The exFAT file system is ideal for flash drives and SD cards. It’s like FAT32, but without the 4 GB file size limit. You can use exFAT drives on Linux with full read-write support, but you’ll need to install a few packages first.

Try connecting an exFAT-formatted drive without installing the required software and you’ll often see “Unable to mount” error message saying “unknown file system type: ‘exfat’.”

How to Install exFAT Support

We performed this process on Ubuntu 14.04, but it’ll be similar on other versions of Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.

First, open a Terminal window from your applications menu. On Ubuntu and similar Linux distributions, type the following command and press Enter to install the appropriate packages. You’ll have to enter your password, too.

sudo apt-get install exfat-fuse exfat-utils

On other Linux distributions, use the appropriate software-installation command or open the graphical user interface and look for the “exfat-fuse” and “exfat-utils” packages. They may be called something a bit different — search for “exfat” and you should find them if they’re available in your Linux distribution’s package repositories.

Mount exFAT Drives Automatically

After you’ve installed the appropriate software, you can just connect an exFAT drive to your computer and it will be mounted automatically. If it’s already connected, just unplug the drive and plug it back in.

Modern Linux desktop environments are smart enough to automatically mount file systems when you connect removable devices, and — once you’ve installed the required software for mounting exFAT drives — they’ll work automatically. You can use them normally without ever pulling up a terminal again, and you’ll have full read-write support.

Mount exFAT Drives From the Terminal

This should “just work” with modern desktop environments, so the below commands shouldn’t be necessary. But, if you’re using a Linux distribution or desktop environment that doesn’t automatically mount file systems for you — or if you’re just using the terminal — you may need to mount the file system in the old-fashioned way.

This can be done just like you’d mount any other partition, using the “-t exfat” switch to tell the mount command to mount a file system as exFAT.

To do this, first create a directory that will be the “mount point” for the exFAT file system. The below command creates a directory at /media/exfat:

sudo mkdir /media/exfat

Next, run the following command to mount the device. In the example below, the device is located at /dev/sdc1. This is the first partition (1) on the third device (c). If you have a single drive in the computer and you just connected a USB drive to it, there’s a good chance the exFAT file system will be /dev/sdb1 instead.

sudo mount -t exfat /dev/sdc1 /media/exfat

You can now access the contents of the drive at the mount point you specified. In the example above, that’s /media/exfat. To unmount the partition when you’re done with it, just run the following command, specifying the appropriate device you specified earlier. You can then remove the storage device from your computer, if you like.

sudo umount /dev/sdc1

The exfat-utils package also contains a “mkfs.exfat” command. You can use this command to format partitions with the exFAT file system from Linux, if you like. You can also just format them with exFAT from Windows, Mac, or other devices that support exFAT.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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