How to Format a Write Protected USB Flash Drive

How to Format a Write Protected USB Flash Drive

Some memory cards and USB flash drives have the write protection switches, which enable you to prevent files from being deleted, or any files being written to the device. It also prevents the flash drive or memory card from being formatted. Sometimes, you’ll find a flash drive that will absolutely refuse to format and Windows will tell you that it is write-protected, even though technically there is not switch.

Here are a couple of great ways you could attempt to format the drive and remove the write protection. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that these methods will work for you. Your flash drive or SD card could just be corrupted or broken to an extent that no utility or low level formatting tool will make it work again. The best possibly solution in this case is to buy a new flash drive.

One way is to remove the write-protection in the Registry using the Regedit.exe program. The Regedit.exe is preloaded in any version of Windows from XP and up. To navigate to this program, simply press the Start button and type in Regedit.exe. Once you see it, launch the program.

Navigate to the following key:

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\

CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies

From there, double-click on the WriteProtect value in the right-hand pane of Regedit.exe. Change the Value data from 1 to 0 and click OK to save the change. Close Regedit and reboot your Windows computer. Connect your USB drive again, and you should find it is no longer write-protected. You can now format the flash drive as normal by right-clicking on it in My Computer and choosing Format.

If you can’t find StorageDevicePolicies, you can try creating a key by right-clicking in the white space in the Control folder and choosing New -> Key and carefully entering the name.

From there, double-click on the new key (folder) and right-click once again and choose New -> DWORD. Name it WriteProtect and set its value to 0. Click OK, exit Regedit, and reboot your computer.

If this method doesn’t work, you can try removing write-protection using Diskpart. With your USB drive plugged in, launch a command prompt. You can do this on your Windows computer by searching for cmd.exe in the Start menu (or Start screen in Windows 8). In Windows XP, click Start then Run, and type cmd.exe in the box.

Keep in mind that you may need to run Cmd.exe with administrator privileges if you see an “access is denied” message. In order to accomplish this, right-click on the shortcut and choose Run as administrator. In Windows 8, simply choose Command prompt (admin).

Now, type the following, pressing Enter after each command:

  • diskpart
  • list disk
  • select disk x (where x is the number of your USB flash drive – use the capacity to work out which one it is)
  • attributes disk clear readonly
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • format fs=fat32 (you can swap fat32 for ntfs if you only need to use the drive with Windows computers)
  • exit

And that’s it! If you have any additional methods or techniques be sure to share them with us in the comments section.

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Vincent Clarke

Vincent Clarke is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Guru for USBtips.com. When he's not writing tutorials and catching up on the latest USB news, Vincent is busy preparing his next blog post and answering USB questions from his readers and subscribers.

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