Unlock a write-protected USB key (Windows)

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Last updated: 03/07/2019

It sometimes happens that a USB key is write protected. That is, it is not possible to write data to it. It is usually not possible to delete the contents or format the USB drive. How to remove the protection from the USB drive so that I can format the USB drive and use it normally?

If you have landed on this article, it is probably that you have encountered a similar problem with for example the display of a message from Windows: “The disk is write protected“, “Cannot write to disk because it is write protected. Remove write protection from the volume in drive G:” or “This disk is write protected. Remove write protection or use another disc“.

This is what recently happened to my oldest son who was having problems with a USB key he wanted to take to college. He hot-unplugged the drive he was working on without safely removing the USB drive through Windows. This resulted in corruption of the key files. It allowed me to test the different solutions to unlock his write-protected USB key.

How do I remove the protection from a write-protected USB drive?

Here is a tutorial to learn how to unlock a write-protected USB drive on Windows, Microsoft’s operating system. The proposed methods and screenshots were taken under Windows 10. But they are also valid for other versions of Windows (Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista etc…).

There are different solutions to test to remove the protection from the USB drive, now let’s see which ones.

Unlock a write-protected USB drive using the button

As on another popular storage device, the SD card, there are often on USB sticks (USB stick SanDisk, Maxell, Kingston, PNY etc …) a small button (also called a switch) which allows you to write-protect the USB key or not.

This latch therefore allows in one position to lock the USB key (lock in English) making it impossible to copy data to the USB key or its formatting. In the other position, the key lock is not activated. It is therefore possible to write data to the USB key (for example to make a backup of certain files) or to format it as desired.

The position of this little button Lock, if it is present on your USB stick, is therefore the first thing to check if you cannot write data to your USB stick. Change the position of the switch and then see if your key is still locked.

Unlock a write-protected USB drive with the registry editor

An effective way to unlock a write-protected USB drive is to edit the Windows 10 registry with the Windows registry editor utility, regedit.

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Win + R (or right click on the Windows 10 Start menu then click on Execute) and type in the window Execute : regedit.
    To open Regedit from the window Execute (Windows 10)
  2. Find the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControlStorageDevicePolicies then look for the entrance WriteProtect. Modify the value of the key by putting 0 as value.
    Modify the registry to remove protection from a USB key
  3. To close regedit then restart your computer to see if your USB key is now fully unlocked.

Note : if you can’t find the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControlStorageDevicePolicies, go to the next solution! Because if the key does not exist, it cannot be the cause of the problem.

Remove write protection from a USB flash drive with Windows utility DiskPart

Last solution to try to unlock a write-protected USB key: use the utility built into Windows 10 and other versions of Windows, DiskPart. It is a powerful command line disk management utility. Here is the procedure to repair a write-protected USB flash drive using Diskpart :

  1. To push on Win + R (or right click on the Windows 10 Start menu then click on Execute) and type in the window Execute : diskpart
  2. Taper list disk in diskpart in order to list your disks and locate the number of your USB key.
  3. Enter in diskpart select disk 1 (where 1 is the number of the USB key identified in the previous step)
  4. Then type attributes disk clear readonly in order to remove the read-only attribute.
  5. Check the attributes of your USB drive by typing attributes disk
  6. Taper exit to exit the utility.
    Dispart to remove protection from USB key
    The use of Diskpart in Windows 10 to unlock a write-protected USB key

Your USB drive should now be readable, writable and formattable!

Unable to repair your write-protected USB drive?

Have you tried the two solutions below without success? Is your USB stick still write-protected and you still cannot format your USB stick?

In this case, you can try the solutions offered by EaseUS in this article, including the use of the software EaseUS Partition Master which will help you unlock your USB key: https://www.easeus.fr/partition-manager-tips/formater-une-cle-usb-protegee-en-ecriture.html

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