How To Mount A USB Flash Disk On The Raspberry Pi


Whether you call them USB flash disks, memory sticks, keys or drives they are a useful accessory in the world of computers. By now many people will have a collection of various devices of varying capacities. Using them with the Pi is a great way of getting some use out of them rather than letting them gather dust in a drawer.

SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB Flash DriveI tend to transfer files from my Pi using FTP but occasionally it is useful to get stuff onto a USB drive. There are lots of guides already out there but I had a few issues using most of them, mainly due to permission problems. My main goal was to clarify the process by which I could mount standard FAT32 drives and allow the default Pi user read/write permissions.

So here is my procedure for using USB flash drives with the Raspberry Pi where the Pi user has permissions to use it without needing “sudo”. It works great with the shiney new Kingston Digital 32GB DataTraveler Micro I’ve just bought myself.

PiHub by PimoroniStep 1 – Plug In The Device

The first step is to plug in your USB stick. If you are using a mouse and keyboard you will need a decent USB hub at this point. (e.g. the PiHub by Pimoroni).

Step 2 – Identify The Devices Unique ID

In order to find the unique reference (UUID) for your drive run the following command in the terminal :

ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid/

This will give you an output that should list your drive :

Mount USB Stick

The line will usually refer to “/sda” and in this example it is “sda1”. My ID is “18A9-9943”. Note down yours.

You would need to repeat this step if you wanted to use a different device as the UUID would be different.

Step 3 – Create a Mount Point

A mount point is a directory that will point to the contents of your flash drive. Create a suitable folder :

sudo mkdir /media/usb

I’m using “usb” but you can give it whatever name you like. Keep it short as it saves typing later on. Now we need to make sure the Pi user owns this folder :

sudo chown -R pi:pi /media/usb

You will only need to do this step once.

Step 4 – Manually Mount The Drive

To manually mount the drive use the following command :

sudo mount /dev/sda1 /media/usb -o uid=pi,gid=pi

This will mount the drive so that the ordinary Pi user can write to it. Omitting the “-o uid=pi,gid=pi” would mean you could only write to it using “sudo”.

Now you can read, write and delete files using “/media/usb” as a destination or source without needing to use sudo.

Step 5 – Auto Mount

When you restart your Pi your mounts will be lost and you will need to repeat Step 4. If you want your USB drive to be mounted when the system starts you can edit the fstab file :

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Then add the following line at the end :

UUID=18A9-9943 /media/usb auto,users,rw,uid=pi,gid=pi 0 0

My fstab file looks like this :

USB Stick Automount Fstab File

Make sure you set the correct UUID. Use CTRL-X followed by Y to save and exit the nano editor.

Now reboot :

sudo reboot

Your USB drive should be auto-mounted and available as “/media/usb”.

Step 6 – Un-mounting The Drive

You don’t need to manually un-mount if you shutdown your Pi but if you need to remove the drive at any other time you should un-mount it first. Only the user that mounted the drive can un-mount it.

umount /media/usb

If you used the fstab file to auto-mount it you will need to use :

sudo umount /media/usb

If you are paying attention you will notice the command is “umount” NOT “unmount”!

An Extra Note About File Systems

In the examples above I let the mount command automatically determine the file system of the device. This seems to work ok for me. If you need to you can manually specify the file system by adding the “-t” parameter. For example to specify a FAT32 device you would use :

sudo mount /dev/sda1 /media/usb -o uid=pi,gid=pi -t vfat

If your drive uses NTFS, EXT3 or EXT4 you will need to replace references to “vfat” with “ntfs-3g”, “ext3” or “ext4”.

If you are using NTFS you will also need to install the following package :

sudo apt-get install ntfs-3g

Final Thoughts

This technique suits my applications but the main disadvantage is that it is specific to a known USB device given we are using the device ID. However if you created a few mount points in advance you could manually mount a new device to a spare mount point without worrying about updating the fstab file.



  1. apt-get install pmount

    Mount and umount sda1 as user:

    $ pmount sda1
    $ pumount sda1

    You can also use an absolute path to the partition to leverage your shell’s autocompletion (pmount /dev/sda1).

    BTW if you want to automount your devices, you should use udisks rather than fstab, as you said the later requires you to manually add any new device to your fstab. I guess PCManFM supports automounting devices with udisks. If you don’t use a file manager you can use udisks-glue instead as long as you have a DBus session.

    • I found mentions of that package on Google but I was put off by the fact it is no longer maintained according to its homepage.

    • The “users” option just allows other users to unmount the device. It doesn’t allow the Pi user to write to it if it has been mounted by fstab.

  2. ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid/

    I only receive information from the SD card not from the nfts drive I tried mounted and unmounted with same result.

    My drive is USB 3.0 1tb ext4

    • Same thing for me. I wonder how it could have worked for Matt without that, but he should add it to his example.

      Also if you use something like ext4 you cannot use uid= or gid= so you have to fool around with chown or chmod commands. Better to just use vfat and never have a file over 4GB out there.

  3. After editing your “/etc/fstab” you should do “sudo mount -a” to verify that the modifications done are correct.
    Because if they are wrong your system might not start and you will have to spend time fixing it on another system. (or finding software for Windows that facilitates access to linux filesystem, in order to fix the fstab)

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