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.

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

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

sudo gparted

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

Your USB drive is now ready to store your files!