You have probably seen the following scenario in multiple thriller and spy movies; A spy connects an USB stick to a computer to copy data from the computer to the device. Movies do not necessarily reflect reality but there is some truth to this scenario after all. It is indeed possible to connect an USB device to a computer running Windows to copy data from that computer to the removable storage device.
It is sometimes in the best interest of companies, organizations and individuals to protect the data on their computer from being copied this way.
Microsoft has added options to the Windows operating system (more precisely to Windows XP and newer operating systems) to write protect all USB devices that are connected to it. This indicates that it may not always be possible to protect the computer this way, for instance if data needs to be written to USB devices regularly.
Write Protection adds another layer of defense to the computer. The system is not fool proof on its own, as it is still possible to copy data, for instance by uploading it to the Internet or a network connection.
You can enable or disable write protection of all USB devices that are connected to the Windows operating system. Both settings are configured in the Windows Registry. Here is how this is done.
Open the Windows Registry editor with the shortcut Windows-r, enter regedit into the form and press the return key on the keyboard.
Navigate to the following Registry key:
Please note that you may need to create the key StorageDevicePolicies if it does not exist. Select the key afterwards and right-click into the right window. Select New > Dword (32-bit) Value from the context menu and name the entry WriteProtect.
Double-click the new entry afterwards and change the value from 0 to 1. A value of 1 disables writing to all connected USB devices. If you want to enable writing again you need to change the value of the key to 0.
The new setting takes effect immediately. Every user who tries to copy data to USB devices with write protection enabled receives the following notification window.
The disk is write-protected
Remove the write-protection or use another disk.
I have created two Registry files to enable or disable write protection. You can download a zip file that contains both files here: write protect
This way you can disable write protection with a click on a file, and enable it again when you have copied files to the USB device.
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats (video ads) or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.