The drive won’t even allow you to reformat it, and there’s no apparent switch for enabling or disabling write protection. Puzzled? Here’s how to format your write-protected USB flash drive and start using it again.
Is the USB Drive Write Protected or Corrupted?
You cannot wipe a write-protected USB, as you can format a normal USB drive—there’s a different approach to do that. But before you go ahead, take the time to make sure that the drive is genuinely write-protected. A couple of other issues could be coming into play here.
- Your PC’s USB port is defective or blown entirely. Fixing a damaged USB port can be tricky, but not impossible.
- The flash drive is corrupt. Whether you’re using a full USB flash stick or USB SD card adapter, problems with the device can occur. These steps will help you fix a corrupted flash drive.
So, are you confident the problem is just the write protection on your USB flash stick? Let’s have a look.
1. Flip the USB Flash Drive’s Switch
We’ll start with the easiest fix first. Many USB flash drives have a switch, usually at the sides, by which you can turn on/off the write protection from the outside. Slide it off if your USB drive has one too.
Reinsert your USB drive and see if you’re able to format it. If you can, great. But if it still doesn’t work, don’t lose hope. Jump to the next section and try out Diskpart.
2. How to Remove USB Write Protection With Diskpart
Before starting, insert your pen drive into your computer’s USB port.
Windows has a built-in disk partition management tool called Diskpart. You can open this by hitting Windows key + R, entering cmd, then hitting Enter.
User Access Control will prompt you to confirm the action. Click Yes to continue.
You should now see CMD, the command-line tool. At the prompt, enter this:
A new command line window will open with a new DISKPART prompt. It’s time to see which disks are attached to your computer:
The resulting table will list the currently available devices. But which is your USB drive?
Disk 0 will be your computer’s system drive. This is the one that Windows is installed on. If you have multiple partitions, these will be sequentially numbered. Note that the size is displayed for each disk.
With a USB flash device connected (which will be Disk 1 or higher), you should be able to identify it by its comparatively low capacity.
In the image above, while Disk 0 is 931GB, Disk 1 is 57GB.
Therefore, Disk 1 is the USB flash drive. You should be able to check the capacity on the device itself, as this is usually printed on a drive’s casing. If not, you’ll be able to confirm it in Windows Explorer.
Select the Right Disk!
Before proceeding further, be certain that you have identified the USB pen drive. Also, note that USB flash drives can be as high as 1TB in capacity (like the PNY Pro Elite) at the time of writing, which could be larger than your computer’s HDD. Making the effort to be totally certain at this stage is vital to the integrity of the data on your computer.
Once you’re certain, it’s time to select the disk. In our example, that means entering:
select disk 1
This will be confirmed with the message that Disk 1 is now the selected disk. Next, request attributes:
Various information will be displayed. Check the first line. This is the Current Read-only State. If you cannot write to the disk or reformat it, then Current Read-only State will be set to Yes.
Note that in our case, it’s set to No as write protection is disabled on our flash drive!
But you can easily remove the write protection from your USB drive. Just type this command:
attributes disk clear readonly
If successful, confirmation of the step will be displayed with the message “Disk attributes cleared successfully.”
You can now format the drive using Diskpart’s clean command. First, ensure you select the disk:
select disk 1
You can then create and format a partition:
create partition primary
Wait for this to complete—you should now have a fully working and formatted USB flash drive.
Check the write-only status of the drive by copying a small file.
3. Remove Write Protection With USB Formatting Utilities
Below are two free tools for formatting your USB drive in the event of a write protection error. These can be used in addition to, or instead of, Diskpart. Useful if you don’t like getting your hands dirty with the command line!
Number one on your list should be the SD Formatter tool from the SD Association. Although clearly intended for SD cards, the tool is compatible with USB flash drives. After all, a USB flash drive is basically an SD card wired to a USB interface.
Simply connect the device, select the drive and a formatting option, and click Format.
Download: SDFormatter (Free)
Kingston Format Utility
Intended for older Windows systems (Windows XP to Windows 7), the Kingston Format Utility is ideal for USB flash devices from Kingston.
Note that this has a slightly archaic method of installation. After downloading, run the EXE file and hit Browse to select a location (such as the Desktop or Documents). Click Unzip, then browse to the new location, and double-click Kingston Format Utility.exe.
This will run the app; all you need to do now is select the Device and File system from the drop-down menus. Click Format when you’re ready, then wait.
Download: Kingston Format Utility (Free)
4. Still Can’t Clear the Write Protection From Your USB Drive?
If none of the suggestions you’ve tried so far have been successful, don’t give up hope yet. It’s worth checking the support pages and forums on the drive manufacturer’s website to find links to tools that have been confirmed to work with the device.
Further, if you’ve tried your hands at all the methods from above, and you’re still stuck, we think it’s probably time to buy a new USB drive. Sometimes, after pen drives have been used for a long time, they simply break down as they’ve reached their limit.
However, note that most flash storage manufacturers offer a long guarantee on their devices. If you have registered the drive, you’ll most likely be able to get it repaired or replaced.
Format Your Write-Protected USB Pendrive
If everything went right, you might have unlocked the write protection on your USB flash drive and reformatted it. You might have done this using Diskpart or maybe through a third-party utility.
Ultimately, you should have a USB drive that works. If it doesn’t, then there’s a strong likelihood that it is defective. So, if the drive is still in warranty, explore your options about a manufacturer replacement.
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