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How to Format a USB Drive in Ubuntu Using GParted

If a USB hard drive or flash drive is not properly formatted, then it will not show up in the Ubuntu Places menu, making it hard to interact with. We’ll show you how to format a USB drive using the tool GParted.

Note: Formatting a USB drive will destroy any data currently stored on it. If you think that your USB drive is already properly formatted, but Ubuntu just isn’t picking it up, try unplugging it and plugging it back in to a different USB slot, or restarting your machine with the device plugged in on start-up.

Open a terminal by clicking on Applications in the top-left of the screen, then Accessories > Terminal.

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GParted should be installed by default, but we’ll make sure it’s installed by entering the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install gparted

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To open GParted, enter the following command in the terminal:

sudo gparted

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Find your USB drive in the drop-down box at the top right of the GParted window.

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The drive should be unallocated – if it has a valid partition on it, then you may be looking at the wrong drive.

Note: Make sure you’re on the correct drive, as making changes on the wrong hard drive with GParted can delete all data on a hard drive!

Assuming you’re on the right drive, right-click on the unallocated grey block and click New. In the window that pops up, change the File System to fat32 for USB Flash Drives, NTFS for USB Hard Drives that will be used in Windows, or ext3/ext4 for USB Hard Drives that will be used exclusively in Linux. Add a label if you’d like, and then click Add.

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Click the green checkmark and then the Apply button to apply the changes.

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GParted will now format your drive. If you’re formatting a large USB Hard Drive, this can take some time.

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Once the process is done, you can close GParted, and the drive will now show up in the Places menu.

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Clicking on the drive will mount it and open it in a File Browser window. It will also add a shortcut to the drive on the Desktop by default.

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Your USB drive is now ready to store your files!

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 05/11/10

Comments (12)

  1. Bicho Pro

    Its not necessary! you can right click on it and format

  2. Trevor Bekolay

    @Bicho Pro

    Right, but if the drive is unformatted it won’t be listed in the Places menu for you to format.

  3. Dinesh

    Good work Trevor.

  4. Fernando

    Valeu!

  5. Hatryst

    @ Trevor: Awesome article. I want to know how will you PARTITION a USB drive using GParted.
    Thanks!

  6. Trevor Bekolay

    @ Hatryst

    I don’t think there’s anything special about partitioning a USB drive compared to partitioning any other drive. It’s possible that USB keys might not support that, but I don’t see why. Check out GParted’s documentation at http://gparted.sourceforge.net/larry/generalities/gparted.htm

    Ctrl+F and find the section “Creating a new partition”. That should let you create the partitions that you want. If your USB drive is already partitioned, which it probably is, you’ll have to delete the main partition first, and then add whatever partitions you want after that.

  7. Lew

    @ Bicho Pro “right click on it and format” is not possible on my Ubuntu, even though I do see the mounted usb listed in my panel.

  8. Vinz

    Awesome Dude…
    Hats off U……….
    cheers

  9. Aditya

    Hey dude .. i have a 32 GB USB flash drive. I tried partitioning it as per below

    Partition # Size of Partition Name of Partition File Format

    1 15 GB Ubuntu ext4
    2 7 GB Ubuntu Data ext4
    3 10 GB Windows Data FAT32

    It works fine with Ubuntu .. but when i switch to windows … it asks me if i want to format the flash disk as it has not been formatted properly ! Can you help ?

    I was assuming that the partitions with ext4 file system will not show up in windows .. and the pen drive size in windows would be 10 GB ..

    Pls help !

    Thanks a lot for the info @ gparted :) .. got it working after a lot of hunting online !

  10. Mr Logatho

    i fail to unmount my flash disk

  11. Prabir

    Best will be just issue

    fidisk -l

    notice your pendrive e.g.(/dev/sdb or /dev/sdc etc)

    then give

    # mkfs.vfat -In ‘Some Label’ /dev/sdc

    /dev/sdc – This is ur pendrive. You should see this while giving the fdisk -l command.

  12. gary

    Very helpful thanks

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