DURING A BIT of housecleaning the other day, I uncovered an old USB hard drive that I hadn’t used in a couple years. I decided to plug it in, check the contents, and see whether it contained anything I still needed. The drive turned out to be filled with a bunch of old, unnecessary files. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll just delete them and put the drive back into use for other things.”

Just one problem: When I tried to erase the unwanted files, Windows popped up an error message declaring that the drive was write-protected. Uh, okay. I wasn’t sure why that would be the case, but whatever. I figured that I would just go ahead and format the drive; that was sure to clear everything out.

Whoops! Same error. Oh, Windows, you baffling, unpredictable, endlessly annoying operating system, you. (By the way, I’m running Windows 7 64-bit on my current PC. The drive was most likely formatted in a 32-bit version of Windows XP. Maybe that had something to do with the problem.)

I spent some time investigating fixes for this issue, which can affect any kind of drive, and landed on the following procedure:

1 Open a Command prompt by clicking Start, typing command in the field, and clicking Command Prompt.

2 Type diskpart and press <Enter>.

3 Type list volume and press <Enter>.

4 Type select volume x, where x is the number of the drive that’s giving you the ‘write-protected’ error. In my case, I ended up typing ‘select volume 3’.

5 Type attributes disk clear readonly and press <Enter>.

6 Type exit and press <Enter>.

That’s it! At this point you should have full write access to the problematic drive. This series of steps definitely worked for me.


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