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  1. #1
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Formatting a Flash drive?

    How should I format a flash drive so that it is useable on --both-- Linux and windows (occasionally) ? Do I need to do anything at all other than use it with how it was formatted when I purchased it? I'm just curious as I havn't though about this before.

  2. #2
    Linux Enthusiast meton_magis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    the way i've gotten mine to work in the past is
    run as root (or prefix with sudo if you so desire)

    fdisk /dev/sd? #where the ? is you're flash drive.

    delete all partitions (select d from the menu untill it wont let you delete anymore)
    create a new one (the n key)
    primary partition,

    change the type (t option)
    it should auto select partition 1
    select c (for W95 fat32)
    select w

    this will exit fdisk.
    then run
    then run
    mkdosfs /dev/sd?1 #again, the ? is whatever your flash drive is.

    is should then be usable on windows and linux.
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  3. #3
    Linux Guru reed9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Boston, MA
    Most USB flash drives are formatted to FAT32, which is well supported by both linux and windows.

    Some may be formatted to NTFS, which is slightly less well supported in linux. You need a package called ntfs-3g to read and write to it.

    If you want to reformat the drive, you could do it as mentioned above, or most distros have a program called gparted which is a nice easy graphical interface for partitioning and formating drives. If it's not installed by default, pretty much any distro has it in their repositories.

    I don't believe windows is able to read linux filesystems, such as EXT3 or EXT4.

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  5. #4
    Linux Guru Rubberman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    I can be found either 40 miles west of Chicago, in Chicago, or in a galaxy far, far away.
    They are generally formatted for a FAT32 file system which is readable by just about anything. If you are going to use it exclusively for Linux, then format it ext2 or ext3. If you are using it only on Windows and Linux, then you can reformat it with NTFS, using the ntfs-3g driver available for any current Linux distribution to read/write/format it.
    Sometimes, real fast is almost as good as real time.
    Just remember, Semper Gumbi - always be flexible!

  6. #5
    Linux User vickey_20's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Mumbai, India
    since this topic has been initiated I get a chance to clear my doubts.
    I have an external HDD 160gb. When I format it using windows the free space that I get is around 150gb and the rest is mysteriously gone. On attaching it to a Linux machine I see there is something called as System Volume manager occupying 10gb I dont understand what it is???
    But on the other hand when I format it using Linux I get to use almost 160gb.
    Only if I could understand the man pages
    Registered Linux user #492640
    OS: RHEL4,5 ,RH 9,Ubuntu

  7. #6
    Linux Guru reed9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Boston, MA
    I don't know exactly what the System Volume Manager is regarding windows partitions, but presumably it, er, manages the system volume, ie, contains information on how to read/write data to the drive properly.

    All partition types have something along those lines, and it varies how much space they take up. A formatted drive will always have less usable space than an unformatted drive.

    More info: When a Byte is not a Byte

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