How to Disable USB Ports & Block USB Mass Storage Devices

A 32 gigabyte USB flash drive sitting on top of a computer keyboard

Want to control the use of unauthorized USB devices in your network? In this guide I will show you how to disable USB ports with three different methods: Using dedicated device control software to disable USB ports, Windows Device Manager, and Group Policies through Active Directory. 

With these methods you’ll be able to disable USB ports in Windows 10, Windows 7, and other Windows operating systems.

AccessPatrol is a device control software solution that protects sensitive data against theft to portable storage devices.

AccessPatrol keeps data secure by…

  • Preventing users from stealing data or transferring malicious files with easily concealed USB flash drives
  • Maintaining auditable records of file transfers to portable storage devices, and…
  • Triggering real-time alerts when security policies are violated

AccessPatrol’s central console allows you to apply security policies and run reports on your user’s USB activities from the convenience of a web browser. 

The security policies are enforced by a software agent that is installed on your user’s computers. This keeps devices restricted and monitored even when the computers are taken off of the network.

Here’s an overview of AccessPatrol’s key features.

Under Device Permissions you can assign unique device control policies for specific groups of computers or users. 

AccessPatrol controls a variety of peripherals, including…

  • Storage devices such as USB flash drives and external hard drives
  • Wireless Devices such as Bluetooth, Infrared, and WiFi
  • Communication Ports such as Serial and Parallel ports
  • Imaging Devices such as Scanners or Cameras, and…
  • Other Devices such as network share drives, printers, and mobile phones

Under the allowed list you can specify trusted devices that can be used on your computers.

If you need to temporarily lift device restrictions for devices that aren’t on the allowed list, you can use the access code generator.

This allows you to set a time-limited policy exemption for a specific computer. The access code generator does not require internet access to work, making it the ideal solution for travelling users and other special circumstances.

To further protect sensitive data, AccessPatrol allows you to block file transfers based on file names and extensions. This ensures that even allowed devices can’t transfer sensitive data.

AccessPatrol also includes a variety of USB activity reports to help organizations audit data transfers and peripheral device use.

These reports provide insight into…

  • All files that have been copied, created, renamed, or deleted on USB storage devices, and…
  • A timestamped device history for each user, including attempts to use blocked devices

AccessPatrol’s reports can be generated on-demand, on a set schedule, or automatically sent to your inbox to alert you of specific events.

Don’t let a preventable data leak ruin your organization. Take back control over portable storage devices with a free trial of AccessPatrol.

Get started today by visiting CurrentWare.com/Download

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Table of Contents

Why Disable USB Ports?

Prevent Data Theft

Your employees have intimate access to corporate data and knowledge of internal systems. Without proper access control measures stealing data is as simple as transferring it to a portable mass storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Flash drives are capable of storing greater than 1TB of data, which is more than sufficient for exfiltrating databases, spreadsheets, design files, and any other intellectual property that needs to be protected.

One use of Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software is blocking the copying of files to a USB flash drive. This prevents employees from using their privileged position to steal sensitive information such as trade secrets and personally identifiable information. 


data theft prevention - a guide to offboarding employees - CurrentWare

The employee offboarding process presents significant data security risks. Employees have intimate access to corporate data, insider knowledge of the organization’s systems, and a level of trust that can allow them to steal data undetected.

  • 70% of intellectual property theft occurs within the 90 days before an employee’s resignation announcement
  • 88% of IT workers have stated that they would take sensitive data with them if they were fired
  • 72% of CEOs admit they’ve taken valuable intellectual property (IP) from a former employer
  • 50% of respondents in a Symantec survey say they have taken information, and 40% say they will use it in their new jobs

These vulnerabilities need to be addressed as part of any insider threat management program. Click here to learn the best practices for protecting data during a termination and gain access to a downloadable IT offboarding checklist.


Protect Endpoints Against USB Malware

USB devices can unknowingly infect company computers with ransomware and other malicious software. Disabling USB ports protects endpoints against rogue USB devices by proactively preventing the transmission of malicious files.

How to Disable USB Ports With AccessPatrol

Hi there welcome to the CurrentWare video where today we will show you how to block employees from using USB devices at work. CurrentWare has been a leading provider of Internet restriction, employee productivity, and endpoint management software for over 15 years.

We’re excited to show you the administrative console today. In order to block employees from using USB devices at work you’d first be required to install the CurrentWare agent on each of your employee’s computers.

You can either do this by local or remote client install. Once the installation is complete the different computers and users will show up on the left side of the screen. The departments and groupings will be based on the directories that you assign for the CurrentWare console.

In this example, we have the administrator, development, marketing, and three other folders available. Once this is configured you have the ability to determine which devices are blocked or allowed using our AccessPatrol solution.

