How to Format a Write Protected USB Flash Drive

You are trying to save data on your USB flash memory but something went wrong. Any save attempt displays a message that the drive is write protected. How is it possible?

The drive won’t even let you reformat it, and there’s no obvious switch to enable or disable write protection. Confused? Here’s how to format your write-resistant USB flash drive and start using it again.

Write protected or damaged USB drive?

You can’t remove a write-protected USB, because you can format a regular USB drive — there’s another way to do it. But before proceeding, take the time to make sure that the drive is actually write-protected. Some other problems can be solved here.

  1. Your PC’s USB port is faulty or completely damaged. Repairing a damaged USB port can be difficult but not impossible.
  2. The flash drive is damaged. Whether you are using a full USB flash stick or a USB SD card adapter, problems with the device can occur. These steps will help you fix a damaged flash drive.

So are you confident that the problem is just write protection on your USB flash stick? Let’s have a look.

1. Flip the switch of the USB flash drive

We’ll start with the easiest fix first. Many USB flash drives have a switch, usually on the sides, so that you can enable/disable write protection from the outside. Slide it out if your USB drive has one too.

Plug your USB drive back in and see if you can format it. If you can, great. But if it still doesn’t work, don’t lose hope. Move on to the next section and give Diskpart a try.


2. How to remove USB write protection with Diskpart

Before you begin, plug the pen drive into your computer’s USB port.

Windows has a built-in disk partition management tool called Diskpart. You can open this by pressing Windows key + CHEAPimport cmdthen hit enter.

User access control will prompt you to confirm the action. Click It’s correct to continue.

You should now see CMD, the command line tool. At the prompt, enter:


A new command line window will open with a new DISKPART prompt. It’s time to see what disks are attached to your computer:

list disk

The results table will list the currently available devices. But what is your USB drive?

Disk 0 will be your computer’s system drive. This is the one Windows is installed on. If you have multiple partitions, they will be numbered. Note that the size is shown for each disk.

With a USB flash device connected (will be Disk 1 or higher) you should be able to identify it by its relatively low capacity.

In the image above, while Disk 0 is 931GB, Disk 1 is 57GB.

Therefore, Disk 1 is a USB flash drive. You should be able to check the capacity on the device yourself, as it is usually printed on the drive case. If not, you should be able to confirm it in Windows Explorer.

Choose the right disc!

Before continuing, make sure you have identified the USB drive. Also, note that USB flash drives can be up to 1TB in capacity (like the PNY Pro Elite) at the time of writing, which could be larger than your computer’s HDD. Trying to be absolutely certain at this stage is very important for the integrity of the data on your computer.

Once you’re sure, it’s time to choose the disc. In our example, that means entering:

select disk 1

This will be confirmed with the message Disk 1 is now the selected disk. Next, request the attributes:

attributes disk

More information will be displayed. Check the first line. This is the Current Read Only State. If you cannot write to the disc or reformat it, the Current Read Only Status will be set to Yes.

Note that in our case it is set to No because write protection is disabled on our flash drives!

But you can easily remove write protection from your USB drive. Just type this command:

attributes disk clear readonly

If successful, the confirmation of the step will be displayed with the message “Disk properties successfully removed.”

You can now format the drive using Diskpart’s clean command. First, make sure you select the disc:

select disk 1

You can then create and format a partition:

create partition primary
format fs=ntfs

Wait for the process to complete — you should now have a fully formatted and working USB flash drive.

Check the drive’s write-only status by copying a small file.

3. Remove write protection with USB formatting utilities

Here are two free tools to format your USB drive in case of write-protection errors. They can be used in addition to or in place of Diskpart. Useful if you don’t like getting your hands dirty with the command line!

SD format

Number one on your list should be the SD Formatter tool from the SD Association. Although explicitly intended for SD cards, this tool is compatible with USB flash drives. After all, a USB flash drive is basically an SD card connected to a USB interface.

Simply connect the device, select the drive and format option, and then click Arrangement.

Download: SDFormatter (Free)

Kingston Format Utility

For older Windows systems (Windows XP to Windows 7), Kingston Format Utility is ideal for Kingston USB flash devices.

Note that this has a somewhat classic installation method. Once downloaded, run the EXE file and press Browse to select a location (such as Desktop or Documents). Click Decompressionthen browse to the new location and double click Kingston Format Utility.exe.

This will run the application; all you need to do now is choose Device and File system from the drop-down menu. Click Arrangement When you are ready, then wait.

Download: Kingston Format Utility (Free)

4. Still can’t remove write protection from your USB drive?

If none of the suggestions you have tried successfully, don’t give up hope. You should check the support pages and forums on the drive manufacturer’s website for links to tools that have been confirmed to work with the device.

Furthermore, if you have tried all the methods above and are still having trouble, we think it might be time to buy a new USB drive. Sometimes, after pen drives have been used for a long time, they simply fail when they have reached their limit.

Note, however, that most flash memory manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on their devices. If you already have the drive registered, chances are you’ll get it repaired or replaced.

Format your write-protected USB drive

If all went well, you may have unlocked the write protection on your USB flash drive and reformatted it. You may have done this using Diskpart or possibly through a third-party utility.

In the end you should have a working USB drive. If not, then it’s very likely to be faulty. So, if the drive is still under warranty, explore your options for manufacturer replacement.

How to Format a USB Drive (And Why You Need It)

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