I can’t copy files from my computer to external sources. I’m using Windows
XP Professional and an Intel Pentium 4. The first time I attempt to copy a file
to an external source, every time I try, a dialog box always pops up saying it
is either the file is already opened or the source is write protected. But I
can copy the file within the system. I’d be very grateful if you can help
In this excerpt from
Answercast #57, I look at problems in copying files to external media.
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Well, I do want to clarify one piece of terminology. “Source” has a very
specific meaning and you’re using it backwards.
“Source” is where the file comes from. It’s the destination you’re having
So for example, if you’re trying to copy a file from Drive C to Drive D,
“Drive C” is the source; it’s the origination of the file. And then “Drive D”
is the destination.
So, I’m going to assume that what you really mean throughout here is the
destination – wherever you’re trying to send that file to is where a
problem is arising. And your symptoms match that; the fact that you can copy a
file around on your original hard disk does imply that whatever is going on
here is related to the destination.
File in use
Unfortunately, the error message is very, very generic and it doesn’t really
give us a whole lot to go on.
Certainly, if the file is already open, you can use a tool like Process
Explorer to see who has the file in use. In fact, I have an article on that,
using a file in use?” that I’m going to point you at.
That will walk you through using Process Explorer to at least try and
identify if there is a program that has that file in use.
In the sense that this is a destination-related issue, it is possible that
you are attempting to overwrite a file on the destination – and that
destination file is itself in use – which would essentially give you
the same result. If that destination file is in use and you try to overwrite
it, you can’t because it’s in use.
Is the destination writable?
The other approach is: we do need to double check to make sure that,
in fact, the destination you selected is a place you can write to.
I would suggest you try and create a file there by some other means… not
related to the file you’re copying. Just a create a temporary file.
Fire up Notepad and create a file with a brand new name in one of those
remote locations. It is possible that you’re dealing with read-only media. If
you’re trying to save to something that is fundamentally read-only (like a CD,
a read-only CD)… well, you can read files from it all day long, you just can’t
write to it. When you try to write to it, this is exactly the kind of message
that you’ll get.
Similarly, if you have a network drive, it is very possible that you can
connect to it in such a way that you only have “read” permission. You can read all you want from it, but any attempt to write to it will
cause the error messages that you’re seeing here. And so forth.
It really depends a lot on exactly what external device you’re talking about
when you’re talking about the destination for your file. But those are the kinds of
things I would have you look at. Those are the kinds of things that can get in
Next from Answercast 57 – Do network communications have different channels or only one?
1 thought on “Why do I get “write protected” when I copy a file to an external destination?”
Microsoft now has this BitLocker drive encryption software on some of the high-end versions of Windows 7. When you use it, you can read and write to your hard drive and shared drives on the LAN, but you can only read from external sources — you’re prohibited, for instance, from saving a file to an attached USB stick which is not also encrypted via BitLocker. Could this be what the question was about?