It can be easy to lose track of what you've got stored on your memory sticks and cards, and there's the risk you might delete or overwrite something you wanted to keep. To protect your files and folders, most mass storage devices use write-protection technology to safeguard stored information. This article explains how to change the security on mass storage devices in the event that you can't gain access to your own data.

protection on an sd card and usb memory stick

The Knowhow

What is 'write-protection'?

'Write protection' is a type of security measure which places a 'lock' on digital files. The locking action prevents modifications from being made to the stored data, and is a simple way to avoid changes being made to important files without your permission. So far, so logical; but occasionally these security measures can backfire, essentially locking you out of your own home.

Write-protection is often a physical (rather than a virtual) security measure; lifting it usually involves flicking a switch on the mass storage device. The trick is to first find the switch, and or to change the virtual settings on your computer to accept the physical changes.

Changing security on a USB memory stick

Trying to change a write-protected files often generates messages such as 'Drive can't be written on. Please, remove write-protection'?

Most memory sticks have simple switches on the side to amend write permissions.  USB sticks are slightly different.  Some may have switches at the side, like in the illustration below, but these are just to extend the USB connection rather than a write protection switch.

usb memory stick with on off protection

Have a look at the SD card's exterior; is there a small switch on one side? Changing the positioning should turn write protection off and let you change the contents.

If not, then try the following:

  • Insert the memory stick into the computer
  • Go to My Computer and under Devices with Removable Storage look for your card reader
  • Right-click on it and click Properties
  • In the pop-up box, sometimes there's an option to Remove write-protection. Change the status of this option and try again.

Still no luck?

  • Remove your memory stick from the drive
  • Click Start > Run...
  • In the box type regedit and press OK
  • A new window will appear. Go to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies
  • If you can't locate StorageDevicePolicies then you will need to create this folder
    • Right-click on Control and click on New > Key. Name this StorageDevicePolicies
    • Right-click on the new folder you created called StorageDevicePolicies and click New > DWORD Value.
    • Name this WriteProtect
  • Double-click on Write Protect and change the Value Data to 0 and then click OK
  • Close the Registry Editor and insert the memory stick into your computer

Sometimes viruses can be the cause of this problem; if you've tried the suggestions above and neither works, try the following:

Changing security on an SD card

SD (Secure Digital) cards are usually sold pre-protected; removing the write-protection is a fairly simple process and can be sorted out in a matter of minutes.

verbatim microSD memory card

As with a USB stick, most SD cards have a flip-switch located on their side; flip this to change the write-protection from 'on' to 'off'.

Kingston 2GB memory card

Still can't access your files? There are still a couple of options:

SD reader for memory cards

There may be an issue with your card reader, rather than the card itself.  Card readers can be purchased fairly cheaply from most electrical retailers, but ensure the one you buy is compatible with the make of card you want to use.

micro SD veho card reader usb

To use the Reader:

  • Simply slot the SD card into the drive provided
  • A pop-up wizard will prompt you to install the Reader's software; follow the steps as delineated by the installation wizard
  • There may be a write-protect switch on your card reader as well.  Make sure this isn't in the write protect position
  • Try once again to access your data

If your card reader fails to access the data, try removing the write-protection settings manually.  Please note that this process will format the card and remove anything stored on it.  This is a "last resort" option as all files on the card will be lost:

  • Go to the Control Panel
  • Proceed to the Administrative Tools section

    administrative tools in windows

If you can't see the Tools section, start typing Administrative Tools into the search box and Windows will find it for you

tools section in windows

From here, select Computer Management, followed by Disc Management

Windows computer management

Search the list of storage devices (highlighted in red below) for your SD card

computer management volume and layout in windows
  • Now right-click on the SD card and select Format
  • A new pop-up will appear, showing the available formatting options
  • From the drop-down menu, select FAT32
  • Check the Quick Format option
  • Click OK to finish

The write-protection setting should now have been lifted; test the accessibility by trying to save a file onto your SD card.

If you are still having issues, the card itself may be faulty.  This is especially likely if you can't open files stored on the card.


Updated On:

Nov 14, 2012

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