How to delete locked images in Image Capture

The problem may lie with the SD card.

image capture hero

Steve Harris is trying to delete images in the Image Capture app, but a lock icon appears on photos. He wonders how to proceed.

The most common reason for this is that you’ve mounted a memory card through a Mac’s SD Card slot or an external card reader, but the card’s tiny lock switch has been flipped on. I have never intentionally used the lock switch, which is designed to prevent accidentally overwriting images and video as a physical, on-demand read-only setting.

Eject the card, then flip the switch to the unlocked position, then mount again. The locks should be gone. If they remain, the card may be damaged. SD cards are tiny computers that manage the wear pattern on what is effectively an SSD. If the on-board computer determines it can’t write data, the only indication would be these locks in Image Capture.

You can copy all the media off and try reformatting in a camera, but if that fails, the card has gone bad.

mac911 lock icons image capture

Lock icons should only appear when the media, usually an SD card, is set to read-only.

Ask Mac 911

We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions we get, and the answers to them: read our super FAQ to see if you’re covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to including screen captures as appropriate. Mac 911 cannot reply to email with troubleshooting advice nor can we publish answers to every question.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter