the larger the volume, the longer the formatting will take. Assuming there is no physical problem with the drive, your USB drive will be formatted, cleaned and ready to read from and write to.

The Take Away

Sometimes the problem is simple and can be dealt with simply. Try those methods first as they are most often the correct ones. If the problem is deep and requires drastic measure, make sure that is indeed the case. You’ve got a lot more troubleshooting tools in your arsenal now and should be able to get your USB drives working again, potentially saving you a tidy sum of money.

And all we ask is that you let us know how it went, in the comments below. Of course, if you have any additional tips, we like to read those too.

Image Source: Padlock USB via Shutterstock

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

76 Comments -

Sam Nicko

Very Good Article! Thank you!

Brandon Ragoo

Please help !! I have been having this issue with my flash drive for months now. I tried everything I knew even did research and ask for help online in the past months but no one seems to have the solution. After reading this article I decided to give it a try again but unfortunately none of the methods seemed to work. I did manage to discover that the folder which contains an ISO fie stored on the flash drive is wright protected, however when I follow the instructions given in step 4 and 5 that doesn’t remove the wright protection because when I attempt to remove the wright protection from the folder it give the error message “An error occurred applying attributes to the file: The media is wright protected. ” Please help

David Moreira

Use HP USB Disk Format Utility and format the pen.

Guy McDowell

I’m behind David on this. Sounds like you need to format it. The HP utility he mentions should do the job.

Brandon Ragoo

I tried it before reading this article but unfortunately it failed any other suggestions

Fin Butler

I totally agree with Brandon Ragoo, my USB has just started playing up and I have not used anything that is protected or copyrighted in my USB. I really need help. My USB is essential

eric

I look up on the methods from 1 to last, no solutions for my usb problem, it has created a write protection rules, I have observed that all files can’t be delete, some has unknown and special character file named to the folders, but still can be view or can be copy but can’t be moved, I tried HB USB Format but still it is write protected… I am asking for help how can I solve it? is it a bad sector behavior, or a damage USB?

barney

Well-l-l-l,
File manager does not recognize the drive.
Disk Management recognizes the drive is in place, but does not assign a letter, nor can I click on the drive – Disk 6 in this instance – in the uper screen, although the drive shows in the lower window with only the size, 59.77 GB, which is identical to a similar drive. It sees the space, but will not allow any further action. Appears I’ll have to use gparted or similar in order to fix. Shouldn’t have to reboot, nor to use a foreign tool, to fix a Windows drive.

Guy McDowell

Did you unplug any other USB drives? Might the USB drive you want to work on have the same drive letter as something else? That does happen.

I covered how to check and change that in How To Make Corrupt USB Jump Drives Work Again

Raymond Led Carasco

Very nice and very informative. Thanks :))

Nevzat A

Well I’ve been in such a situtation recently, I’ve tried nearly everything but unable to solve the problem. My final decision is : the drive is corrupt and no way to rescue it. Sometimes it occurs.

Curt Schroeder

You missed a step. You should run “chkdsk /F” on the USB drive before resorting to a reformat, especially if you write to a FAT32 USB drive with both Linux and Windows.

Guy McDowell

I was thinking I was going to do that, but that isn’t so much to check for Write Protection as it is for working on a USB drive that may have corrupt files. Good call nonetheless.

I covered how to do that in How To Make Corrupt USB Jump Drives Work Again.

Dany Bouffard

Sometimes the normal windows format dont work in those times its often good to use HP Format Tool, its a great tool to format USB Drives.

Guy McDowell

Good point. There is another one out there from one of the leading computer manufacturers as well. Can’t recall it at this moment.

null

Some times the pendrive can go into RAW format. You cannot format it and when you try to, Windows will display ‘Write Protected. Cannot format’

If you pendrive was working fine till it became RAW, try to format it using EaseUS partition master home edition. Pretty neat software!

Very good article indeed. Thanks a lot Guy!

