USB Stick Formatter
by clem 57

Linux Mint was among the first distributions to feature read/write NTFS support. It moved to hybrid ISO images (which could be written to USB sticks) roughly at the same time as other distributions and it was late in providing xorriso 64bit ISOs (which could be booted off EFI both via USB and DVD).

Linux Mint 14 introduced “mintStick”, an improved version of USB-ImageWriter.

Linux Mint 15 introduced nemo actions so you could just right click an ISO file and select “Make a Bootable USB Stick”.

And with all that writing an ISO to a USB Stick became a breeze. One thing that was still far from being trivial though… was re-formatting the stick afterwards to use it to carry data.

One had to struggle with the command line, gparted or even GNOME Disks, unmount the stick, wipe its partition table, create a new one, partition it and format it again.

So in Linux Mint 16, mintStick will also feature the ability to format USB sticks (and by formatting, we mean doing all of the tedious tasks mentioned above).

Screenshot from 2013-08-22 11:43:26

The formatting tool will be available from the menu but also as a right-click->”Format…” option in Nemo and Dolphin.

As you can see the UI is pretty simple and there’s nothing special really about this new tool. Still, it should be a great addition to our desktop and make formatting USB sticks as trivial as it should always have been.

PS: Like most Mint tools, mintstick is not branded and can be used as is, in other distributions.

 

57 thoughts on “USB Stick Formatter

  1. Reply RĂ¼ssel Aug 22, 2013 12:01

    Thanks a lot for that! The re-formatting challenge prevented me from using mintStick until now. I will try again.

  2. Reply David Aug 22, 2013 12:07

    As an inveterate distro-checker ;) that post-trial tedium of re-formmating the USB stick is a familiar pain. This looks great!

    Will the utility be available for, e.g., my ancient laptop that is happily running LM 13 Xfce LTS? I live in hope!

  3. Reply Monsta Aug 22, 2013 12:47

    Nice and easy. Very good. But I want it in LMDE too :)

    • Reply clem Aug 22, 2013 13:35

      Hi,

      Yes, LMDE and Mint 13 also will get this of course.

      • Reply Sam Burgos Aug 23, 2013 15:06

        Just a little silly question if i may. Does the “minttools” (mintdrivers, usb-stick, and so on) that you’re publishing in the latest versions of Mint will be available for Mint 13? Or does the tools might only work with the latest versions because of dependencies problem? It might be good to have mintdrivers, for example, available in Mint 13

        Offtopic: I’m having some troubles with the use of mintconstructor for creating “upgraded” ISO’s of Mint 13, i don’t know with who i can talk with for that and in the IRC (i’m using mint-dev but i don’t know if i’m wrong with the channel) nobody wants to answer me, maybe i can email someone to give me a little help with that.

        Thanks and sorry for extending with this

        • Reply clem Aug 23, 2013 15:37

          Hi Sam,

          #linuxmint-dev is the right place to ask. Don’t give up, maybe you were there when people are asleep or away from the computer.

          Regarding the tools, it depends.. some can be backported. Others like the driver manager are tied to the release.

  4. Reply KDB Aug 22, 2013 15:36

    Clem,

    Does that mean that LMDE is not dead and that an upgrade should occur very soon ?

    • Reply clem Aug 22, 2013 18:05

      LMDE catches up with Mint latest, so most of what we’re working on for Mint 16 will make it into LMDE. To a lesser extent this is also true for the LTS release Linux Mint 13.

  5. Reply KDB Aug 22, 2013 18:55

    Clem,

    That could be nice to have official news about an UP7 for LMDE (or anything important to say about LMDE).
    The plan for Mint 16 could be nice to hear too.

  6. Reply alessio Aug 22, 2013 19:36

    As a satisfied LMDE user, I’m happy to read that this piece of news will come to LMDE as well.

    But I would really really appreciate to know if the LMDE project is still alive :\
    This is an excellent distro, but quite “old” without a further update asap.

    • Reply clem Aug 23, 2013 15:39

      Hi Alessio,

      Of course it’s still alive. Our main concern is that it works well though. It’s also set to receive backports but it doesn’t necessarily need to be bleeding edge and have the latest of everything.

      • Reply KDB Aug 24, 2013 10:06

        Nice answer Clem.

        Now we all know that LMDE is following Debian Old stable and not testing.
        Cinnamon is buggy, LMDE is old stable…

        I frankly regret I donate money to this project. Should have given it to Debian. It have been better used.

        I will install Debian with XFCE. It’s up to date and stable…

        • Reply clem Aug 25, 2013 00:55

          Hi KDB,

          Please send me your paypal details by email, I’d be happy to send you a refund. I prefer people donate to us when they like what we do, not as a way to lobby us into allocating resources or managing our project differently.

