Two months ago, I decided to try openSUSE for the first time. After trying both the rolling release and stable versions, I concluded that I didn't like either of them. So, I just resorted to installing KDE Neon. I downloaded the ISO file from the official site, as usual, and then, I burned it using a startup disk creator, as usual. I don't remember if I used the native openSUSE program or GNOME Multiwriter because I didn't think it would matter at the time.

In the next two months, I experimented with a lot of programs and features on KDE Neon. Fast-forward to last week, I decided it would be a good idea to make a fresh install to get rid of any files that were left of the intense experimentation. So, I would simply format the USB drive and burn a newer KDE Neon ISO image on it. I tried to format it with the KDE Partition manager utility, but then, I realized something was different. I couldn't format it, because it was read-only.

Nothing within KDE Partition manager helped, so I installed Gparted. Nothing, it displayed a message saying that it couldn't format the ISO9660 partition nor create a new partition table. Then, I tried a lot of commands. Some of them. And, BTW, the USB doesn't have the physical switch to protect it.

sudo dosfsck -a /dev/sdb
fsck.fat 4.1 (2017-01-24)
open: Read-only file system

sudo mkfs /dev/sdb
mke2fs 1.44.1 (24-Mar-2018)
/dev/sdb contains a iso9660 filesystem labelled 'neon user 20200409-11:26'
Proceed anyway? (y/N) y
/dev/sdb: Read-only file system while setting up superblock

sudo fsck.vfat -f -v /dev/sdb
fsck.fat 4.1 (2017-01-24)
open: Read-only file system

sudo hdparm -r0 /dev/sdb && sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb
setting readonly to 0 (off)
readonly      =  0 (off)
dd: failed to open '/dev/sdb': Read-only file system

I'll also put the output of lsblk:

loop0                   7:0    0    55M  1 loop  /snap/core18/1880
loop1                   7:1    0  29.8M  1 loop  /snap/snapd/8140
loop2                   7:2    0  29.9M  1 loop  /snap/snapd/8542
loop3                   7:3    0    55M  1 loop  /snap/core18/1754
sda                     8:0    0 931.5G  0 disk  
├─sda1                  8:1    0   731M  0 part  /boot
└─sda5                  8:5    0 930.8G  0 part  
   └─sda5_crypt        253:0    0 930.8G  0 crypt 
      ├─neon--vg-root   253:1    0 929.8G  0 lvm   /
      └─neon--vg-swap_1 253:2    0   976M  0 lvm   [SWAP]
sdb                     8:16   1  29.5G  0 disk  
├─sdb1                  8:17   1   1.5G  1 part  
└─sdb2                  8:18   1   2.3M  1 part  
sr0                    11:0    1  1024M  0 rom

So, according to my previous knowledge, and confirmed by what I read, ISO9660 isn't writable. If a drive had that file system, it would work as an expensive CD. Still, I thought there could still be a way to empty the drive. After all, to use a drive to install a distro, it has to use the ISO format. That's what I don't understand. I've created bootable USB drives a lot of times. I even tested two versions of openSUSE, so the drive was ok until I used it to install KDE Neon. Something that I've definitively done at least ten times without any issues. I can't wrap my head around what could have happened. If someone had any ideas, I would be very grateful.

  • 1
    Reset USB flash that was dd'd to make it usable again, reuse askubuntu.com/questions/939230/… & help.ubuntu.com/community/mkusb#Re-use_the_pendrive
    – oldfred
    Jul 19 '20 at 3:27
  • @oldfred thanks for answering, I tried that solution. It says again that the file system is read-only. I think the wise thing to do is buy a new USB drive. It would be great if I could find out what happened, though. dd: failed to open '/dev/sdb': Read-only file system 64.0KiB 0:00:00 [ 124MiB/s] [ <=>] Jul 19 '20 at 4:57
  • Just out of curiosity, what happens if you type the following? for x in /dev/sdb*; do wipefs -a $x; done Jul 19 '20 at 5:12
  • 1
    When you have tried in different computers, removed all other USB devices and rebooted, and the device /dev/sdx of your drive is read-only we can conclude, that the drive is damaged beyond repair. Sorry, but things like this happen with USB pendrives and memory cards.
    – sudodus
    Jul 19 '20 at 6:41
  • 1
    It is hard to see, from what you have written, what is not working. However you need to not write to the file-system. You need to write to the partition-table (that is not in the file-system). It should be written to /dev/sd? (there ? is a letter), not to /dev/sd??. Where ?? is a letter and number. Jan 20 '21 at 17:14

I remember this question on stack exchange to be the most detailed one.

Among that post I think the answer by mnemonic will do the job. You can post further updates if you are stuck.

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