How to easily format and partition a USB flash drive?

The formatting and partitioning process in Ubuntu MATE is not as smooth as I had hoped and I frequently run into problems.

  1. (First) I still don't understand why I am asked to select a particular partitioning option when formatting a USB flash drive, only to be required shortly afterwards to partition it again (otherwise Caja won't detect the device). Why mislead a user into believing that it will be formatted and partitioned in one step when in fact I have to partition it anyway after it is formatted? Is there any way to do this more elegantly?

  1. (Second) I have formatted a USB flash drive (with Disks) and got the following error message when trying to create a partition (again with Disks):

I am not sure what it means, so I formatted again (this time I used the quick format option in Disks). Before I get any further error messages, I am wondering whether I have chosen the wrong partitioning option. Which option shall I choose and why (for later use as a bootable USB drive)?

  1. (Third) Is there anything I need to consider when I intend to use a USB flash drive for storing documents or in order to make it bootable by burning an ISO file onto it?

Does anyone know how I can numerate my questions/problems in this thread? In the editing view I see it as 1. 2. 3. In the viewing pane and the published thread there is no enumeration.

Hi @maro,

if you want just a normal bootable USB, just pre-format the stick to FAT32 first with Gparted!.

If you want to use persistence mode, see this:

See also:

This is actually the partitioning table, there's two of them:

  • MBR = Master Boot Record
  • GPT = GUID Partition Table

The latter being newer (less limitations) and supports > 2 TB. For a flash drive, MBR is sufficient.

I've known Disks to just spew out random errors sometimes. Usually it worked, re-opening Disks shows the results or just doing the operation again does the trick.

For storing files, it's best to use FAT.
For creating a bootable USB from an ISO or IMG, the "Restore Disk Image..." button is used instead.

If you mean creating a "persistence" flash drive (stores data across live sessions), the tool used to create it is responsible for that.

It's markdown syntax. Apply 4 spaces to the start so that the content is aligned with the number, like this:

**Like this...** ### Syntax
1. one

    some stuff here...

2. foo

    more stuff here...



  1. one

    some stuff here...

  2. foo

    more stuff here...

1 Like

Thank you both for your help @lah7 and @wolfman
I am still not sure why the Format Disk option suggests Erase and Partitioning when in fact the only thing it does it formatting. When I select MBR and then start the process I end up having a formatted but not a partitioned USB drive. This is extremely confusing.

Is the above what you are trying to achieve?. :smiley:

I didn't know there is something called persistence mode. @wolfman
My problems with formatting and partitioning are much more basic.

I have never used the "Restore Disk Image" button to create a bootable USB, so I have no idea what it does differently than using the Startup Disk Creator in UM. @lah7

It is a pity that there is no program to easily format and partition a USB drive on Ubuntu MATE. The question about a possible fork of USB Image Writer and USB Formatter was raised some time ago but unfortunately not pursued any further. Disks is not intuitive at all. There are too many options without any explanation of what to use and why. I am hoping for a program which asks what you would like to do and does it with one click. The lack of an intuitive formatting and partitioning tool is one of the biggest drawbacks in UM for me.

I know there is a learning curve when dealing with a new operating system but it is not too much to ask to get things done in a simple and intuitive way. Does anyone know how other distros solve this problem?

Hi @maro,

you can use the partition guide to give you an idea about partitioning, although not intuitive as you say; it does offer an insight into how to partition!: