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How to Fix USB Drive Read Only Mac FAT32 [Full Guide]

A read-only USB device on Mac is a common problem in macOS devices. In this article, we explore how a Mac user can overcome this annoying problem.


Table of Contents

Updated by Tracy King on Dec 19, 2023
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Workable Solutions Step-by-step Troubleshooting
Check Whether USB Is Running Well Step 1. Go to Finder, then Applications, and run Disk Utility; Step 2. From the sidebar, pick the USB device...Full steps
Unlock USB Drive That Is Read-Only Mac (FAT32) 1. Change Permissions to Access Read-Only...Full steps
2. Reformat Read-only USB with Disk Utility...Full steps
Bonus Tip: Get Read-Write Permission for NTFS-Formatted Disk Step 1. Launch and activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac. Click "I already have a license" to unlock this software...Full steps

Is your USB drive showing "read-only" on Mac? Let's help you fix that.

Mac devices are known for their great products. Not only are they employed by people in various facets of life, but their demands have also gone up in recent times because of the pandemic and the entire work-from-home scenario. However, one common problem a lot of Mac users run into is low storage.

usb drive

That's why they use USB drives to back up their data or move important files. However, one common problem that many Mac users face is their USB devices being read-only. This annoying problem can become difficult to deal with.

So, how do you fix it when your USB drive is read-only? Let's dive in and find out.

Can Macs Read and Write FAT32?

The first step in understanding if the USB drive read-only Mac Fat32 can be fixed. Now, the thing with specific formats is that some are only Windows compatible, while others only work with Mac computers. Now, FAT32 is the only file system that's supported by both.

Shortened from File Allocation Table 32, FAT32 has been around since 1977. Therefore, both Mac and Windows computers support it and run it seamlessly. You can read and write using this file system on both operating systems. Some key information about FAT32 includes:

  • 2TB is the max storage supported by this file system.
  • Doesn't support transparent encryption.

However, once you connect a FAT32 USB to a Mac device, it tends to turn it into a read-only state. This permission is altered by Mac as soon as it reads the file system after detecting the external storage.

Check Whether USB Is Running Well

Finding out the problem with your USB drive read-only Mac FAT32 device is your first task. It might just be that your device isn't performing well, so the Mac renders it read-only since it cannot access specific parts of your storage.

Here's how you can check that on a Mac computer:

Step 1. Go to Finder, then Applications, and run Disk Utility.

Step 2. From the sidebar, pick the USB device you wish to check.

Step 3. Then run First Aid.

run first aid in mac

Step 4. Click on Run when prompted.

If your USB device is working well, then you'll see something like this:

running first aid

So, how do you check whether the USB is running well in Windows? Here's how:

Step 1. Press Windows+R and type CMD.

Step 2. Type chkdsk H:/f.

Once the check is done, and you see something like this, then your USB device is working well. How? On the lower side of the screen, look at "0 KB in bad sectors". As it indicates the error-free performance of our device.

How to Unlock USB Drive That Is Read-Only Mac (FAT32)?

Now that you've determined your USB device is working find out how do you unlock a USB drive that's read-only on Mac FAT32? There are three main methods that you can use, such as:

  • Change or bypass permissions and access the device to change read-only settings.
  • Reformat the read-only device with Mac's Disk Utility.

So, how will these two methods work? Let's find out:

1. Change Permissions to Access Read-Only USB Drive

The first way you can change a read-only external device on Mac is by changing the permissions. Here's how:

Step 1. Connect the USB device to your Mac.

Step 2. Head to Finder and right-click the device to find "Get Info", then click it.

Step 3. Extend the Sharing & Permissions section.

Step 4. Click on the lock icon to unlock the settings.

Step 5. Then check Ignore ownership on this volume.

Ignore ownership on this volume

This will bypass any permission errors and help you access the device. You can additionally restart your Mac device to check if the settings persist or revert to the original.

2. Reformat Read-only USB with Disk Utility

If the problem persists, then there's only one way to solve this issue, and that's by formatting it. Therefore, it's suggested that you back up any data before proceeding using a Windows computer. Once done, here's how to reformat it:

Step 1. Find and run Disk Utility.

Step 2. Pick the USB device and click on Erase.

erase icon in disk utility

Step 3. Pick a file system. Choose MS-DOS (FAT) or ExFAT.

choose a file system

Step 4. Click on Erase.

Once done, you will be able to see the formatted drive in your Disk Utility or Finder app. Make sure you pick the file system properly because OS X and APFS are only readable by Mac devices.

Bonus Tip: How to Get Read-Write Permission for NTFS-Formatted Disk

You don't even need to go through all this if your NTFS USB drive is showing read-only on Mac. You can make it all easier by simply using EaseUS NTFS for Mac. This tool helps you easily mount and unmount Windows-formatted devices from Mac's status bar. How does it do that?

Step 1. Launch and activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac. Click "I already have a license" to unlock this software.

Activate EaseUS NTFS for Mac

Step 2. Connect an NTFS drive to Mac, EaseUS NTFS for Mac will automatically detect the device. Select your drive and you'll see it's now marked as 'Read-only". Click "Enable Writable" to add read and write rights to the drive.

enable writable write to NTFS drive

Step 3. When the state of NTFS drives turns into "Writable".

Make changes to saved files on NTFS drive

Step 4. EaseUS NTFS for Mac will pops up a window to help Mac get access to the NTFS drive:

  1. 1. Select "Full Disk Access", click the Lock icon and enter admin password to unlock it.
  2. 2. Select the two icons of NTFS for Mac.
  3. 3. Drag them to the "Full Disk Access" list.
  4. 4. Click " Quit & Restore" to re-launch EaseUS NTFS for Mac.
Gain NTFS access

Step 5. When EaseUS NTFS for Mac restarts, you can then open to check, read, write, and even modify saved data on the NTFS device.

Read,write, open, and modify files on NTFS drives

  • Total read and write capabilities with NTFS Formatted devices in macOS.
  • It offers thorough compatibility with M1-Based Mac devices.
  • A 7-day free trial is enough to help you get your USB device up and running on Mac.
  • Supported file systems include NTFS, HFS+, APFS, FAT, exFAT, etc.

All these factors make it an ideal companion for any Mac user today. Not only does it help you get read-write permissions of an NTFS-formatted disk on any Mac device, but it helps you reformat or repurpose it accordingly - without compromising your data or time.

You can also find a solution when the hard drive won't mount on Mac or when you don't have permission to write to the external hard drive on Mac.

Final Words

These are some of the best ways you can fix a read-only USB Device on Mac, folks. You can try the various methods, but if nothing works, EaseUS NTFS for Mac will surely get this trouble away from you. Therefore, pick the one method that works the best for you.