Guy McDowell

EaseUS has been in my toolbox for many years. Great tool.

mohammadwasi786

Many time i face this problem now i will fix this problem insha Allah
superb article

Garey B

I had this problem and tried all of the options mentioned in the article with no avail. I temporarily got write permissions with the diskpart command then I had had to make adjustments in the security tab on the properties section of the drive itself. Somehow the owner had been changed with many of the permissions changed as well. I believe one of my kids was to suspect not sure though.

Guy McDowell

That could happen, but to intentionally do it would be a sign of good computer literacy by your kid. So, be proud, I guess?

Victor Ong

Great tips! Definitely going to be reviewing this one when I come across a bad USB

Guy McDowell

Keep in mind the other tips in the comments and other articles on MUO. We’re here to help!

gh

I have never had this problem with a flash drive but i have never been able to write to any of my camera cards on my hp pavilion g7 since puchasing new.

Guy McDowell

Do you get a Write Protect error when you try?

What kind of camera cards are they? Compact Flash? SD, microSD, other?

sumith harshan

It worked very well. Thanks a lot.!

lanete_08

All the steps didn’t work for me. :[

ralph

all procedures were done but still didnt work unfortunately :(

lsekopa

Thanks for the info. I tried all of this and it still gives the message after I click the start button on the formatting screen.

kostas

nice article but nothing worked. Even when i tried thw format it didn’t allow me saying “the disk is write protected”!! Any suggestions here?
Thanks

MARTIN MWANGI

HELLO, I HAVE TRIED ALL THE STEP TO REMOVE WRITE PROTECTION BUT NON OF THEM HAS WORKED OUT TO SOLVE MY PROBLEM.

I USED TO COPY SONG FROM YOUTUBE AFTER CONVERTING THEM TO A FORMAT THAT THAT ENABLED ME TO WATCH THE VIDEOS FROM IN IT USING A DVD PLAYER, PLEASE HELP ME SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.

John R

I followed the seven steps for clearing a write protected flash drive. Step 6 in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies di not have the entry “StorageDevicePolices”. Even did a search for it. No dice. I am using Win 7 and flash drive is recognized.(seen) but, I just can.t touch it. It didn’t list it through Regedit. In trying to format it in windows, it tells me it s write Protected.

Big Tone in UK

thanks pal. All I had to do was disable the write protection on the flash stick and you were the only person on the www who said that. Thanks for solving my problem so easily as I didn’t know such a switch existed. I owe you a pint of cold beer

Navin

Very good artical but i did not solve problem. i try all any can help me

john

i can not see the storage device policy in my system how do i do that i can only see storage device

rahul

u hv to create it…

$ayaam Khan

Nothing Worked

Don Scan

baaaaaaaaaaaaaad tutorial

Guy M

We’re all open to learning here. What would you like to add?

Victor

Was really helpful…….thanks!!!!

Adil

i dont have storage device policies please help me

angry

I’ve done every single step. I tried the Reg key before i found this page. Still doesn’t work . . The whole point for me was to format it and that is exactly what I can’t do, because the usb drive is write protected >_>

karen

i’m having the same problem too.. i can’t format it because my drive is write protected..
please help Mr. Guy McDowell!!

Guy M

Other than the steps in this article and some of the tips and software mentioned in the comments, I don’t really have any advice to give. Other than, maybe it’s time for a new USB drive.

Narendra

Thank you!! It worked.

usbman

I use this simple tools and it works for me. You may also try this if you thing this steps are complex http://www.myusbtools.com/2013/09/windows-cant-format-your-disk-how-to.html

Eashan

I am getting a problem while editing the registries for the same problem. The storagedevicepolicies option is not present there. Only storage option is there. So what should I do???

Guy M

You can create the registry key. Just make sure to back up your registry before you make any changes.

Eashan

@ GuyM I tried all the above steps given by u but still getting the same problem. Is there any other way of removing this??? Or should I do the same procedure from the laptop which originated this problem???

