Using a portable HDD under Linux

I needed something to backup my thesis and collected reference papers (just in case something happens to them during the move back to Perth). I considered getting a DVD writer, a flash-based MP3 player, or a portable HDD.

I wanted something that I could use to move stuff from place to play, so a DVD writer wasn’t really convenient. I didn’t think that I would use (any of) the extra features of the flash-based MP3 player and storage was fairly limited. So it was down to the Seagate 5GB Pocket Drive and a 20GB Pocket Drive from Dick Smith. Since the 20GB was only AU$20 more (at AU$197) I decided that it was much better “bang for buck”.

Here are some photos of the unit with size comparison to standard (issue if you were in the US Airforce in the 80s) items:

Anyhow, after I got the 20GB portable HDD I connected it to my machine (running Ubuntu) and expected it to “just work”… nothing happened. It wasn’t formatted, so I found the where plugdev connected the device:

ls -la /dev/* | grep plugdev

I created a few partitions (one for Linux-only and one for Windows-also) using fdisk. The partition table now looks like this:

Disk /dev/sdb: 20.0 GB, 20000268288 bytes
64 heads, 32 sectors/track, 19073 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 2048 * 512 = 1048576 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1               1        4769     4883440   83  Linux
/dev/sdb2            4770       19073    14647296    c  W95 FAT32 (LBA)

Finally I formatted the partitions to make them usable:

sudo mkfs.ext3 /dev/sdb1
sudo mkdosfs -F32 /dev/sdb2

Updated: fixed mkdosfs command (thanks Steve!)

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