Borys Bradel's Blog

An adventure with the formatting of a large disk

Tags: scripting May 13, 2009    

Recently, I needed to format a large disk, a compact external Seagate drive. According to the salesman, the drive should have worked on a mac. Well, he was lying. The drive turned out to be formatted with NTFS and OS X 10.3 does not have the capability of writing to NTFS partitions. I tried to make the disk use FAT32 by using the format command on Vista. After 15 minutes, I found out that the only way to run format, is to find the cmd executable in the windows directory hierarchy, right click on it and select to run as administrator. After 2 hours, I found out that Vista will only partition small drives with FAT32, and will certainly not tell you up front.

Okay, onto Linux then. The process was more complicated then what seems to be indicated on the web.

First, find out where the disk is:

sudo fdisk -l

If you're not sure then just after plugging the disk in, look at the end of the /var/log/messages file (e.g. tail /var/log/messages) and look for what disk was added.

Second, wipe the disk clean (assuming it's /dev/sdb) by performing various operations with fdisk:

sudo fdisk /dev/sdb

Once given various options by fdisk, you need to hit d (delete), n (add), p (primary), 1, enter, enter, t (change type), b (w95 fat32), and then w (write).

Third, create a new partition:

mkfs -t vfat /dev/sdb1

Although that worked for me, a potential alternative is

mkdosfs -vF 32 /dev/sdb1

After all that effort, the drive works properly, although it takes about a minute for OS X to detect it and show it in finder. Interestingly, the drive does appear in the /Volumes directory much faster.

Copyright © 2009 Borys Bradel. All rights reserved. This post is only my possibly incorrect opinion.

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