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When I want to transfer files from my local hard drive to my thumbdrive, I keep getting this error:

Filesystem does not support symbolic links. 

I don't know what this is, I need help with transferring files.

Dragging and dropping, does not work for me, the error appears. Right-click on the file and select copy, and then right click on the thumbdrive and select Paste does not work, I am still getting the same error.

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dragging and dropping, does not work for me, the error appears. right click on the file and select Copy, and then right click on the thumbdrive and select Paste does not work, I am still getting the same error. –  owl Nov 8 '12 at 13:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A symbolic link is a file that points to another file, a kind of alias for a filepath. It is not compatible with the FAT-32 filesystem commonly found on USB drives.

To find the symbolic link, you can open the terminal and do an ls -al in the directory you are having problems with - the symbolic link will have an l as the first character in the listing (where directories have a d). Or else, you can do a find DIR -type l where DIR is a directory that might (indirectly) contain symbolic links (. is ok too).

If you want to copy the content: ls -al LINK, where LINK is your link, will tell you where it points to (if LINK is a directory you will have to remove the final slash in case you have one). Just copy that.

N.B.: ls -l is normally sufficient, I just added the a in order to display hidden files, whose name starts with a dot - for the case where the link is a hidden file.

But, if you are afraid of the terminal: in Nautilus (the file browser), the icons of links are marked by a small arrow on the bottom right (but not all icons marked like that are links). If you right click on the icon and select Properties, if it is a link, its Type will start with Link to, and its Link target will tell you where the real stuff is (unless that is a link itself, in which case you will have to follow the chain).

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The file you are trying to copy is apparently a symbolic link, which just points to another file. Removable media typically are formatted with a Microsoft filesystem such as FAT32 or NTFS, which do not support symbolic links, so you can not place one on the drive. Note that copying just the link would not do any good anyhow since having the link without the file it points to would be useless.

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NTFS does well support symbolic links, however they are in Interix format. They are usually converted in Ubuntu when using the ntfs-3g driver. But I agree on your opinion that copying symlinks itself might create more problems. –  Mateng Nov 8 '12 at 15:02

Your thumbdrive/pendrive is probably formatted as FAT32. Try formatting it as NTFS (Make sure to backup it's content first). Of course, EXT3/EXT4 support symlinks too - but you'll have compatibilty issues with non-Linux systems then.
Check out this related thread.

But, as psusi correctly mentions - copying a symbolic link can create more problems because it might point to a file or folder on your local harddrive and therefore will not be accessible from other computers. Symlinks are preserved if they are relative symlinks (e.g., pointing to a directory above the current directory).

According to rumors NTFS-formatted pendrives tend to wear out earlier. This is not verified :). [Edited]

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I disagree with your part about NTFS_formatted pendrives wearing out faster. I have a 8GB USB flash drive from at least 7 years ago, and its formatted NTFS. It still works. Also, relying on yahoo answers for things you are quoting as advice is not exactly a good thing. –  Thomas W. Nov 8 '12 at 13:34
Indeed, the wearing out faster is FUD, and more importantly, NTFS also does not support symbolic links. –  psusi Nov 8 '12 at 14:11
I wasn't aware that it is bogus, good to know. I changed my wording. NTFS however does support symlinks. I guess NTFS is the better choice, because a flashdrive formatted in EXT3/EXT4 can't be read from non-Linux systems. –  Mateng Nov 8 '12 at 14:39

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