How do you format a usb stick through the terminal?

4 Answers 4


You can use the fdisk command.

You can also use the mkfs command

Here is a link on using the fdisk command in Ubuntu

Using mkfs in Ubuntu (here)

  • 1
    fdisk doesn't do any formatting, it's a partitioning tool.
    – JanC
    Oct 26, 2010 at 1:00
  • Hmm... I assumed it did. Well I guess the mkfs command does though
    – russjr08
    Oct 27, 2010 at 22:44

If you can connect to the server via ssh and become root on the server (i.e. if you have the permissions required to format partitions), then you can use the Ubuntu standard Disk Utility over ssh to manage disks just like you would on your desktop/laptop computer. Just start up the disk utility on your local computer and go to File -> Connect to Server, and type in the ssh name of your server.

I like using the Disk Utility because it won't let you do silly data-destroying things like formatting mounted filesystems, or resizing partitions without first resizing the underlying filesystem.

I don't know if the packages required for this are installed in Ubuntu Server by default, and I don't remember what they are. If anyone does know, please edit or comment.


Find the device

$ df -h
/dev/sdc1        30G  2.8G   28G  10% /media/agp/UNTITLED

Format device

sudo mkfs -t vfat /dev/sdc1

Final note

you can use vfat or any other available format in your system

$ find /sbin/ -name 'mkfs.*'    


cat /proc/partitions

you can see all detected partitions by the kernel

major minor  #blocks  name
8        0 4883737600 sda
8        1 4883735552 sda1

to format the "right" one with:

mkfs.vfat /dev/<your_device|partition>

will format with fat32 file system

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