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I encrypted a flashdrive using TrueCrypt, but now I've changed my mind and I want to format it as an unencrypted drive. When I plug it in it is no longer appears on the launcher or in the Nautilus sidebar (until I mount it as an encrypted drive via TrueCrypt, which appears in the Nautilus sidebar, but even then the flash drive itself is not recognised).

How can I access/mount it in order to format it?

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When you plug it in and open Disk Utility, what do you get? You really should see it listed, mounted or not. Can you please try that and edit the question? – Tom Brossman Dec 24 '12 at 10:24
@TomBrossman that worked, thanks! I clarified the question to highlight my (false) expectations, feel free to post an answer on that basis, or I'll answer myself – d3vid Dec 24 '12 at 11:33
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Using Disk Utility or Gparted, delete the partition and create a new one, format it to your choice of filesystem. Disk Utility may have a problem deleting partitions it doesn't understand which may include an encrypted partition. If Gparted also has this problem, open a terminal window and use the following command:

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdX bs=512 count=1

Where /dev/sdX is the device name of the USB drive. Make sure you have the right device because there will be nothing left on the target device after you press enter. It deletes the partition table entirely.

You can then re-commission the USB device by using Gparted to create a new partition table then create the primary partition and format it as before.

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One does not need to "access" or unencrypt the drive just to format it. By your question, I'm assuming you needed to pull some stored data off the flashdrive before reformatting it and this is why you ended your question asking for how to access the drive. With the drive still encrypted, you can reformat it. But you will lose any stored data present on the encrypted drive. To reformat the flashdrive without gaining access to it first, you should plug in the flashdrive and then open the "Disk Utility" program that you can find via Dash. In Disk Utility, the flashdrive's drive will appear as a "Peripheral Device" in the left column of Disk Utility. Locate your flashdrive and select it: all the format/partition options available will be presented in the main body of the program.

To pull stored data off the drive before reformatting you will need to access/mount the drive before you reformat. You can access/mount the drive by doing the following: 1) Plug in your encrypted USB flashdrive. 2) Start the TrueCrypt program > click on the "Select Device" button and in the window that opens select the drive that matches your flashdrive (match it by size, etc.) and then click OK. 3) Click the "Mount" button > input your password. The encrypted material should now show up as an entry in your Places column in Nautilus.

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I explained how one can mount an encrypted TrueCrypt volume as the question asked. Why was my answer voted down? Can someone tell me so I can learn why this was a bad answer? – Greg Dec 27 '12 at 2:00
hi greg, I didn't vote your answer down but I can see what the problem is: it doesn't answer the question - the question is about formatting a usb drive (that is a truecrypt volume), not mounting a truecrypt volume, but thanks anyway (if you have an alternate answer you can edit your answer, or you can delete your answer in which case I think you might get the rep back, but I'm not 100% sure about that) – d3vid Dec 27 '12 at 8:09
hi d3vid. I see you are the OP. Sorry I misunderstood the question. I have added to my answer. I mistook your question as a problem in gaining access to the drive in order to pull content off it before reformatting the drive. Hopefully, my edit of my answer better answers your questions. – Greg Dec 27 '12 at 14:02

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