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How to Fix Cannot Delete Files from USB

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Jan 24, 2024 • Filed to: Recover Files • Proven solutions

Most times when you right-click on your USB drive, the drop-down menu will have a delete option and when you click on it, it automatically moves your files to the recycle bin. But in certain circumstances, this will not work due to various issues ranging from write-protection on your flash drive to it being physically damaged. We have researched and complied 10 ways to remove files when you cannot delete them from your USB flash drive. We have also highlighted data recovery tools for when you delete your files and empty the recycle bin by mistake.

10 Ways to Fix Can't Delete Files from USB Flash Drive

Fix 1 - Restart Computer and Try Another PC

Restarting the computer can solve most of the hardware problems. So the first step to solve the “can’t delete files from USB drive” issue is to restart your computer. If that doesn’t work, try the drive on another computer to see whether the problem persists.

Fix 2 - Computer Virus and Malware Scan

If there is any virus or malware on your computer, it can cause that you can’t delete files from USB drive. In this case, you can perform a Virus Scan to fix it.

  1. Type and search Virus in the search box next to the Start icon.
  2. Launch Virus&threat protection and select Scan options.
  3. Select one of the scan options to get virus scanning started.

Fix 3 - Reformat the Flash Drive

If the file system of the flash drive is not compatible with the operating system you’re using, it can cause you can’t delete the files from USB drive. If that’s the problem, you can reformat the USB flash drive to solve this problem. To use the USB flash drive on both Windows and Mac, it’s recommended to reformat the flash drive to FAT, FAT32, or exFAT.

Read more: how to format usb drive to FAT32

Fix 4 - Remove Write Protection from USB Flash Drive

Your flash drive is write-protected meaning you cannot format your flash disk and your files are read-only therefore cannot be deleted. To remove write-protection, go to your USB drive under the computer's file explorer. Select properties, right-click and uncheck "read-only" then click on Apply.

Also, check to see if your flash drive has a switch and make sure to turn it on as this is another way files are write-protected.

Fix 5 - Delete Files Using the Windows Command Prompt

Search for the Command Prompt, you can do this by going to your start menu and search CMD. Right-click on the command prompt and select Run as Administrator.

When the window comes up, use this command line del file path i.e. del /f "D:\OneDrive\Videos\File to Delete.txt" and hit enter. The command will be executed and your File to Delete.txt file located in the Videos Folder will be deleted.

Fix 6 - Clear Read-Only Attributes Using Diskpart Utility

Go to the start menu and search CMD to launch your Command Prompt. Type Diskpart.exe and hit enter.
Type and enter the List Disk command. Here all your drives will be listed.

To select a particular disk, run the command Select Disk 1 where the number is what's shown next to Disk in the image below.

To view Disk 1 properties, type the attributes disk command. From the image below, you can see the Read-Only attribute.

To delete the read-only attribute, type attributes disk clear readonly

Fix 7 - Check Every Folder or Every File on the Flash Drive Was Not Set to Read-only

This can also be an issue because some folders and files may be set to read-only, causing your files to not be deleted. Sometimes, when you do a system upgrade, all documents can be changed to Read-Only. Also, if there’s one file set to read-only, you will delete the folder containing the read-only file.

Another way to fix this issue is by removing write-protection from the Registry Editor. Press Win+R keys of your keyboard to open Run then type “regedit”.

Go to this path “Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies” and double click on the “WriteProtect. Change the value data from 1 to 0.

Restart your computer then re-connect your USB drive to access your files without the read-only attribute.

To avoid tampering with your newly upgraded computer get in touch with Data Recovery professionals such as Wondershare Recoverit who will guide you on this particular issue.

Fix 8 - Unlock and Delete Files Using Safe Mode

To unlock and delete files using safe mode, restart your PC and press F8 on your keyboard while it's booting up, till the boot menu comes up. Select Safe Mode and a Window will pop up. open File Explorer and browse the folder or file location then delete.

To use safe mode to unlock and delete files with Windows 10, click start, got to settings then Update & Security, select Recovery then click on restart now (which is under Advanced Startup) to enter the Windows 10 recovery environment.

Select troubleshoot, then advanced options >> Startup settings then click on Restart. In the Window below, select no. 4 or 5 by pressing F4 OR F5 on your keyboard to boot in Safe Mode.

You can now delete or unlock your file in Safe Mode.

Fix 9 - Use Check Disk Tool to Fix USB

The error 'Flash Drive Won't Delete Files' is most likely being caused by the file being corrupted or unreadable. To confirm if this is the issue, run the disk checking utility and proceed to delete the files from your USB flash drive. To do this, go to your computer and select the USB flash drive. Right-click on it and select Properties. In the dialogue box that pops up, select Check under the Tools tab. This option will run and check the USB drive for errors. Once it’s done, you will get a pop up window showing the errors in your flash drive. Proceed to click on the repair drive option to clear your flash drive of any errors.

As stated before, also check your USB flash drive to confirm if the write protection button is on or off.

Fix 10 - Get the Permissions from Windows Explorer

To get permission from Windows, right-click the folder or file. Select properties from the drop-down menu then click on the Security tab.

From there a window will pop up >> select Advanced on your bottom-right >> Click on Owner and then Edit >> Select Administrators and check to Replace owner on sub containers & objects then Apply. When it's done, select OK on everything.

get permission from windows explorer

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Recovering Files Deleted by Accident with Data Recovery Software

As you try to figure out why your files are not deleting, you may delete your files and folders by mistake. This is normal and happens to the best of us, so there's no need to panic.
After reviewing a couple of data recovery tools available, we settled on Wondershare Recoverit due to some things:

To use Wondershare Recoverit for recovering your deleted files, follow these steps:

Step 1. Select a location

Start by selecting the location you want to recover your lost files from. You can choose to scan a disk under the Hard Disk Drive section, an external device, or a specific location on your computer.


Step 2. Scan the location

Once the scanning starts, the list of your files will be displayed for you to select which ones you want to proceed with. Alternatively, you can let the software scan every file on your drive.


Step 3. Preview and recover

At this stage, if you want to preview your files before saving them to your computer, Wondershare lets you do that. You can preview pictures, documents, audio, and video files.

Click the recover button to start retrieving your files and save them to your computer. If you want to save your files on an external hard drive, make sure to use a different one from the one you're recovering files from.


The Bottom Line

Files that do not delete even after applying the normal process can be handled through the 10 fixes stated above. However, when you have tried all alternatives and the problem persists, let data recovery professionals handle the issue to avoid further losses. A Data Recovery expert will diagnose the issue, and use tools designed to safeguard your data. With Wondershare Recoverit, they will help you discard the files that your computer system is not deleting from the USB, will help you recover the files you deleted by mistake, and also restore your storage devices to normal working conditions.

Recoverit author

Theo Lucia

chief Editor

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