Format a device

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Notes: Format it self is simple while know which format to use is hard. (Discuss in Talk:Format a device#)

This is an HOWTO about device formatting.

Warning: formatting a device removes everything on it, make sure to backup everything you want to keep.
Note: the authors of this article cannot be considered responsible of any data loss, hardware deterioration or any other problem related to this article.


Before starting, you need to know which name Linux gave to your device. All device nodes are placed in /dev by udev. Hard drives and USB sticks show up as /dev/sdX, where "X" is a lowercase letter, while partitions show up as /dev/sdxY, where "Y" is a number.

If the device you want to format is mounted, it will show up in the MOUNTPOINT column from:

$ lsblk

If your device is not mounted:

# mount /dev/sdxY /some/folder

And to unmount it, you can use umount:

# umount /dev/sdxY

Step 1: delete the previous partitions

For that you can use fdisk:

# fdisk /dev/<your_device>
Note: enter m for the help

Step 2: create the new file system

In console

To create a file system you just have to use mkfs:

# mkfs -t vfat /dev/<your_device>

As mkfs is just a unified front-end for the different mkfs scripts you need to install the packages providing these scripts.

e2fsprogs contains:

  • mkfs.ext2
  • mkfs.ext3
  • mkfs.ext4
  • mkfs.ext4dev

dosfstools provides FAT16 and FAT32 support:

  • mkfs.vfat
  • mkfs.msdos

ntfsprogs contains:

  • mkfs.ntfs

jfsutils contains:

  • mkfs.jfs

xfsprogs contains:

  • mkfs.xfs

reiserfsprogs contains:

  • mkfs.reiserfs

btrfs-progs contains:

  • mkfs.btrfs

Step 3: check

Now you can check the new file system with fsck:

# fsck /dev/<your_device>

GUI tools

There are several GUI tools for partition management: