How to Unlock an SD Card and Use It Again (5 Proven Methods)

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how to unlock an sd card

SD cards are wondrous forms of storage. They’re compact, lightweight, relatively cheap, and compatible with a wide range of devices. If you’ve tried to access your SD card and found that you’re met with a message saying it’s locked, you may be wondering what you need to do.

Unlocking an SD card is easy. In this article, we’ll discuss what a locked SD card is, why SD cards have this feature, and how you can unlock a locked SD card.

What Happens When You Lock an SD Card?

What does locking an SD card do exactly? An SD card’s lock purpose is to protect anything from being written to or deleted from the SD card. When the lock is active, you only have read-only access to that card. Therefore, you will only be able to view the files on the card, not modify them.

To clarify, when an SD card is locked and you try to save a file to it, you’ll be met with a message that indicates the SD card is locked and nothing can be written to it to protect the contents on that card from accidental deletion or overwriting.

access denied to sd card

How to Tell If SD Card Is Locked

In most cases, you can easily tell that an SD card is locked or unlocked if you have it in your hand. On the left side of it, there is typically a small lock switch that’s used to determine the SD card lock position. If it’s switched down, that means it is locked. Sliding it upward will unlock the card and give you write access.

However, it’s not always that simple. Perhaps the lock switch has broken, or, for some reason, you can’t physically access the card because it’s stuck in a device. This can be a little bit trickier, but you can typically determine whether the card is locked by trying to modify a file on the card.

For instance, if it’s in a camera, try to take a photo and see if it saves. If it does, try to delete it. If you were able to, chances are the SD card is probably unlocked. If you weren’t, it’s locked.

How to Back up Files From a Locked SD Card

Backing up the data from a locked SD card is super easy and can be done even without unlocking the memory card. The lock on an SD card simply protects new data from being written or existing data from being changed. Copying the data does neither.

  1. Connect your SD card to your computer using an SD card reader or SD card slot.
  2. Open the SD card and select all of the contents you want to back up. Right-click and select Copy.Copying files from an SD card.
  3. Navigate to where you want the backups stored. This could be on your computer or an external storage device. Right-click and select Paste.Pasting SD card file copies to another location.

If you couldn’t retrieve some of the files from the SD card, or if they’ve become lost or deleted, data recovery software can be used on your memory card to scan and recover files that aren’t immediately visible.

5 Ways to Unlock an SD Card

There are multiple ways you can unlock a locked SD card. These methods allow you to unlock a SanDisk memory card, and any other brand, including PNY, Lexar, and Samsung cards. Use the below methods to understand how to unlock an SD card.

Method 1: Physical Lock

Unlocking a locked SD card by flipping the lock switch is by far the easiest method. The same is true for locking an SD card. However, this method is only possible on cards that actually have a lock switch, as not all cards will feature one.

  1. Take the SD card out of the device it’s being used in.
  2. On the side, flip the lock switch into the unlocked position. Typically, this is up.
  3. Test the SD card to ensure it’s unlocked.

Method 2: DiskPart

If your SD card doesn’t have a switch, or if you don’t have physical access to the SD card, you can unlock it through your operating system instead. Here’s how you unlock an SD card without a switch.

  1. Right-click Start and click Windows PowerShell (Admin). Click Yes if prompted by UAC.Opening an elevated PowerShell console.
  2. Type diskpart and press Enter.Executing Diskpart.
  3. Type list disk and press Enter.Listing available disks.
  4. Type select disk #. Replace the hash with your SD card’s disk number.Selecting a disk.
  5. Type attribute disk clear readonly and press Enter. This will remove the read-only tag that’s associated with the card.Clearing the readonly attribute..

Method 3: Camera Settings

If your camera says the memory card is locked but you don’t have access to a computer, you may be able to unlock the SD card on the camera directly. Many cameras come with built-in protection to guard against accidental deletion. This will be different for each brand of camera, but typically this can be found in your camera’s settings.

Go into your camera settings and turn off any settings that relate to photo or video protection. Once done, try and test it again.

Method 4: Registry Editor

If you’re desperate to regain write access to your SD card without formatting the card, you can try a more advanced method using the Registry Editor available on Windows.

Your computer’s registry contains very delicate information. Be very careful when making changes, as even the smallest changes can cause major problems.

  1. Press CTRL + S and search Registry Editor. Open the first result. If prompted by UAC, click Yes.Opening the Registry Editor.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/StorageDevicePolicies. If it doesn’t exist, right-click the Control folder and click New > Key to create it.Navigating tot he StorageDevicePolicies section.
  3. Double-click WriteProtect and set the value to 0. Press OK. This will remove write protection. If WriteProtect doesn’t exist, create it by right-clicking the StorageDevicePolicies folder and clicking New > Dword.Updating the value for WriteProtect.

When finished, try removing your SD card and connecting it again.

Method 5: Format

In the unfortunate event that none of the above solutions have worked for you, formatting the SD card is always an option. Performing a format is guaranteed to unlock an SD memory card. However, this process will delete everything on the SD card in the process. Therefore, you should back up all of your data before formatting any locked memory cards.

  1. Open File Explorer and right-click your SD card. Click Format.Choosing the format option.
  2. Select your parameters. If you’re unsure, click Restore device defaults. Ensure Quick Format is enabled and click Start.Complete the format process.


Incorrect readings can be a sign of corruption, a logical form of damage that can affect the performance of your SD card. If this is the case, you should stop using it immediately and recover data from your SD card while you have the chance. It could also be that an SD card password lock has been enabled using a mobile device or application. In which case, you should unlock it using the password.
Just as you can unlock an SD card using Windows, you can do the same on Mac using similar steps. Follow the below steps to unlock a memory card on Mac.
  1. Connect the SD card to your Mac using a card reader or by inserting it into a SD card slot.
  2. Use the Spotlight search function to search for and open Disk Utility.
  3. Select the SD card in the upper-left of the window and click First Aid.
  4. Clicking Run will unlock your SD card.
As Sony recommends, you should remove the SD card from your camera and slide the lock switch up. This will unlock the SD card.
If your Nikon memory card is locked, remove it from your camera and slide the lock switch up. Doing so will unlock it and allow you to write data to it.
In the unfortunate event that you lose your files, you can recover data from your SanDisk SD card using data recovery tools. As long as your SD card is readable in the Device Manager of your computer, these tools should be able to access and recover some of your data.