How to format a write-protected disk

Written by jesse lanclos
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Formatting a hard drive can be done for several reasons. You may want to remove all data before selling it, or you may be running into computer issues and decide that the best way to handle it is to wipe the hard drive and start over. Formatting a hard drive is usually fairly straightforward and quick. However, there can be obstacles. For instance, if the hard drive is write-protected, you will have to remove the write-protection or go around it to format the hard drive. This can be done either in Windows Safe Mode or by changing a setting in the system registry.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Boot your computer into Safe Mode. To do this, restart your computer. While it is rebooting, continually press the "F8" key until a menu pops up. From that menu, select "Safe Mode."

  2. 2

    Open Windows Explorer by pressing "Windows-E. You can also open Windows Explorer by right-clicking the Windows "Start" menu and selecting "Open Windows Explorer."

  3. 3

    Right-click on the disk you're attempting to format. Select "Format" option from the pop-up menu.

  4. 4

    If the steps above do not work, edit the registry. Select the Windows "Start" menu, type "regedit" into the Search field and press "Enter. Navigate to the following registry key: "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies." Change the value for the "WriteProtect" key to "0" (zero).

Tips and warnings

  • For formatting a USB drive that is write-protected, there is a software tool that can help. If you can't format your write-protected drive with the steps outlined above, try downloading and running the free HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool (see Resources).
  • Use caution when editing the registry. If you are unsure, do not edit your registry. you can cause serious damage to your computer system if you do this incorrectly.
  • Always back up your registry before editing it directly.

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