How to Unlock a Memory Card on a Canon Camera

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When you are capturing photos with your Canon camera, there might come a message on the screen that your memory card is locked. To proceed shooting, you will have to unlock it. So, you should learn how to unlock a memory card on a Canon camera.

How to Unlock a Memory Card on a Canon Camera

A memory card on a Canon camera can be unlocked by using the small switch available in the SD card. The smaller SD cards do not have the write protection switch; however, they can be fixed in the same way. Other methods include running the command prompt on your computer and disabling protection in the camera settings.

An image of how to unlock a memory card on a Canon camera

Check the Memory Card

The first thing you must do is check if your memory card is locked. Normally, you get a message on the screen that says so, however other times it is not so obvious. Take a picture and see if it saves. If it does, try to delete it. If both these actions cannot be performed, it means your card has been blocked.

Switch the Write Protection Switch

Many people are not aware that their SD cards come with a write protection switch. This refers to the small switch at the side that can lock the card if moved down. This means that you cannot delete or modify the data on the card. However, you can unlock it in the following simple steps:

  1. Switch off your camera.
  2. Find the compartment that holds your SD card and open it. You will be able to find it at the bottom or side of your camera.
  3. There will be a black button. Press it to eject the card.
  4. You will see a tiny switch on the side of the card. If it is up, it means it is unlocked and if it is down, it is locked. Move it up if it is locked.
  5. Insert the card back into the camera.

This write protection switch is simple enough to use and relies on friction to stay intact. Therefore, it could get loose and keep locking the card. If that is the case, you should consider getting a new memory card.

However, some people might solve this issue by using a toothpick to hold the switch or duck tape to keep it in place. While these are not recommended, they sometimes work and you can use them if you feel confident about it.

Smaller SD Cards

The smaller SD cards do not have this write protection switch. However, they can be locked the same way if connected through an adapter. If that is the case, the adapter will have this switch, and you can use the same steps to unlock that.

Check the Compatibility

After performing all these steps, if your SD card still shows that it is locked, there is probably a compatibility issue. Your memory card is not compatible with your Canon camera. There are compatibility issues even within the same company. Some SD cards would for a certain model, however, appear blocked for others.

An image of Sandisk memory card

Therefore, check for compatibility before purchasing a card.

Check the Camera Settings

If your SD card is locked and you do not have access to a computer, you can unlock it on your Canon camera too. Some Canon cameras come with built-in protection to guard against accidental deletion of photos.

Go to the settings and see if there is photo or video protection. Disable it to unlock your card and take pictures with your camera.

Unlock the Camera on Your Computer

Your memory card can be unlocked using your computer too. This method works on Windows only. Follow these steps:

  1. Connect the card to your computer using a card reader.
  2. Press “Windows” + “R” to open the dialogue box and type in CMD to run the command prompt.
  3. Now, type the following commands in order in the command prompt and hit enter after each of them: Diskpart, List disk, Select disk (enter number of the card), attributes disk read only.
  4. After typing these, exit the command prompt and enter your card into your camera to check if it has been unlocked.

Backup Files From Locked Memory Cards

Although you cannot make changes to the pictures in the locked memory card (you cannot add more or delete any), you will be able to back them up. This allows you to access the files that are already on the card. Follow these steps to back them up:

  1. Connect your SD card to your computer using an SD card reader or card slot.
  2. Open it and select the contents you want to back up. Right click and press copy.
  3. Paste them in your desired location.

If you lost some data or cannot view some data, you can use a data recovery software to view your data.

Recommended Memory Cards

Most Canon cameras use the postage stamp-sized SD card format. Only the older DSLRs use a Compact Flash card. There are many great cards that you can choose for your Canon camera. The best one depends on how you want to balance out cost, capacity, and speed.

Most Canon Cameras today support either the UHS-I or UHS-II memory cards. The newer ones support the UHS-II technology. Check which one your camera supports before making the purchase.

SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-I

The SanDisk Extreme Pro is one of the most powerful memory cards out there. It can deliver shot speeds up to 140 MB/s, allowing you to capture moments as they happen. Its Class 3 recording makes it great for capturing 4K UHD videos and pictures at high burst modes.

This card is highly durable as it can survive harsh conditions. It is waterproof, shock proof, temperature proof, and X-ray proof. It has an offer for a data recovery software that you can use to recover accidentally deleted data quickly. It has a huge capacity of up to 512 GB and can be used for most types of photography.

An image of Lexar memory card

Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X

With a read speed up to 300 MB/s and a write speed up to 260 MB/s, the Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X is highly trusted in the industry. It allows you to capture high quality photos and full HD 8K videos. Once done, you can transfer them to your computer quickly too.

This card is highly durable and is vibration proof, shock proof, X-ray proof, and waterproof. Moreover, this card is compatible with UHS-I technology cameras; therefore, you can use it for several cameras. It comes with a large capacity of up to 256 GB.

Related Questions

How Can You Remove Protection on a Canon Camera?

First, switch on your camera to remove the protection on a Canon camera. Press the Menu button, and on the Playback tab, press up or down to choose “Protect.” Then press the Function Set button. Finally, go to the “Unprotect All Images” option and click on it. Press “Yes” to remove the protection on your camera.

This option allows you to make changes to your photos. You can delete them, move them, and make new ones. However, your pictures can get accidentally deleted after this protection is removed.


You can unlock a memory card on your Canon camera by simply moving the lever on your card or unlock it through your computer. Moreover, you can remove the protection through your camera settings too. All of this allows you to capture more photos and delete existing ones.