          LMDE UP7 is planned. It’s off-topic here in this post about mintStick though and the time to discuss it won’t come faster with you threatening to leave for another distribution.

          Please feel free to comment about mintStick, or not to comment at all if you’ve no interest for the topic I wrote about.

          • Reply Timjam Aug 30, 2013 16:47

            Well said Clem.

            and the “USB Stick Formatter” is a great idea too!

          • Reply DeadlyDaddio Sep 1, 2013 22:48

            Indeed Well Said Clem! I personally am hugely enjoying LM-KDE 15 and my small OEM Builder Co. is selling more LM based workstations than ever before, all with LM-KDE 15. Clients remark how beautiful, stable and easy to use LM-KDE is… One thing I’ve always wondered, is it possible to essentially make a USB Stick of our beautified and mildly embellished LM-KDE 15 so that we could roll it out easier. With much gratitude for all you & your team do and apologies if this question is impertinent to the subject.

            Edit by Clem: Yes, it’s possible. It’s not something we work on but there are a few solutions out there. The easiest one to use was remastersys. It’s been discontinued but you can still get the source for it (http://www.remastersys.com/). If it doesn’t work you can look at the source code and learn what it does (it’s a frontend to command line tools after all). There might be newer/better solutions out there, I’m not really sure, but if you dig into it, it’s definitely possible.

  7. Reply Thomas Schmitt Aug 22, 2013 20:05

    Being one of those who help to spoil
    your sticks, i propose a feature
    to backup a whole stick including all
    partitioning and filesystem content.
    E.g. backup by
    bzip2 stick.bz
    restore by
    bunzip2 /dev/sdb

    The restore feature should try to make
    sure that it overwrites an auxiliary
    stick and not the system disk.
    One simple way to prevent mishaps could
    be to overwrite only sticks which carry
    an ISO 9660 filesystem on the unpartitioned
    main device. Such a thing can hardly be
    the system disk … can it ?
    (Bytes 32768 to 32773 of /dev/sdb would
    have to be
    0×01, 0×43, 0×44, 0×30, 0×30, 0×31 =
    “01CD001″)

  8. Reply Thomas Schmitt Aug 22, 2013 20:10

    Correction of shell code proposals:

    E.g. backup by
    bzip2 </dev/sdb >stick.bz
    restore by
    bunzip2 <stick.bz >/dev/sdb

  9. Reply Hugo Masse Aug 23, 2013 15:04

    Awesome! A treat for distrohoppers! But we always come back to what is tried and true… Linux Mint.

    I also appreciate it because the latest version of Gnome Disks didn’t work as well as the one you find in LM13, in my experience.

    It’s funny: when using Windows, updates are usually a pain in the neck and if you’re a Mac user I don’t think you care much. It’s in Linux that I’ve found many obsessed with having the latest version of everything, the ones who are concerned that LMDE “is not up-to-date”. I wonder if CentOS get the same kind of questions… they still have Gnome 2 as a desktop!

  10. Reply Vishnu Babykumar Aug 23, 2013 19:57

    Hi Clem,

    Thank you so much for your continued efforts in making Mint the most delightful OS to work with. And as previously mentioned, even though we distrohop a lot, it is the conviction of falling back to the safe hands of Mint that makes the experience all the more wonderful. The lack of an option to format USB sticks has been nagging me for quite sometime, having even tried certain nautilus scripts while I was on Ubuntu and I am glad that the option is finally going to be available by default.
    On a different note, is it possible for the Mint team to enable selective hiding of notification icons cuz my panel is loaded and all of these applets are really useful to me, so an option to hide them would be nice.Also with regards to aesthetic appeal, could future versions of Mint come with a different font set by default?I am someone who prefers an OS to be distributed with all necessary tweaks by default and don’t fancy getting my hands dirty tweaking a lot. Lastly, can there be an option wherein Mint settings like Wifi networks,Software list and other settings be backed up and associated with a user account like UbuntuOne so that future re-installs would be less tedious in terms of re-enabling previous settings. Thank you.

  11. Reply Kirk M Aug 24, 2013 01:28

    I have a quick question about mintStick. I’m wondering why Unetbootin does not remove the FAT32 formatting from a USB stick when writing an ISO to it while mintStick apparently does. I’ve checked and double checked the format of USB sticks before and after I write an ISO to them using Unetbootin and it always shows as FAT32. I can simply delete the written ISO from the USB stick after I’m through with it and use the USB stick for storing data as usual without reformatting it.

    Does mintStick work a in a different way?

