How to Install an Ubuntu External Hard Drive

By Jack Busch

Using an external hard drive with Ubuntu is relatively simple. Whether you are connecting with USB or Firewire, Ubuntu's latest release will easily detect as soon as you plug it in. However, being able to read and write depends on how it's formatted. Read on to learn the vital steps to using an external hard drive in Ubuntu.

Things You'll Need

  • Ubuntu system
  • External hard drive

Connect the External Hard Drive

Step 1

Use the appropriate cable. USB hard drives connect using a mini-USB adapter and have the long, flat, rectangular USB plug on the end that connects to the computer. A Firewire hard drive cable is the same on both ends.

Step 2

Connect your hard drive to the computer. First, plug the cable into the drive, and then connect it to an available port on your computer.

Step 3

Turn on your hard drive. Some hard drives and external hard drive enclosures have on/off switches. Flip the switch on once it's connected to the computer; it should power on.

Install GParted

Step 1

Connect to the Internet. You will need access to the Internet to download the install files.

Step 2

Open your Terminal in Ubuntu. This is the screen with the prompt where you can type commands.

Step 3

Type "sudo apt-get install Gparted." Type in your root password and answer "Yes" to any prompts.

Format the External Hard Drive

Step 1

Type "sudo GParted." This will open GParted.

Step 2

Click the GParted menu and select "Devices." Select your external hard drive from the list. It is important that you choose your external hard drive and not the drive that has your system installed on it. One way to ensure this is to check the capacity on this drive; for example, if your internal disk is 80 GB and your external disk is 40 GB, choose the disk that is 40 GB.

Step 3

Click the "Devices" menu and click "Create Partition Table." Click "Advanced." From the New Partition Table menu, choose an option, depending on your system. For example, if you are dual booting Windows and Ubuntu, you may want to choose MS-DOS. If you are only running Ubuntu, choose GPT.

Step 4

Create a partition. Select a section of unused space and click "New."

Step 5

Set up your partition. For partition size, set the size of your partition--for most purposes, you can make the partition the entire capacity of the disk. Next, choose a partition type; primary is suitable for most purposes. Next, choose a file system. For sharing across a Windows system, use Fat32. For sharing with an Apple system, use HFS or HFS+. For use with an Ubuntu system only, use EXT2, EXT3 or EXT4.

Step 6

Click "Apply." The operations will run and your hard disk will be ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Labeling your hard drive is optional, but it can help you keep files organized.
  • You can resize partitions without deleting data using GParted.
  • Remember to type "sudo" for all commands in Terminal.
  • Formatting and repartitioning your hard drive erases all data. Be sure to back up data.