How to format hard disk, USB flash drive, and SD cards in elementary OS / Ubuntu

If you have been wondering how to get one of this basic tasks of formatting a external hard disk, USB disk, SD card, or Micro-SD cards, done in Linux, you are not alone, there is no easy GUI method like you do it in Windows Explorer. Ubuntu and elementary OS has ‘Files’ which functions as ‘File Explorer’ of Windows, but it doesn’t have feature to format the hard disk or USB drive.

usb format

No worries, in Linux you get best of software for free. In this case I recommend using GParted. It is a FOSS and is very powerful in terms of features and what it can do. Let’s see how you can use it to format an storage media to almost any format you need.

Format Storage Media in Ubuntu and elementary OS

METHOD 1: Using GParted software

Step 1: Install GParted: GParted is available in ‘Software Center’ of both Ubuntu and elementary OS. Look for ‘GParted’ and install it. Alternatively, you can use apt-get in terminal to install it.

sudo apt-get install gparted

Step 2: Launch the program from ‘Applications’.

Step 3: Plugin the storage media which you want to format.

Step 4: Right-click on the drive  which you want to format and select the desired format. Typically, most of USB drives use FAT32 format, and Windows based external hard disk use NTFS. Linux can read any of these formats.

GParted Format Options
GParted Format Options

Step 5: Click on green right mark which is nothing but apply.

Step 6: GParted will confirm once again if you want to apply the changes. Go ahead an click ‘Apply’.

Format Complete
Format Complete

That’s it.

METHOD 2: From the Terminal

You can do the formatting from terminal too. Launch terminal as root. To do that simply type root in Applications search box and click on ‘New Root Tab’. You will have to enter the root password.

Terminal - Process of formatting USB Flash Drive
Terminal – Process of formatting USB Flash Drive

Enter the following command to see the list of all storage media connected to your PC.

fdisk -l

If you have USB drive connected that you want to format, then enter the following command to see USB flash drive.

df

Typically, USB flash drives are mounted at /deb/sdb1.

Now umount the USB flash drive:

umount /dev/sdb1

Finally, enter the format command:

mkfs.vfat /dev/sdb1

The above command will format the drive to FAT32. If you want to format to NTFS, use the following instead:

mkfs.ntfs /dev/sdb1

That’s it.

Which method did you use?

Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of FOSSLinux.com. I'm a avid Linux lover and enjoys hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Linux Mint as a daily driver OS and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Ubuntu, Debian, and some popular new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer and this website is one of my favorite past time activities especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. Hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more and spread my love for Linux. If you find time, drop me an email or feedback from 'Contact' page. Or simply comment in below section on if you found this article useful. Have a good day!

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