    • Reply Thomas Schmitt Aug 24, 2013 10:51

      I understand from
      http://sourceforge.net/apps/trac/unetbootin/wiki/howitworks
      that UNetbootin unpacks the files from the ISO image file
      into the filesystem of the stick and analyzes the SYSLINUX
      or GRUB configuration files which are among them.
      Then it composes a new SYSLINUX bootloader configuration
      which is equivalent to the found configuration, and it
      installs SYSLINUX to make use of that configuration.

      http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/744
      describes as equivalent to mintStick a dd command that
      flatly puts the ISO image file onto the base device file
      of the USB stick.
      The new partitioning of the stick is then defined by the
      partition tables which are stored at the start of the
      ISO image. (Unplug and replug to get the new partition
      device files.)

      The plainly copied ISO image will only boot from USB stick
      if it was prepared with boot blocks for hard disk booting,
      additionally to its El Torito boot records for CD/DVD/BD
      booting.
      For the SYSLINUX bootloader this preparation is either done
      by program “isohybrid”, which gets applied to the CD-ready
      ISO image, or by xorriso which does it when generating a
      bootable ISO image. For GRUB it is done by xorriso under
      control of script grub-mkrescue.
      (The mentioning of xorriso is what brought me here.)

    • Reply clem Aug 24, 2013 17:49

      Yes, they’re very different. MintStick basically performs a “dd” on the stick, and turns the stick into an exact copy of the ISO.

      Unetbootin on the other hand formats the stick to FAT32, and copies files over to it.

      • Reply Am5x86-133 Aug 26, 2013 11:56

        This means in return, that MintStick is the wrong tool to use, when the USB stick is partitioned, to allow for alternative booting of several distris by playing with the ‘boot’ flag, right?
        And would MintStick allow for a persistence file/partition?

  12. Reply Cadfile Aug 28, 2013 03:17

    Where do you guys learn all this code adn system tricks? Is there a book or books that I can learn it from? I would really like to be more comfortable playing with the Terminal while putting in new programs and tweeks.
    Many Thanks for all of the info.

    • Reply Thomas Schmitt Aug 28, 2013 14:11

      From Google, Wikipedia, Mailing lists, /usr/src/linux/fs, …

      I started programming a backup application and became curious about the plumbing underneath. After some years, i reached the byte level of ISO 9660 filesystems and partition tables, as well as hardware resp. kernel aspects of CD/DVD/BD burning.

      As for the Terminal: i assume you mean mainly the shell command line. In the lat
      e 1980s i read S.R. Bourne’s “The Unix System”. Most probably there are more mod
      ern tutorials for introducing people to shell programming. Indeed each shell com
      mand line is a program composed from one or more commands. They can become quite elaborate. The big benefit from shell programming is automatization by writing shell scripts for complicated recurrent tasks.

      You need to learn what the shell does for you, and how it controls the execution
      of other programs. Then you need to learn about the programs which can perform
      the tasks you have to fulfill. The manual pages of those programs can be arbitrary elaborate, too. (man xorriso has 4433 lines. I apologize. Its growing like yeast.)

  13. Reply malligt Aug 28, 2013 20:44

    Nice, but confusing perhaps:

    My Nadia-Mate 64 bit release displays usb-imagewriter in the mate menu, but one finds mintstick listed in synaptic.

    This photo says usb stick formatter?

    So which is it? You say potato I say po-tah-to?

    After all, it does say mintstick — when installed on ubuntu 12.04 — but not when installed on Mint?

    Mint 15 and my desktop pc hardware don’t play well together –in that I always receive “the launcher has crashed” message, but on my laptop Mint 15 64 bit (cinnamon) has no “alert” sounds present. — also reported as a bug: https://bugs.launchpad.net/linuxmint/+bug/1186624.

    My point is that I hope the basic things like alert sounds are fixed by the dev team well before moving their efforts into usb-mintstick-imaging-formatting.

    • Reply clem Aug 29, 2013 08:47

      mintstick provides both “USB Image Writer” and “USB Stick Formatter” tools. Like other mint tools it is not branded (so it won’t call itself mintstick in the UI).

      Regarding the alerts that’s a Cinnamon bug inherited from GNOME 3.6 as far as I can see, it should be easy to fix, I’ll look into it.

        • Reply clem Aug 30, 2013 18:44

          Hi,

          I’m not sure why the title is “MintStick” here… it’s definitely defined in the glade file as “USB Image Writer”. Are you using Unity? Maybe they changed something to the window manager and don’t respect the app title? I’m not really sure to be honest.

          • Reply malligt Aug 30, 2013 20:27

            In my test (desktop) machine: ubuntu 12.04.3, 64 bit (with the “standard” unity desktop).

            Looks like the author of that article is using similar…

            My present daily (desktop) machine: Mint 14 – Mate, 64 bit.

          • Reply clem Aug 30, 2013 22:01

            Hi malligt,

            I remember something weird with bamfm.. or something like this. I’m not sure whether it’s Unity doing things differently then. I had issues with the Alt-Tab showing the icon I set for the application in the code.. it was ignoring python and GTK and only looked at the /usr/share/applications desktop file. Maybe that’s the case here since the desktop file is MintStick.desktop. If that’s the case I would consider it a Unity bug since it should follow what is defined by the application and not overrule it.

