Saturday, April 20, 2024

How to Remove Write Protection from an SD Card

What is write protection?

You buy a new SD card, and you stick it into your computer’s SD card slot. You go to upload some old vacation photos onto the card, when an error message pops up. “The disk is write protected.” What the heck does that mean? What’s the point of purchasing a memory card if you can’t write on it?

Write-protection is enabled on SD cards for security purposes. If someone steals your SD card, they would be able to read your information, but not overwrite it. You can also manually enable write-protection if you think that you may accidentally delete really important data. Write-protection is meant to protect you, but it can be an annoyance when you just want to write something to your SD cards. Here are a few methods that can be used to remove write protection from an SD card.

Physically Disable It

Note the lock on the left side of the card.

This is the simplest way to remove write-protection, and it may be a method that you’re familiar with. Take a look at your SD card, with the label facing up. You’ll find a small notch on the left side of the SD card, which can be slid up and down. You may have fiddled with this before without knowing what it is. This lock is able to place a physical barrier that enables write-protection. (I have friends in photography who use the lock to indicate when an SD card is full or not.)

As you can imagine, locking and unlocking from this switch is very easy. All you have to do is slide the lock in the upwards position to unlock your SD card. To lock it, slide the lock in the downwards position. This is a really straight-forward progress, and for most people, it’s all you have to do to remove write protection. However, sometimes the lock doesn’t always work. Luckily, there is one other way that you can unlock your SD card. It’s just a little bit more complicated.

From Windows

The other way to disable write-protection is by formatting your SD card, which basically “resets” the card. Keep in mind that by formatting your SD card, you’re effectively deleting all of the data that was on it. A write-protected SD card prevents you from writing to the card, but you can still take files off of it. Before you format your SD card, save all of the files on it to a secure location on your computer.

If you have a PC, you’ll be happy to know that Windows makes this process pretty simple. All you need is a Windows computer, and an SD card reader. Some computer have SD card readers built into them, but other times, you’ll need to buy a card reader or adapter. You can find USB-to-SD adapters for fairly cheap online.

Once you have everything that you need, insert the card into your computer. If you’re using an adapter or a reader, follow their own instructions to determine how you do this. Next, you’re going to open your start menu, and right-click ‘Computer’ from the right-hand side of the menu. Then, from the next window that pops up, you’re going to select ‘Manage’. You may need administrator permission to perform this action, depending on which version of Windows you’re running.

This is what the Computer Management screen looks like in Windows Vista.

Now, you should be looking at a window titled ‘Computer Management’. Here, you’re able to look at
different components of your system and tweak them as needed. For the purpose of this tutorial, click on
‘Disk Management’ beneath the ‘Storage’ tab. In the window to the right, you should now see a screen that
shows all of the storage devices that are connected to your computer. The SD card should be labeled something like ‘SD Card’, or whatever name the adapter/reader you use assigns to it.


Next, you’re going to right-click the SD card and select ‘Format’. A prompt will appear, asking you to confirm your options. Ensure that the file system drop-down menu is set to “FAT32” and that the allocation unit size drop-down menu is set to “Default”. Click on ‘OK’, and wait for the formatting process to end. Once you’re done, you can eject your SD card and go on your merry way!

From OS X

If your main computer is an Apple OS X machine, you can basically perform the same steps that I wrote above. However, the menus are a little different, and Apple has you doing a little more legwork than your Windows counterpart. Remember, formatting an SD card results in all of the pre-existing files on the card being deleted. If you don’t want that to happen, backup your files somewhere else so that you can restore them once you’ve shut off write protection.

This is what the Disk Utility window looks like.
This is what the Disk Utility window looks like.

Just like with Windows, you need to get your SD card into computer. It doesn’t matter if it’s via an SD card slot, card reader, or card adapter. Just get it in there. Now, from the Finder navigation bar, click ‘Go’, and then click ‘Applications’. (If you like fancy keyboard shortcuts, this can be accessed by pressing the up arrow key, the application key, and ‘A’ at the same time.) Scroll through your application window until you find ‘Utilities’. Double click to open it.

From the ‘Utilities’ folder, you will see several applications that help you get “under the hood” and configure your system. Since we’re dealing with memory and space, we are going to be using ‘Disk Utility’. Double-click to open it. Like Windows, OS X splits its memory management program into separate sections. On the top-left pane of the screen, you should see all of your storage devices. Use trial-and-error to determine which storage device is your SD card, and click on it. You’ve selected your SD card.

Next, you’re going to click the ‘Erase’ tab near the top of the right pane. (Hopefully you’ve backed up all of the SD card’s important files by now.) From the drop-down menu next to ‘Format’, select ‘MS-DOS (FAT)’. This dialogue could vary based on which version of OS X you’re running, but as a rule of thumb, it needs to be a part of the MS-DOS file system, and it needs to be a part of the FAT32 format. Keep that in mind when selecting your format.

Next, you just click ‘Erase’ at the bottom right of the screen, and you’re done! Your SD card will be formatted, and write-protection should be disabled. Now, you can move any files that you may have taken off of the SD card back onto it, and eject the card. If write-protection is ever enabled again for whatever reason, you can repeat this exact same process again and have the same success.

If you have any questions, or if you encounter any issues, leave them in the comments section below. I’ll try to help you out as best as I can.

Jake Briscoe
Jake Briscoe
Jake is passionate about everything tech, film, and gaming related. If he's not writing you can probably catch him at a local sporting event or coffee shop.


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