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Using Ubuntu 11.10, how do I format an external or USB drive? I don't find an option to 'format' when I right click. In the new version, the drives don't come up on the desktop but instead come on the Launcher.

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5 Answers 5

You can use the disk utility(installed by default) to format the drive. There is an option 'format volume' select that option.

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And what if I get "Error creating partition table: helper exited with exit code 1: cannot open /dev/sdc: Read-only file system"? –  Bucic Feb 17 '12 at 18:51
What's the package name for this application? I don't have it installed on Kubuntu. –  enedene Aug 28 '12 at 18:15
Thanks! I appreciate the helpful answer. –  user973810 Feb 1 '14 at 18:04

Formatting a USB drive (Updated for Ubuntu 13.04)

Type Disks in Dash

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Click on the little gears to open the sub menu as seen in the image below, and click on Format.

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Once the format window appear, choose the way you want to erase, The type of format, and volume name if you need, and then click on format as shown in the image below.

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Works also in ubuntu 13.10! –  Юнгвирт Тони Dec 26 '13 at 12:09

I would recommend you installing GParted which is quite a powerful tool but still easy to use:

sudo apt-get install gparted

when you installed and opened it, it should be self-explanatory, otherwise dont hesitate to ask in a comment.

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Just a note: You need to actualize/commit the changes for them to take effect. –  hexafraction Aug 2 '12 at 15:44

You can try the Gparted program for all your partitioning tasks.

You could search for it in the Ubuntu Software Centre or you could type in the terminal

sudo apt-get install gparted

With Gparted you can format your External HDD partition to ext4. But the partition should be unmounted.

Select your externel hard drive from the top right corner (it would be marked as /dev/sdb most probably), then right click on the partition, and format.


After formatting, click on the accept button (its in the middle of the menubar) to save the changes.

Now you would have successfully formatted your external drive to ext4, and it would show up in Gparted as a single ext4 partition.


As suggested by hellocatfood, after formatting the drive, one will have to take ownership of it as well... So, To do that, type in the terminal-

sudo chown yourusername: /media/mountpoint

One more thing-

Your partition should be mounted in /media/mountpoint

To find the mount-point, run mount in the terminal, and locate the line that corresponds to the drive or partition in question. If you have never named (or set the label for) it, it will probably look something like:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820

If you have set the label with something descriptive, it should like similar to:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/1Tb Pocket Drive

After you have the mount point,

sudo chown hellocatfood: /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820


sudo chown hellocatfood: /media/1Tb Pocket Drive

(hellocatfood is the name of the user)

Edit- As suggested by Mik,

If the drive name has spaces it will need to be escaped or quoted: e.g.

sudo chown $USER: /media/"1Tb Pocket Drive"

Note also that you dont have to specify your user name here; the $USER variable will automatically get your username from the system.

This should give the ownership to the current user, and it would be persistent after reboots as well.


I took help for the permissions part from the following link- http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1840948

and for finding out the mount point, from the following link- http://ubuntugenius.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/ubuntu-hardware-permissions-how-to-set-ownership-of-drive-or-partition-internal-external-hard-disks/

If anyone has any trouble please let me know


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Thanks, worked great! –  hellocatfood Aug 15 '13 at 13:12
You are welcome :) –  Aaditya Bagga Aug 15 '13 at 13:17
You may want to add a note about having to change the permissions on the newly formatted drive –  hellocatfood Aug 15 '13 at 13:58
I will post it as soon as I can. Thanks :) –  Aaditya Bagga Aug 15 '13 at 14:05
If the drive name has spaces it will need to be escaped or quoted: e.g. sudo chown $USER: /media/"1Tb Pocket Drive" –  user76204 Aug 15 '13 at 16:39

There's a tool which is called Disk Utility (gnome-disk-utility). Just open it by searching in the Dash. It should show all your drives and USB sticks. I think using it is very easy. ;-)

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I just checked. You should indeed be able to format drives with it, and it's called Disk Utility in the English version. –  Christopher Kyle Horton Oct 19 '11 at 4:56
You can't find the gnome-disk-utility from the dash. For some reason it goes by the name 'palimpsest'... Don't ask why –  user43845 Jan 27 '12 at 17:48

protected by Community Feb 25 '12 at 10:11

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