When we click into the device blocking section you can see the different devices that are available: Storage, wireless, and different ports. You have the simple ability to click into USB and choose between full access, read-only, or no access. No access would mean that no employee in that directory has access to use their USB

As you can see on the left side there are a lot more configuration options available. With the prevalence of cell phones, external hard drives, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, many IT departments have chosen to block these endpoints from being available for employees today.

In addition on Accesspatrol, you have the ability for device reporting. You can see the different files that are transferred between devices or if there are any block devices you have the ability to actually see which ones were plugged in.

In this example, we can see Brandon’s access of blocked devices. We’re able to see that although USB devices were blocked for Brandon he actually tried to plug in USB devices many times. AccessPatrol has many different ways to configure reports but also set up different device access for users, groupings, and departments.

We hope you found this demo useful and we’d be glad to show you more about AccessPatrol and the benefits that CurrentWare can provide by visiting CurrentWare.com. A 14-day free trial the software is also available. Thank you for watching!

Note: The above video contains a legacy user interface for AccessPatrol. Continue reading to see screenshot of the new and improved web console.


AccessPatrol is a granular and easy-to-use software to disable USB ports in Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7. It allows you to control access to USB devices and other peripherals based on users, computers, workgroups, and domain membership. 

This level of control allows you to protect against unauthorized USB devices without blocking the legitimate use of company-controlled peripherals. That way, rather than fully disabling USB ports you can selectively control the USB devices you would like to allow.

It is also a centralized USB blocker software, allowing you to control USB device permissions for thousands of users from a single console. This makes restricting USB ports for your entire workforce as easy as a few clicks.

To disable USB ports with AccessPatrol you simply need to install the CurrentWare Console on the Manager’s computer, install the CurrentWare Client on the computers that you would like to disable USB ports on, and return to the CurrentWare Console to assign USB device permissions based on user, endpoint, or workgroup.

Devices That Can Be Controlled With AccessPatrol

In addition to disabling USB ports, the AccessPatrol endpoint security software can block or limit the use of the following peripheral devices. Endpoint device restrictions can be configured based on computer, user, or workgroup.

Device ClassDevicesAccess Permissions
Storage DevicesUSBFull / Read only / No access
DVD /CDFull / Read only / No access
FloppyFull / Read only / No access
TapeFull / Read only / No access
External Hard driveFull / Read only / No access
FirewireFull / Read only / No access
SD CardFull / Read only / No access
MM CardFull / Read only / No access
Wireless DevicesBluetoothFull / No access
InfraredFull / No access
WifiFull / No access
Communication PortsSerialFull / No access
ParallelFull / No access
Imaging DevicesScannersFull / No access
Cameras, Webcams & OthersFull / No access
OthersPrintersFull / No access
USB Ethernet AdapterFull / No access
Sound CardsFull / No access
Portable Devices (iPhones, Mobiles)Full / No access
Network ShareFull / No access

How to Prevent Specific Files From Being Transferred From USB Ports

AccessPatrol allows you to prevent specific files from being transferred to external devices based on their filename or file extension.  

  1. Open the CurrentWare Console
    central management console for AccessPatrol endpoint security solutions
  2. Select the computers or users you would like to control
  3. Under the AccessPatrol tab, select Block File Transfers
    Screenshot of AccessPatrol's USB file transfer blocking feature
  4. Under Enter File Name or Extension, type in the desired extension (CSV, BAK, CAD, etc) or file name (client-list, archive, etc) that you would like to block
  5. Click Add, then click Close
  6. Click Apply to Clients and then click OK

By default AccessPatrol’s Block File Transfers feature will not apply these restrictions to devices that have been added to the Allow List.

If you would also like to block these file transfers to authorized USB devices you simply need to click the “Apply Block File Transfers on Allowed Devices” checkbox before applying the policy to the clients.

How to Disable USB Ports For Mass Storage Devices Only

AccessPatrol device permissions window with USB drives blocked

If you would like to disable USB ports for mass storage only (e.g. without blocking keyboards, mice, and other desired USB devices) you can do that with AccessPatrol.

By default, when disabling USB ports with AccessPatrol it will distinguish between USB mass storage devices and other peripherals such as keyboards and mice. It also provides granular control over other portable storage devices such as external hard drives, SD Cards, and mobile phones.

AccessPatrol’s ability to distinguish between mass storage and keyboards makes it the best USB mass storage device blocking software for business.

  1. Open the CurrentWare Console
    central management console for AccessPatrol endpoint security solutions
  2. Select the group(s) of computers or users you would like to control
  3. Under the AccessPatrol tab, select Device Permissions
    Screenshot of AccessPatrols peripheral device blocking permissions window
  4. Under Storage Devices, select USB

    Device Blocking window Screenshot of CurrentWare's USB device control software AccessPatrol
  5. Under Access Permissions set the desired level of restriction (Full Access, Read Only, No Access)
  6. Click Apply and then click OK

After following these steps you will be blocking USB mass storage devices while still allowing keyboards and mice to function.

