How to Format a Write–Protected Pen Drive

If your pen drive is write-protected, you may be unable to modify or format the drive. There are a few options for removing write protection from a USB drive. However, it’s possible that the drive is failing or that it’s been locked with security software, making it impossible to write to. This emindsca will show you how to remove write protection from a USB pen drive on a Windows or Mac computer.

Method 1 Using Diskpart (Windows)

1. Toggle the USB drive’s switch. If your USB drive has a physical write-protection switch on the outside, it may be set to the incorrect (locked) position. Before proceeding with this method, try toggling the switch.

A pen drive can be locked in some cases using security software that prevents permission changes on a flash drive. If this is the case, you may be unable to remove the USB drive’s write protection.

2. Insert the pen drive into an open USB slot. You can use any available USB slot on your PC.

3. Right-click the Start menu. It’s usually at the bottom-left corner of the screen. This displays a menu.

4. Click the Run button. When you right-click the Windows Start menu, it appears at the bottom of the menu. This launches Run in a new tab.

5. Type diskpart into Run and press ↵ Enter. This opens Diskpart in the Command Prompt.

6. Type list disk and press ↵ Enter. There will be a list of all drives, including your pen drive. Each drive is labelled “Disk (number),” with a number that is unique to that drive.

You should be able to identify your USB drive based on the amount of space listed under “Size.” For example, if your USB drive is 32 GB, it should say “32 GB” or something close to that in the Command Prompt below “Size.”

7. Type select disk # and press ↵ Enter. Replace # with the number of your pen drive (i.e. “select disk 3”). This selects the USB drive in Diskpart.

8. Type attributes disk clear readonly and press ↵ Enter. This should remove write-protected status from the drive.

9. Type clean and press ↵ Enter. This should remove the data from the drive. Once it’s removed, you’ll be able to set it up for use.

10. Type create partition primary and press ↵ Enter. This creates a partition on the USB drive.

11. Type format fs=fat32 or format fs=ntfsand press ↵ Enter. This converts the drive to a format that can be read by any operating system. If the storage capacity of the USB drive is less than 32GB, enter “format fs=fat32.” If the drive has more than 32GB, enter “format fs=ntfs.”

12. Type exit and press ↵ Enter.  This will take you back to the standard command prompt. The drive should now be ready for data storage and other applications.

Method 2 Using the Registry Editor (Windows)

1. Toggle the USB drive’s switch. If your USB drive has a physical write-protection switch on the outside, it may be set to the incorrect (locked) position. Before proceeding with this method, try toggling the switch.

2. Open the Windows Registry Editor on your PC. Here’s how:

  • Press ⊞ Win+S to open the search bar.
  • Type regedit into the search field.
  • Click Registry Editor in the search results.
  • Click Yes to run the app.

3. Go to the Control folder. Use the following steps to navigate to the Control folder in the system registry. You should see several more folders inside the Control folder.

  • Click the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder.
  • Click the SYSTEM folder.
  • Click the CurrentControlSet folder.
  • Click the Control folder.

4. Click the StorageDevicePolicies folder (if it exists). If you see this folder in the left panel (under the “Control” folder), double-click it to display its contents in the right panel. If you don’t see this folder, perform the following steps to create it:[3]

  • Right-click a blank area of the right panel to open the context menu.
  • Select New and then Key on the menu.
  • Type StorageDevicePolicies and then click the blank area to save the new key.
  • Click StorageDevicePolicies in the left panel to open it.
  • Right-click a blank area in the right panel and select New > DWORD.
  • Type WriteProtect and then click anywhere to save the DWORD.

5. Double-click WriteProtect in the right column. A dialog window will appear.

6. Enter “0” as the “Value Data” amount and click OK. Enter the numerical zero without the quotes.

7. Restart your computer after closing Registry Editor. Changes made in the Registry Editor usually necessitate a restart.

8. Connect the pen drive to the PC and open File Explorer. You can open the File Explorer by pressing ⊞ Win+E or by right-clicking the Start menu and selecting File Explorer.

9. Format the pen drive by right-clicking it. The options for erasing and reformatting the drive will be displayed.

10. Select your formatting preferences and press the Start button. This should clear the pen drive’s contents and prepare it for use.

If this method does not work for you, try “Using Diskpart (Windows).”

Method 3 Using Disk Utility (Mac OS X)

1. Toggle the USB drive’s switch. If your USB drive has a physical write-protection switch on the outside, it may be set to the incorrect (locked) position. Before proceeding with this method, try toggling the switch.

2. Insert the write-protected pen drive into a USB slot on your Mac.

3. Open Finder. It’s the first icon on the Dock, which is typically located at the bottom of the screen.

4. Click the Applications folder. It should be on the left side of the screen. In the right panel, some icons will appear.

5. Double-click the Utilities folder. It’s in the right panel.

6. Disk Utility should be double-clicked. In the right panel, it’s the hard drive icon with a stethoscope. This launches a tool for formatting drives.

7. In the left panel, select your pen drive. The right panel will display information about the drive.

8. Click the Erase tab in the right panel. It’s near the top of the panel.

9. Give the drive a name (optional). If you prefer, you can keep the default name.

10. Choose a file system format from the “Format” menu. Select MS-DOS (FAT) (pen drives under 32GB) or ExFAT if you want your pen drive to be compatible with both PCs and Macs (drives over 32GB). Otherwise, select your preferred Mac filesystem type.

11. Erase the data by clicking the Erase button. It can be found in the bottom-right corner of the active window. The write-protected pen drive will be reformatted by your Mac, and the sharing and permissions status will be changed to “read and write.”

If this process does not make your drive usable, the problem is most likely mechanical, and you should replace it.

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