  14. Reply GamingOnLinux.com Sep 3, 2013 12:23

    Excellent, one thing that has always bugged me is not being able to right click on a mounted USB stick in my file managers side bar and simply click format, if this solves it then it’s a win from me!

  15. Reply troyka Sep 3, 2013 20:51

    Hi glad ur doing this ive been using windoze to rename and format.
    Will mint stick alow you to make multiboot stick using lmde

    • Reply clem Sep 4, 2013 08:04

      It allows you to make bootable USB sticks out of ISO images and/or to format USB sticks to FAT32/NTFS/EXT4.

  16. Reply Georgos Papadopoulos Sep 13, 2013 21:56

    I need help I cant seem to be able to mount my usb anymore after installing elemenary os. Is there anyway to be able to make it be able to carry data again. (linux mint 15)

  17. Reply Reorx Sep 18, 2013 03:02

    Great idea & nice (planned) implementation – KUDOS to the Mint team. Thank you! ;-)

  18. Reply Reorx Sep 18, 2013 16:47

    P.S.: Will it also support formatting and applying an ISO to other “USB” devices like SD cards and similar?

    P.P.S.: What about formatting a USB stick with more than 1 partition? What will it do in this situation? I hoping it will just wipe the whole stick and leave a freshly formated stick with 1 partition for the whole stick capacity…

    Thanx again!

    - R -

  19. Reply bwat47 Sep 24, 2013 14:01

    It would be nice if something like this was directly integrated with the file manager. In windows you can just right click on the usb drive in explorer and click format. I feel like this is much more discoverable a separate application.

  20. Reply Rop Nov 19, 2013 18:12

    some people find it very hard to use Mint or generally Linux. small basic thing like installing modem, for me i struggle for more a month in order to succed in installing. Internet is currently a basic need.
    Thanks for bringing back USB formatter, i have been hitting for long wondering where did it gone since i had in Mint 11.
    so my request is if possible put a documentation of how to install modems on downloads.

  21. Reply gregory guy Nov 20, 2013 06:38

    Hi clem,
    Where can I find mintStick source, I’d like to take a look on it ?
    regards.
    gregory

  22. Reply samriggs Nov 24, 2013 12:03

    Much appreciated seeing this coming, got tired of formatting through gparted for a usb stick :)
    Thanks Clem and Team
    Sam

  23. Reply BMA Dec 7, 2013 16:02

    Hi guys,
    Could someone please tell me how to make a bootable usb with linux mint 16 “Petra”. I’ve downloaded the .iso file and have heard talk of a hybrid iso(?). Thanks to all.

  24. Reply wifiextender Dec 9, 2013 12:55

    I was thinking that I am the first one that have created a GUI for formatting usb flash drives.. this is my project – https://github.com/wifiextender/usb2format

  25. Reply Afshin Dec 11, 2013 02:21

    Hello.
    When I click the Format button, this error occurs: “Authentication Error”
    OS: Linux Mint 16 With Cinnamon desktop.

  26. Reply KHerring Dec 12, 2013 22:29

    When I use the USB Format option every thing seems fine, but when I try to use the Image Writer either the progress bar doesn’t show or stops and corrupts the USB drive to where I have to re-format the USB Stick. This happens on both my systems with Mint 16. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Reply clem Dec 13, 2013 08:56

      That’s fixed in github, it’s coming soon as an update. PS: It’s only cosmetic and affects the progressbar, not the actual copy (i.e. if you wait long enough, the operation succeeds).

  27. Reply Arief Setiawan M Dec 18, 2013 11:22

    Hello Clem
    5 minutes ago, I’m installing mintstick on Maya, mintstick conflict with mint-meta-cinnamon package and mint-meta-cinnamon-dvd package. In mintstick properties > dependencies, mintstick only replace usb-imagewriter.

  28. Reply Abdel Jan 24, 2014 01:36

    Linux mint 16 is a fabulous distro. Thank you so much for the good work.

  29. Reply Luis Gomez Jan 26, 2014 04:16

    Hi there. I want to know how to install this tool in kubuntu 13.10. Thanks a lot

  30. Reply Ege Feb 22, 2014 19:38

    Hi, the mintstick tool is very nice for making the formatting task easier. However, I don’t see the right-click menu option in nemo as the article mentions. Do I have to install something to get this option? I’m in LM16 Cinnamon.

    Thanks for a great distribution.

  31. Reply Elenadavid May 31, 2014 07:21

    I want to say that mint stick is very nice for making the formatting the task easier.I don’t see the right -click menu option in memo as the article mentions.When i use the USB format option everything is fine.I feel like this is much more discoverable a separate application.

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