How to Allow a Specific USB Device When USB Ports Are Disabled

Grant Ongoing Access to Authorized USB Devices

With AccessPatrol’s Allowed List you can disable USB ports while still allowing specific authorized USB devices.

  1. Connect the desired USB device to any computer that has a CurrentWare Client installed
  2. Open the CurrentWare Console
    central management console for AccessPatrol endpoint security solutions
  3. Select the folder with the computers or users you would like to control
  4. Under the AccessPatrol tab, select Allowed List
    AccessPatrol device allowed list
  5. Click “Add From Available Devices”
  6. Choose a device from the Vendor ID, Serial Number and/or PNP Device ID lists
    Screenshot of AccessPatrol's USB device allow list
  7. Click on Add to Allowed List, then click OK

Administrators can use AccessPatrol’s Device Allowed List to establish a list of devices that their end-users can use on company devices, even when USB ports are disabled.

You can choose to allow devices by the following identifiers:

  • Vendor ID
  • Serial number
  • PNP device ID

Device whitelisting is configured on a per-folder basis. Devices that are added to the allowed list for a given folder will apply to any computers that are in the specified folder. AccessPatrol’s allowed list supports USBs, External Hard drives, Imaging devices, and portable devices.

Note: Allowing a device by serial number is fully compatible with Windows 10. For Windows 7 or 8, some newer models of USB devices may not support this feature. Instead of allowing by serial number, it will allow all devices from the same vendor and model.

How to Temporarily Allow USB Devices

AccessPatrol can grant temporary access to blocked devices using it’s access code generator

Administrators and authorized managers can use the generator to produce a single-use code that provides users with a set duration where the computer’s USB ports are no longer disabled by AccessPatrol. 

The access code is unique to each computer that you generate for and the computers do not need to be connected to the internet to use it. So long as the CurrentWare client is installed on the employee’s computer they can be provided with temporary access to USB devices.

  1. Generate a temporary access code
    Screenshot of AccessPatrol's access code Code Generator to temporarily enable USB devices
  • Open the CurrentWare Console
  • Select the computers or users you would like to provide temporary USB device access to
  • Click “Access Code Generator”
  • Choose the expiration date and duration of the access code
  • Click Generate to create a temporary access code
  1. Activate the temporary access code from the employee’s computer
grant access to endpoint devices from control panel
  • Have the employee open the Control Panel
  • Set “View By” to large icons or small icons
  • Click “Grant access to endpoint devices”
  • Have the employee enter the temporary access code into the dialogue box, then click “Unlock”

How to Use the Device Manager to Disable USB Ports

If you would like to completely disable individual USB ports on a per-computer basis, you can do so with Windows Device Manager. 

This method is the most cumbersome to manage when an employee needs legitimate access to authorized USB devices as you will need to manually re-enable the ports from the device itself rather than using a central console.

  1. Log in to an administrator account
  2. Right-click on the Start menu
  3. Click on Device Manager
  4. Click on Universal Serial Bus controllers to view all of the USB ports
  5. Right click on the USB port that you would like to disable
  6. Select “Disable device”
  7. Restart the computer to apply the changes

To ensure that the employee does not manually re-enable the ports you will need to ensure they do not have access to an administrator account. To re-enable the ports simply perform steps 1-5 and select “Enable device”. 

How to Disable USB Ports Using Group Policy

If you would like detailed instructions on how to use a Group Policy Object to block employees from using USB devices you can visit this guide on the CurrentWare blog.

Although applying group policies is a useful way to control the usage of USB storage devices in an organization, there are disadvantages that should not go unnoticed. 

GPO vs USB Blocking Software:

  1. Applying unique USB restrictions to different departments and users with a GPO is complicated for the average user. It also requires proficiency with Active Directory to manage at-scale.
  2. Dedicated USB mass storage device blocking software such as AccessPatrol is easy to manage, allowing the modification of policy updates to be delegated to less technically savvy users.
  3. Managing unique USB policies for individual users is more intuitive when using dedicated USB blocking software.

Conclusion

Using software to disable USB ports is critical for protecting sensitive data against theft through unauthorized USB devices. If you would like to easily manage USB device permissions in your company you can get started with a free trial of AccessPatrol USB device control software today.

removable media policy template mockup

Removable Media
Policy Template

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Get started today—Download the FREE template and customize it to fit the needs of your organization.

Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland is a Marketing Coordinator for CurrentWare, a global provider of endpoint security and employee monitoring software. Dale’s diverse multimedia background allows him the opportunity to produce a variety of content for CurrentWare including blogs, infographics, videos, eBooks, and social media shareables.