How to enable or disable write protection on a USB flash drive

Updated: 10/11/2021 by Computer Hope
USB thumb drive protection.

There are several ways to enable or disable write protection of your USB flash drive. Depending on your device, you can use a hardware switch to toggle write protection or change the read-only settings for the device through the operating system.

Write-protection hardware switch

Some USB flash drives have a write protection switch on the side or bottom. The write protection switch is useful for keeping the contents of your drive safe from malware when you need to view them on a public computer. If your device has this switch, move it to the "Lock" position. This action effectively sets all files, and the device itself, to read-only mode.

Using DiskPart to change read-only settings

You can use the Windows DiskPart command-line utility to enable or disable read-only mode on your USB flash drive.

  1. Press Windows key+R to open the Run box. Type diskpart and press Enter.

Run diskpart from the Windows run box.

  1. If you receive a User Account Control prompt asking you for permission to continue, click Yes.
  2. At the DISKPART> prompt, type list disk and press Enter.

Using Windows diskpart to list disks

Use the size of the disk to determine which one is your USB flash drive. In this example, we know that Disk 1 is our USB flash drive because its size is listed as 14 GB.

  1. Select your USB flash drive with the select disk command. In this example, we want to work with disk 1, so the command is select disk 1.

Using Windows DiskPart to select disk

  1. You can list the attributes of the disk with the command attributes disk.

Using Windows DiskPart to list disk attributes

  1. To clear the read-only attribute (making the disk writable), use the command attributes disk clear readonly.

Using Windows DiskPart to clear the read-only attribute

Or, to set the read-only attribute (making the flash disk write-protected), use the command attributes disk set readonly.

Using Windows DiskPart to set the read-only attribute

  1. When you are finished, type exit to quit the program.

Change security permissions in flash drive properties

If using DiskPart, as detailed above, does not work to clear the read-only attribute of a USB flash drive, the security permissions may need to be changed. The security permissions may be set so that all users only have Read permissions to files on the flash drive.

To check if security permissions need to be changed, follow the steps below.

Note

If the steps below don't work for your flash drive, it may prevent permission changes from being locked by a security program. In these cases, you may not be able to make the flash drive writable. You may need to have administrator privileges on the computer to change permissions.

  1. Open My Computer or File Explorer.
  2. Find the USB flash drive in the list of drives connected to the computer.
  3. Right-click the flash drive icon and select Properties in the pop-up menu.
  4. On the General tab, check the File system entry to see how the flash drive is formatted. Select the appropriate link below based on the file system type.

NTFS file system

  1. In the Properties window, click the Security tab.
  2. Click the Edit button below the Group or user names section.
  3. In the Permissions window, click the Everyone entry, if not already selected. In the Permissions for Everyone section, make sure the Allow checkbox is checked for the Modify entry. If it's not checked, check the box.
  4. Click the OK button on the Permissions and Properties window to save the security permissions change.
Note

If the USB flash drive is still read-only after checking the Allow checkbox in step 7, repeat the steps and check the checkbox for the Full Control entry. Verify if the USB flash drive allows you to modify its contents now.

If you want to set the flash drive to read-only for everyone, in step 7, uncheck all boxes in the Allow column, except for the Read entry.

FAT file system

  1. In the Properties window, click the Sharing tab.
  2. On the Sharing tab, click the Advanced Sharing button.
  3. On the Advanced Sharing window, click the Share this folder checkbox.
  4. Click the Permissions button.
  5. In the Permissions window, click the Everyone entry, if not already selected. In the Permissions for Everyone section, make sure the Allow checkbox is checked for the Change entry. If it's not checked, check the box.
  6. Click the OK button on the Permissions, Advanced Sharing, and Properties windows to save the permissions change.
Note

If the USB flash drive is still read-only after checking the Allow checkbox in step 9, repeat the steps and check the checkbox for the Full Control entry. Verify if the USB flash drive allows you to modify its contents now.

If you want to set the flash drive to read-only for everyone, in step 9, uncheck all boxes in the Allow column, except for the Read entry.

Change write protection through Windows registry

You can enable or disable write protection on your USB flash drive through the Windows registry by following the steps below.

  1. Open the Windows Registry Editor.
  1. Navigate to the following registry location.
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies
  2. Double-click the WriteProtect key.
  3. To enable write protection, change the WriteProtect value to 1 and click OK.

    To disable write protection, change the WriteProtect value to 0 and click OK.
  4. Close the Windows Registry Editor and restart your computer.

Fix USB flash drive issues with chkdsk

If you still can't enable or disable write protection on your USB flash drive after trying these suggestions, your flash drive may have errors that need to be fixed. Follow the steps below to try and fix drive errors using the chkdsk tool.

  1. Open an elevated command prompt in Windows.
  2. Once the command prompt window opens, change the drive letter to that of the USB flash drive.
  1. Type the command below to check for any errors on the flash drive and fix those errors. Change <drive_letter> to the drive letter of the flash drive before running the command.

chkdsk <drive_letter> /f /r /x

For example, if your flash drive is the F: drive, type chkdsk f: /f /r / x.

  1. Press Enter to execute the command.

Format the USB flash drive

If you are unsuccessful at enabling or disabling write protection on your USB flash drive, formatting may be the only option. Formatting can fix drive errors and corruption, allowing you to enable or disable write protection.

Note

Formatting the USB flash drive erases all data. This process should only be performed as a last option.

Protecting individual files

You can always change the write protection on individual files and folders on your removable disk. See the following page for further help and information about adjusting files.