If you've purchased a PC from Dell lately you might have noticed that there is an option to get the recovery media, specifically Windows 8.1, on an 8GB USB flash drive. If you work in an IT department, these flash drives might start piling up and you might want to try and use them, at least some of them, for something else. Here's the rub... the freaking things are read only.
UPDATE 2016/10/07: If you have Dell Windows 10 USB sticks, please see How to Disable the Write Protection on Dell Windows 10 USB Recovery Sticks.
UPDATE: Some of the commentator's below are complaining about error code: -2. I did some more testing and after a few successful and a few unsuccessful attempts, I'm thinking that the firmware might have changed. Of the drives that I have, it seems the ones with the multi-colored labels on the back work fine after using the low-level format utility (one 8GB writable partition). The utility failed with error code: -2 and bricked the drives on all the ones I've tested that have solid blue labels, light blue or dark blue. Don't use this utility if your drive has a solid blue label on the back.
UPDATE 2: Tojo posted a solution for the blue label Dell drives in the comments below. Thanks Tojo! The new guide can be found at http://www.techunboxed.com/2015/03/how-to-disable-write-protection-on-dell.html.
I don't know about Dell's consumer level PC's but stuff like the Latitude laptops can be had with an optional 8GB bootable USB 3.0 flash drive with Windows 8.1 on it. Unfortunately, these flash drives are write protected. They can't be written to, formatted, or partitioned, but if you're willing to loose all the data currently on the drive, they can be made to work. Low level formatting the drive will wipe all the data and disable the write protection.
|A Dell USB flash drive without it's skin|
|A close up of the USB controller chip - Phison PS2251-07|
|Nope. Cant write here.|
The low level format utility linked below works with the USB controller chip, PS2251-07, on the current USB flash drives that come from Dell. I have no idea if it will work with any other flash drive or if it will continue to work in the future if the controller changes.
WARNING: This process will irrevocably destroy all data on the USB flash drive.
Download and unzip the low level format tool linked below. Just to be safe, make sure the Dell USB drive is the only USB drive attached to the computer and run executable.
If you're really sure you want to do this, click Yes.
The utility is performing the low level format.
The low level format is complete. Click OK and unplug the USB drive from the computer. The next time it's plugged back in, it will be blank and writable.
|Blank and Writable|
If someone knows a way to remove the write protection without destroying the data on the drive, please let us know in the comments below.
Low level format utility @ Mega.co.nz