How to Unlock a Memory Card on Canon Camera

You have just placed your SD card into your Canon camera when you are faced with “memory card locked” (or “card write protected”) in glaring red. You can now no longer shoot any more photos, nor can you delete them from your Canon.

Feeling confused and panicked, you may be wondering to yourself: what do I do? Is there any way to unlock the memory card on your Canon camera? And if so, how?

Luckily, it’s a rather simple process. In this article, I will be discussing the fairly straightforward steps you can take to unlock your Canon memory card.

It also includes possible causes of your locked memory card, as well as ways to prevent cards from becoming corrupted or locked over time.

The lock/unlock switch

memory card lock switch
Image courtesy to Andreas on Flickr

When you encounter this issue, you should first check the switch on the side of the memory card. In the image above, this is the grey switch located closest to the viewer.

On many SD cards, you can lock or unlock the card just by sliding the switch from the “Locked” to “Unlocked” position. (Note: The former is in the downside position; just slide the switch up.

If you observe the image above, you can tell that the memory card is unlocked because the grey switch is flipped up.)

You can also watch the following video on how to slide and unlock the card here:

Now, insert the SD card back into your Canon camera. You should no longer see the red error message “Memory card locked”. Your camera can now read and record data, and you should be able to take and delete photos as you want.

This is a fairly common cause of finding a locked SD memory card. Hopefully, this method worked for you!

Possible cause: loose lock switch

It is possible that your memory card flipped to locked mode because the lock switch is loose. As a result, it keeps sliding from the unlocked to the locked position.

If this is the case for you, you might find it helpful to replace the memory card. There are also some relatively cruder methods of unlocking the memory card. You can check out DIY Digital Camera Repair’s “toothpick method” in this video:

Incompatible memory cards

Keep in mind that some newer memory cards, such as SDHC and SDXC, are incompatible with older cameras.

For instance, if you try to pair an older Canon camera with a new SD memory card, you may run into issues with the memory card.


Although it can be panic-inducing to realize that your memory card is locked, never fear! Resolving this problem can be as easy as simply sliding a switch upwards.

Note that sometimes the cause is due to a faulty switch, or perhaps incompatibility between your memory card and camera.

If you find that your memory card is encountering errors, you might want to consider formatting it — remember to format the card via your Canon camera instead of a computer. Or, if you are seeking to retrieve images, check out another post on how to recover Canon photos.

I hope that you found this article to be useful. Feel free to leave any thoughts or comments in the section below.

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  • Diane Marie kutepow

    thank you you fixed it for me