How to Troubleshoot the Disk Is Write Protected USB Error

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How to Troubleshoot the Disk Is Write Protected USB Error

You’ve completed your task for the day. All that remains is to copy the data to a USB flash drive. Then you receive the following message: “The disk is password-protected. Disable the write protection or use a different drive.” You instantly take out your hair. You should be able to read, write, and do anything you want with your USB stick!

Okay, you didn’t tear out your hair. You remained composed. However, you must get your USB drive repaired. Fortunately, removing write protection from a USB device is a straightforward process. It’s just technology. You can repair it.

1. Check the USB Stick for Viruses

When you insert a USB drive into your computer, it should instantly check for viruses, particularly if you have previously used it on a computer that you do not own or a public computer.

Viruses often load your USB drive with gibberish files, causing it to react with the Write Protected error.

Depending on your antivirus program, you may be able to arrange it to automatically scan a USB device when it is plugged in. If not, open Windows Explorer, browse to the USB device, right-click, and force a manual antivirus scan.

If you notice a virus, use your antivirus program to remove it. I would recommend doing a thorough system scan after upgrading your virus definitions at this time. If a virus is on your USB stick, you never know what else is on your main machine.

2. Check the USB Drive Body

Normally, I’d start with something as easy as this. However, I’d rather see you protected against a virus than begin with the easier solutions. Some USB sticks contain a mechanical switch that activates Write Protect mode. It might be a tiny slider switch that got snagged on something in your pocket or computer case. If this is the case, just flip the switch to the unlocked position and transfer the files again.

USB Flash Drive With Write Protection Switch
Image Credit: Netac/Amazon

Fortunately, these locks are no longer often seen on freshly produced USB sticks.

If your USB stick is full, you may encounter the Write Protected error notice.

3. Check to Make Sure the USB Stick Isn’t Full

Navigate to This PC in Windows Explorer. This displays a list of all drives linked to your system. Select Properties from the context menu of your USB disk. You’ll be shown a charming donut chart (whatever happened to the famous pie chart, Microsoft?) reflecting your current disk capacity.

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As you can see, I have plenty of space. If your USB drive is totally full, however, it may display a Write Protection error notice.

A single file may sometimes throw the equilibrium off. Perhaps one file is labeled “read-only” and will not be erased from the disk. This results in a completely different error message, yet it may still be annoying.

4. Remove Individual Files With Write Protection

Navigate to your USB disk and find the problematic file. Select Properties from the context menu. At the bottom of the screen, under Attributes, uncheck Read-only.

Single filenames may sometimes get corrupted. Long filenames are also an inherited Windows feature that is engrained in the MS-DOS architecture. The long and short of it is that if a filename has more than 255 characters, you’re in trouble.

This section explains how to remove files with large filenames. Examine it out, save yourself some time, and repair your USB flash disk.

Do you know what the Command Prompt is? If you’re using Windows 10 or 11, you’ve probably come across its relatives, PowerShell or Windows Terminal. The following commands may be entered into any of these tools, but we’ll use the Windows Terminal today. Don’t worry; it’s not terrifying, and it’s the next logical step in our attempt to repair your USB stick.

5. DiskPart Command Prompt Utility

You’ve removed all read-only file characteristics from the USB drive.

  1. Select Windows Terminal (Admin) from the menu by pressing Windows Key + X. Enter diskpart into the search box (1 in the above image).
  2. After that, type list disk and hit Enter. As seen below, you should see a list of currently mounted drives (2 in the above image).
  3. Check that you can see your USB drive. Disk 4 is mine. Take note of the disk number. Enter the following command now: Choose disk [your disk number].
  4. Once chosen, type the following command: clean disk characteristics readonly

Don’t panic if none of the above procedures resolved your Write Protection problem. We still have a few tricks in our sleeves. The Windows Registry will be edited next. I understand if you’re not comfortable altering the registry. You may jump forward to the section on formatting your write-protected USB device. If that step is too harsh for you, I recommend trying this alternative.

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6. Clear Write Protection Error in Windows Registry

To launch the Run dialog, press Windows Key + R. Enter regedit into the search box. Navigate to the registry location listed below:

Double-click it if it exists. This will bring up the Edit DWORD (32-bit) Value dialog box. You may now choose between two values: 0 or 1. “Yes, write protect my USB storage devices,” indicates a value of 1. 0 signifies “No, do not write protect my USB storage devices.” Set the value to 0, then click OK.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies

Look for a key named WriteProtect.

In certain circumstances, no “WriteProtection” registry item exists. In this case, we may build our own registry key. Watch the short video below to learn how to add a WriteProtection registry setting. If anything goes wrong, you may restore the Windows registry to its original settings.

But There’s Nothing There?

Caution: Make a backup of all the data and information on your USB device to your computer. When you format the USB drive, all data on it is erased.

7. Format the USB Drive

The USB stick should only be formatted as a last resort. However, it should enable you to read and write to your USB device. Determine if the USB device already has an NTFS or FAT32 file system before formatting it. In most cases, the current file system is the greatest fit for the disk.

Navigate to This PC in Windows Explorer. This displays a list of all drives linked to your system. Select Properties from the context menu of your USB disk.

Close the Properties dialog box. Right-click the USB device once again, this time choosing Format. The Format panel has various adjustable choices, including the previously stated File system, Allocation unit size, Volume Label, and Quick Format.

Rename the Volume to something memorable. Uncheck the Quick Format option since we may be dealing with a hardware problem. This forces the format to do more than just delete files. For example, if there is a faulty sector on this USB drive, the “complete” format will fail.

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Formatting will be quick, but the bigger the drive, the longer the wait. If there is no physical issue with the drive, it will be formatted, cleaned, and ready to use.

Before attempting to make changes to files on locked partitions or drives, be sure BitLocker is switched off.

8. Turn Off BitLocker or Remove Encryption

Right-click your BitLocker partition or disk and choose Manage BitLocker. Select the affected drive in the BitLocker Drive Encryption box and click Turn off BitLocker. BitLocker will begin decrypting. When it’s finished, you may edit and save files without seeing the problem notice again.

The same is true if you used a third-party utility to encrypt or password-protect your USB device, however the exact methods may vary depending on the application.

Fortunately, the majority of the USB drive Write Protection problem remedies described above also work with SD cards.

9. But I’ve Got an SD Card

Unlike standard USB devices, SD cards still include a physical write protection switch. Before you panic, make sure this is turned on.

Sometimes the issue is straightforward. The situation might be tricky at times. In any case, we hope we’ve found you a solution. If your USB drive problems continue, it is possible that something more serious is at work.

USB Write Protection Errors, Solved

Regardless, you now have a plethora of debugging tools at your disposal and should be able to get your USB drives operating again, perhaps saving you money and the agony of losing all of your stuff!

Regardless, 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 the pain of losing all of your files!

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