How to Format External USB | Portable Drives on Ubuntu 18.04

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This brief tutorial shows students and new users how to format external USB and other portable drives on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS…

If you’re a student or new user looking for a Linux system to start learning on, the easiest place to start is Ubuntu Linux OS…. It’s a great Linux operating system for beginners.

Ubuntu is an open source Linux operating systems that runs on desktops, laptops, server and other devices…

During your introduction to Ubuntu, you will find that Linux isn’t so different than Windows and other operating systems in so many ways, especially when it comes to using the system to get work done.…

Both Ubuntu and Windows systems allow you to be productive, easy to use, reliable and enable you to install and run thousands of programs, from gaming to productivity suite software for individuals and businesses.

However, when you’re learning to use and understand Ubuntu Linux, you should also learn how to use the command line to terminal. Most Linux users should be able to do some basic command line tasks. This tutorial is going to show you how….

Below you’ll be able to format external drives which erases everything on the disk and leaves the disk empty. You’ll want to be very sure before you proceed.

After you format the disk, you’ll then be able to store new information on it. If you’re going to be using the disk on Windows, Mac OS and Linux computers then you should use FAT to format the disk partitions works on all systems.

If you’re only going use it on Windows computer, then go with NTFS partition.

Formatting a disk is not a completely secure way of wiping all of its data. A formatted disk will not appear to have files on it, but it is still possible that special recovery software could retrieve the files.

If you need to securely delete the files, you will need to use a command-line utility, such as shred.

When you ready to format external drives on Ubuntu desktop, continue below:

Option 1: Use Ubuntu Disk App (GUI)

First step is to insert or plug the disk to your Ubuntu machine. After that, open the Activities Overview and search for Disk.

When the disk app opens. select the disk you wish to format.

Make sure that you have selected the correct disk! If you choose the wrong disk, all of the files on the other disk will be deleted!

Ubuntu Disk Format

In the toolbar underneath the Volumes section, click the menu button. Then click Format Partition

Ubuntu disk format

On the next page, give the drive a new name after formatting. Again, if you’re going to be using the disk on Windows, Mac OS and Linux computers then you should choose to format with FAT filesystem. If you’re going to only use it on Windows computers then select NTFS.

Ubuntu format disk

Click Next and continue. when you’re

When you’re sure that the drive you selected is the correct drive and ready to format, click the red Format button to complete the process.

Ubuntu format disk

Depending on the speed of your machine and the size of the disk, this should be too long. Once the formatting has finished, click the eject icon to safely remove the disk. It should now be blank and ready to use again.

Option 2: Using Ubuntu Command Line

As above, you can use the command line to accomplish the same.

When the disk is in, run the command below to print or show attached block devices.


That should output similar lines as shown below:

loop14   7:14   0  42.8M  1 loop /snap/gtk-common-themes/1313
loop15   7:15   0  34.6M  1 loop /snap/gtk-common-themes/818
loop16   7:16   0   956K  1 loop /snap/gnome-logs/73
loop17   7:17   0     4M  1 loop /snap/gnome-calculator/406
sda      8:0    0  30.4G  0 disk 
└─sda1   8:1    0  30.4G  0 part /
sdb      8:16   0    10G  0 disk /media/richard/Private
sr0     11:0    1  1024M  0 rom  

The highlighted line show the disk I inserted and where it’s mounted.

Again, formatting a disk will wipe the disk of all content. so you must be sure you want to format and want to format the correct disk.

Now that you know where the disk is named and where’s it’s mounted, run the commands below to format and erase the disk.

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=4096 status=progress

Depending on the size and speed of your computer, this could take some time. When the process is done, you should see similar lines as below:

10712887296 bytes (11 GB, 10 GiB) copied, 11 s, 974 MB/s
dd: error writing '/dev/sdb': No space left on device
2621441+0 records in
2621440+0 records out
10737418240 bytes (11 GB, 10 GiB) copied, 11.0205 s, 974 MB/s

After that,  you can begin for format with appropriate partition table.

To use the disk everywhere, you’ll want to format with FAT32 filesystem. These are the common filesystems on Windows: exFAT and NTFS

Run the commands below to create a msdos (FAT32) table on the disk.

sudo parted /dev/sdb --script -- mklabel msdos

Then create a FAT32 partition tables on the entire disk

sudo parted /dev/sdb --script -- mkpart primary fat32 1MiB 100%

Finally, format the disk with Fat32

sudo mkfs.vfat -F32 /dev/sdb1

That’s it! This is how one formats external drive on Ubuntu Linux.

Congratulations! you have learned how to format external disk Ubuntu Linux

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1 Comment

  1. Don’t be surprised that the maximum file size on the formatted HD is 4Gb only. (maximum for Fat 32)

    I would recommend to format the harddisk on a Windows machine to the Exfat file system, which supports large files.

    After that u need to add Exfat file system support to your Ubuntu system:

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