HOWTO: Mount a USB Thumbdrive in Linux

Linux Ubuntu Mount a USB Thumb DriveMount a USB Thumb Drive in Linux

You’ve plugged in your USB key and it hasn’t magically appeared on your desktop or in your ‘Places’.


In Linux you generally need to mount devices like hard disks, usb keys, external drives, cd drives, dvd drives, etc.



  • You’ve plugged in a USB stick/key/thumbdrive and it hasn’t appeared on your Linux desktop or in your Places
  • You’ve attached an external hard disk and it hasn’t mounted.



In this HOWTO I’ll describe how to manually mount a USB stick. This method works for other devices also. This solution was tried and tested on Ubuntu 8.04 using a 2GB Lenovo USB key and a 350GB Maxtor USB External HDD but should work for all other mountable devices in Linux. 

Here’s how to do it…

Step 1 – Mounting a USB Stick/Key Temporarily

  1. Plug in your USB stick
  2. Open a terminal window
    • In Ubuntu you can do this by clicking Applications > Accessories > Terminal
  3. Issue the following command pressing ENTER after each

    sudo -s

  4. Enter your password when requested
  5. A helpful tip.


    In the above line the sda1 portion of the command represents *a device utilising the SCSI protocol* either attached externally or inside your computer.


    This does not necessarily mean it’s a SCSI drive. Depending on how many drives/usb keys/etc you could have this reference could be different. If you mount the above and don’t see what you expect after issueing the ls command then you’ve most likely mounted the wrong drive. Try changing sda1 to sdb1 or sdc1, etc.


    Tip: If you successfully mounted your drive you can now close the terminal window and browse to the /mnt/usbykey folder in the graphical interface of Ubuntu. You’ll find it in ‘Places’.

  6. Issue the following commands pressing ENTER after each

    mkdir /mnt/usbkey


    mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/usbkey


    cd /mnt/usbkey



  7. You should now see a listing of all the files in the drive that you just mounted. If you don’t, then read the note below and repeat the steps above

Initramfs Prompt When Ubuntu Boots

Ubuntu Linux LogoInitramfs Prompt Boot Problems

Ubuntu boots to a black screen with a (initramfs) prompt.


  • After selecting to boot into Ubuntu from your boot menu, the boot process halts at a black screen.
  • You are presented with only a prompt (initramfs)
  • You are presented with the BusyBox message
  • You have installed Ubuntu on an NTFS partition dual booting with Microsoft Windows


This can occur when you have installed Ubuntu on an NTFS Windows partition and Windows was incorrectly shutdown.


Step 1 – Run CHKDSK and Gracefully Shutdown Windows

  1. Restart your computer into Windows
  2. Open a CMD prompt and type:

    chkdsk c: /f

    Note: You may get a message that windows needs to schedule the chkdsk the next time the computer starts. Accept this frustrating reality and reboot.

  3. After the chkdsk has successfully completed, shutdown windows gracefully using the Start > Shutdown method
  4. When rebooting choose to go into Ubuntu from your startup menu. If you still land a the balck screen then co to Step 2 below.

Step 2 – Forcibly Mount The Ubuntu Volume

  1. If you are only booting to a prompt and can’t get any further and following Solution 1 above did not resolve the issue then you will need to forcibly mount the NTFS volume. This can be dangerous but is the only other way out of this problem as far as I know. Feel free to comment below if you know otherwise.
  2. At the (initranfs) prompt issue the following command:

    mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /root -o force


The mount command may be different for you.

To find out your exact command reboot, select Ubuntu and press Esc when you see the countdown.

Choose to enter in recovery mode.

You will be presented with the same prompt but there will be a whole lot of other lines of text.

You should be able to spot your mount command in there.