Remotely Mounting a USB Drive

Written by: Paul Rubin

Primary Source: OR in an OB World

As I try to retire an old PC running Mythbuntu in favor of a new replacement, I continue to learn things about Linux … with a gun to my head, as it were.

Without getting into the gory details, I can no longer work directly on the old PC — I can’t get a functioning display. I can, however, connect either by SSH terminal session or remote desktop. Once I get my recordings and database off the old box and onto the new one, I’m going to wipe the operating system, install something like Linux Mint, and then donate the old PC to anyone looking for a slightly noisy space heater.

The problem is moving the 300+ GB of stored recordings. I picked up a 1 TB Western Digital My Passport Ultra USB hard drive to use both for back and for file transfer. The trick was getting the bugger to mount without a direct connection. Using a remote desktop, I could see that Mythbuntu created a drive icon on my desktop, needing only to be mounted. Unfortunately, all that double-clicking the drive to open it, or right-clicking and selecting mount, got me was a message that I was lacking the authority to mount the drive. This is probably a consequence of remote connections having restricted permissions.

The answer proved to be mounting the drive (as root) from the command line — once I found the key information on how to do so. It’s actually quite painless when you know how. What follows was all done in a remote terminal. The first step was to run

sudo mkdir /media/passport

to create a landing spot for the drive. (Feel free to substitute a different name for “passport”.) Next, to get the particulars about the drive, I ran

sudo fdisk -l

(that’s an “el”, not a “1”), obtaining the following poop (omitting the parts about other drives):

Disk /dev/sdb: 1000.2 GB, 1000170586112 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 121597 cylinders, total 1953458176 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x50dfffc7

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1            2048  1953458175   976728064    7  HPFS/NTFS/exFAT

The key takeaways here, from the last line, are that the system sees the device as /dev/sdb1, and that it has an NTFS format (which I already knew from the packaging, which charitably assumes you’re buying it for a Windows PC). Following the aforementioned directions, I ran

sudo mount -t ntsf-3g /dev/sdb1 /media/passport

and she was good to go. For FAT drives, refer to the instructions linked above.

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I'm an apostate mathematician, retired from a business school after 33 years of teaching mostly (but not exclusively) quantitative methods courses. My academic interests lie in operations research. I also study Tae Kwon Do a bit on the side.

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