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How To Fix “Permission Denied” Error for External Hard Drive on Ubuntu

Ubuntu 17

In this article, we will explore how to resolve the “Permission Denied” error that may occur when trying to access an external hard drive on Ubuntu. This error typically arises due to incorrect permissions or ownership settings. We will delve into the steps required to rectify these issues, ensuring you can access your external hard drive without any hitches.

Quick Answer

To fix the "Permission Denied" error for an external hard drive on Ubuntu, you need to unmount the drive, modify the /etc/fstab file to set the correct permissions and ownership, remount the drive, and change the ownership and permissions of the files and directories on the drive.

Understanding the Problem

Before we delve into the solution, it’s essential to understand the problem. The “Permission Denied” error usually arises when the user trying to access a file or directory doesn’t have the necessary permissions. This is a common issue on Unix-based systems like Ubuntu, where file permissions and ownership are strictly enforced.

Prerequisites

Before proceeding, ensure that you have administrative access to your Ubuntu system. You will need to execute commands with sudo, which requires administrative privileges.

Step 1: Unmount the External Hard Drive

The first step is to unmount the external hard drive if it’s currently mounted. You can do this with the umount command:

sudo umount /mnt

In this command, sudo is used to execute the command with root privileges. umount is the command used to unmount file systems, and /mnt is the mount point of the external hard drive.

Step 2: Modify the /etc/fstab File

Next, we need to modify the /etc/fstab file to set the correct permissions and ownership for the external hard drive. This file is used to define how disk partitions, various other block devices, or remote filesystems should be mounted into the filesystem.

Use a text editor with root privileges to open the file, like so:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

In this command, nano is a simple, user-friendly text editor. /etc/fstab is the file we want to edit.

Step 3: Set Correct Permissions and Ownership

Look for the line that corresponds to your external hard drive in the /etc/fstab file. It might look something like this:

/dev/sdb1 /mnt/maxtor ext4 errors=remount-ro 0 1

You need to add the uid=<your user id> and gid=<your group id> options to this line. Replace <your user id> and <your group id> with your actual user and group IDs. You can find these IDs by running the commands id -u and id -g, respectively.

After adding these options, the line should look like this:

/dev/sdb1 /mnt/maxtor ext4 uid=1000,gid=1000,errors=remount-ro 0 1

Save the changes to the /etc/fstab file and exit the text editor.

Step 4: Remount the External Hard Drive

Now, remount the hard drive using the mount command:

sudo mount /mnt/maxtor

In this command, mount is used to mount file systems, and /mnt/maxtor is the mount point of the external hard drive.

Step 5: Change Ownership and Permissions

The final step is to change the ownership and permissions of the files and directories on the external hard drive. Use the chown command to change the ownership:

sudo chown -R <your user>:<your group> /mnt/maxtor/*

In this command, chown is used to change file owner and group. -R makes the command recursive, meaning it will apply to all files and directories inside the specified directory. <your user>:<your group> should be replaced with your actual username and group. /mnt/maxtor/* specifies all files and directories inside the mount point.

Next, use the chmod command to set the permissions:

sudo chmod -R 755 /mnt/maxtor/*

In this command, chmod is used to change file mode bits. 755 sets the permissions to read, write, and execute for the owner, and read and execute for group and others.

After following these steps, you should no longer encounter the “Permission Denied” error when accessing your external hard drive on Ubuntu. The files and directories will have the correct ownership and permissions for your user account.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve covered how to fix the “Permission Denied” error for an external hard drive on Ubuntu. Remember to replace /mnt/maxtor with the actual mount point of your external hard drive if it’s different. If you have any further questions or need more assistance, feel free to ask.

What should I do if I don’t have administrative access to my Ubuntu system?

Unfortunately, you need administrative access to execute the necessary commands with sudo. If you don’t have administrative access, you will need to contact the system administrator or the owner of the system for assistance.

How can I find my user and group IDs?

You can find your user ID by running the command id -u and your group ID by running the command id -g. These commands will display the corresponding IDs for your user account.

What should I do if I can’t find the line corresponding to my external hard drive in the `/etc/fstab` file?

If you can’t find the line corresponding to your external hard drive in the /etc/fstab file, you can add a new line following the same format as the other entries. Replace /dev/sdb1 with the appropriate device identifier for your external hard drive, and specify the correct mount point and file system type.

Can I use a different text editor to modify the `/etc/fstab` file?

Yes, you can use a different text editor instead of nano to modify the /etc/fstab file. Some popular alternatives include vim and gedit. Just make sure to use the command with sudo to open the file with root privileges.

What permissions should I set with the `chmod` command?

In the provided solution, the chmod command sets the permissions to 755 for all files and directories on the external hard drive. This means that the owner will have read, write, and execute permissions, while the group and others will have read and execute permissions. You can adjust the permissions according to your specific needs, but be cautious not to set overly permissive permissions that may compromise the security of your files.

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