Guy M

If there is another way, I don’t know what it is. Sorry. Doing this on the original laptop shouldn’t make a difference. Maybe if one was Windows and one was Mac, but even then I don’t think it should make a difference.

CIEG

all step didn’t worked for me either…
i can’t format it in every way and every site show me….
still “write protected”
i use bitdefender though but didn’t find any malware or virus….
4 days ago i copied files to my pc… after i copied the files, the usb flash drive turn “write protected” i check bit locker, but bitlocker is turned of on my usb….

Flappie

I solved this by adding the StorageDevicePolicies key to the registry in W7 and only by doing that (and a format with Windows Computer Management cause It wouldnt show in Explorer otherwise…) So, good Guy M, it might be an excellent idea to add a small howtoaddthattotheregistry to Step 6. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

sarmda

Trying to insert window 8 in flash, but it turned to be writeprotected, no a single method that can solved beside buying new flash…………………. It is just little error but turn to throw the 8Gb flash away. Amazingly, How come? for this little mistake. After all thank you for the article, and it can’t help…..

julie

its not working both cmd and regedit, even formatting the usb won’t work.Is any body there who knows the solution with this problem?thanks

Guy M

Glad we could help!

Guy M

Try what Kean suggests below. Check for the key in the registry and if it isn’t there, create it.

Kean

Great article. One tip – If you have no such Key (StorageDevicePolicies ) in your registry – then create one! Cause in my case I couldn’t even format the drive until I created that key! cheers!

Guy M

Good call! The key was mentioned, but I don’t think I mentioned creating it if it wasn’t there. Thank you!

Ronald simiyu

Thanks for the article, i have been looking for this information for a long period of time but now i have it

Guy M

Glad we could help!

Vaibhav

Thanx a lot dude …..my device has started working properly……it was a great help…..awesome…..thanx thanx and thanxx????????????????????????

Guy M

Glad we could help!

Sarwar Khan

its good thanks.but its not working on window 7

BrieAdams

please help i have tried all these steps but i am still having the issues

tiblu

Bingo thank you.

Dane

I tried everything here and still my USB is write protected. I can’t even format the thing! I created the StorageDevicePolicy key in my registry but still no go.

In diskpart when I do the “attributes” command it shows that it’s not write protected but that it’s “current status” = write protected (that seems more than a bit contrary).

I’m not desperate to have a 16 GB USB…went and bought another – I just want to fix it because it’s bugging me *lol* Any help would go a long way toward soothing my psychosis – thanks!

sanarya

awww <3 thank u thank u ..ii was about to go insane :D <3

Jon Pawson

None of these steps worked. In particular, in Step Six ‘StorageDevicePolicies’ isn’t there. I tried everything else to no avail. I should probably throw the drive away, right? They’re inexpensive nowadays, I don’t know why I’m bothering to go through all this work.

Guy M

Have you tried creating the key ‘StorageDevicePolicies’? That’s another thing you could try.

Mattt

None of steps worked for me. I even created StorageDevicePolicies key and added the flag. Again, it did not work either. I had never been this much frustrated with Windows till now.

frank

my usb is refusingto be formated

Valdas

My Data Traveler is both write-protected and in a RAW file system, nothing that was mentioned here helps :/ anyone found a solution?

Some

IDK if this gonna work… but it works for me.

We need to uninstall our device’s driver, here explain all that shit:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/246041/how_to_uninstall_drivers_in_windows.html

After uninstall drivers, we connect our device and windows will start to install drivers again and profit!!!! … if didn’t work, well… shit happens : D

And sorry for my english, it’s horrible but hope this help somebody.

Malia

I was on registry step 6 but when I foloowed the instruction there was no option called “WriteProtect”. But my USB is still write protected it gives me that erorr message.
“HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlStorageDevicePolicies
and look for a key named WriteProtect.”

I can’t even format it because of the write protection error.
This means whatever I put into the USB I can never delete. I have backed up my USB though.