How To Format USB Drives The Right Way On Kali Linux


Kali Linux comes handy with many tools pre-installed for hacking and security, but there is nothing magical to handle your USB drives. It’s Linux, and you have to learn a few things before being comfortable with it. Don’t worry, I’ll show you 2 ways to format your USB drives with Kali Linux in this article.

The easiest way to format USB drives on Kali Linux is to use Gparted, which is preinstalled. It’s a graphical partition manager, allowing you to create, format and mount partitions in a few clicks.

Never used it? No problem, I’ll explain each step in details. And I’ll also give you the instructions to do it via the command line if you don’t have access to the desktop environment.

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Method 1: Use Gparted to format your USB drive

Gparted is an excellent tool to see and manage storage drives on Linux. It’s preinstalled on Kali Linux and can be used to format USB drives.

Here is how to use it:

  • Plug your USB drive
  • In the main menu, go to Usual applications > System
  • Find Gparted in the list.
    You can also use the search engine to find the shortcut directly.
  • The main window looks like this:
  • Select your USB drive in the top-right corner.
    You should see the current partition table directly.
    If you are reading this, I guess there is nothing on the USB drive, or an unsupported file system.

From there, you can do everything visually: delete the existing partition table, create a new one, create a new partition and format it as you want.
So, if like me your USB drive is empty, you can follow these steps:

  • Do a right-click on the unallocated space, and create a new partition table.
  • Do it again, and create a new partition:

    A form like this shows up. The only thing mandatory here is to select the file system.
    Keeping “fat32” is probably a good idea, but I explain the different possibilities at the end of this article if you need further information.
  • You can create several smaller partitions, use labels or give them different names if you like. But most of the time, you’ll only create one big partition that takes up all the free space.
  • Click “Add” to see your changes on the main screen:
  • The last step is to click the green tick in the top bar, to apply your changes on the drive.

After a few seconds, your USB drive will be updated and your partition read to use.

From there, you should get access to your USB drive directly in the file explorer each time you plug it back to your computer. FAT32 should work on all operating systems (including Windows).

Check the FAQ at the end of this article if your USB drive is not mounted automatically.

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Method 2: Format USB drives from the terminal

USB drives can also be mounted from a terminal or via SSH when no desktop environment is available. The fdisk command list the drives connected to the computer, and the mount command can then be use to get access the drive content.

Identify your USB drive

The first step is to plug your USB drive to your computer running Kali Linux, and then identify the disk name. The disk name format is generally something like /dev/sdX where X is often a letter between “a” and “f”, depending on the number of hard drives you have.

Anyway, use this command to list all your drives:
sudo fdisk -l

You’ll get something like that:

The USB drive will often be the last one in the list, in my case it’s “/dev/sdd”. It says “USB DISK” and the size matches (7.55 GiB).

I did the example with an empty USB drive, so there is an additional step for me: initializing the USB drive.

Optional: Create a partition table and partition

This step is optional. If there is already one partition on your USB drive, you can just skip this and go to the formatting directly. But with a brand new USB drive, you’ll need to do this:

  • We’ll use fdisk to manage the partition table and create the new partition:
    sudo fdisk /dev/sdd
    Warning: make sure you are using the correct disk name here.
    Following this step with the wrong one will delete all the content store on this disk.
  • Create a new partition table:
    n
  • It will ask a few questions, just keep the default values.
  • Confirm with “Y” to remove the signature if asked.
  • Write the changes to your disk with:
    w

Here is the full trace of my test:

And you can use fdisk again to check the result:
sudo fdisk -l /dev/sdd

As you can see on this screenshot, I now have one partition available on my USB drive, I just need to format it.

Format a partition in command line

Formatting a partition in a terminal is not that complicated, the main syntax looks like this:
sudo mkfs.<FILESYSTEM> <PARTITION>

The file system will generally be FAT32 (vfat), EXT4 (ext4) or NTFS (ntfs).
So, the corresponding command can be:
sudo mkfs.vfat /dev/sdd1
sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdd1
sudo mkfs.ntfs /dev/sdd1

I want to format mine in FAT32, so I’m using the first command.
Notice that this time we use the partition name (/dev/sdd1), not the device name (/dev/sdd).

Read the FAQ below to know how to mount your USB drive if it doesn’t work automatically when you plug it.

FAQ

What format does a USB drive need to be for Linux?

Most Linux distributions can read and write on various partition formats, but the most common are:

  • FAT32: Compatible with all operating systems, but limited to files smaller than 4 GB.
  • NTFS: To be used with Windows computers (no limitation).
  • EXT4: To be used on Linux systems only.

How to mount USB drives on Kali Linux?

In theory, Kali Linux should automatically mount USB drives when you plug them.
If it’s not the case, you can use a few command lines to mount it manually:

  • Note the partition name in Gparted (/dev/sdd1 in my case, see the screenshot below).
    Change the following commands with your partition path if needed.
    Use “fdisk -l” if you don’t have a graphic interface.
  • Create a new directory where you’ll mount the partition, for example:
    sudo mkdir /mnt/usb
  • Use the mount command:
    sudo mount /dev/sdd1 /mnt/usb
  • This will give you access to the files stored on your USB drive.
    It shouldn’t be necessary on Desktop, but at least you know how to do it if needed.

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Pat

Hi, my name is Patrick, I'm a web developer and network administrator. I have always been interested in security, and I created this website to share my findings with you.

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