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How To Format a USB Stick for Use with Linux and Windows

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In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of formatting a USB stick for use with both Linux and Windows operating systems. We’ll be using the NTFS file system, which is supported by both platforms and allows for seamless file sharing between them.

Quick Answer

To format a USB stick for use with both Linux and Windows, you can use the NTFS file system. This file system is supported by both operating systems and allows for seamless file sharing between them.

Understanding File Systems

Before we dive into the formatting process, it’s important to understand what a file system is. A file system controls how data is stored and retrieved on a storage device. Different operating systems support different file systems. For instance, Windows primarily uses NTFS, while Linux uses file systems like ext4, ext3, and others.

While Linux can read and write to NTFS file systems, Windows does not natively support Linux file systems like ext4. Therefore, if you plan to use your USB stick on both Linux and Windows, NTFS is the recommended file system.

Formatting a USB Stick to NTFS in Linux

We’ll be using the Gnome Disk Utility, a powerful and user-friendly tool for managing disk drives in Ubuntu 20.04. If you’re using a different Linux distribution, you can install Gnome Disk Utility from your package manager.

Step 1: Open Gnome Disk Utility

You can open the Gnome Disk Utility by searching for “Disk” in the Ubuntu program launcher.

Step 2: Select Your USB Stick

From the list of drives on the left-hand side of the Disk Utility, select your USB stick.

Step 3: Format the Disk

Click on the gear icon at the top-right corner and choose “Format Disk”. In the “Format Disk” dialog, select “NTFS” as the file system. Optionally, you can provide a new name for the USB stick in the “Name” field.

Step 4: Start the Formatting Process

Click on the “Format…” button to start the formatting process. Confirm the formatting operation by clicking “Format” in the confirmation dialog.

Please note that formatting will erase all data on the USB stick. Make sure to back up any important files before proceeding.

Once the formatting is complete, your USB stick will be formatted with the NTFS file system and can be used with both Linux and Windows.

Using the USB Stick with Windows

After formatting the USB stick to NTFS, you can simply plug it into a Windows machine. The system should recognize the USB stick and you can use it to transfer files between the Linux and Windows systems.


In this article, we’ve shown you how to format a USB stick for use with both Linux and Windows using the Gnome Disk Utility in Ubuntu 20.04. Remember, if you’re planning to use the USB stick exclusively with Linux, you might want to format it with a Linux file system like ext4 for better performance and compatibility within the Linux environment. However, keep in mind that Windows does not natively support ext4, so it may not be accessible on a Windows system without additional software.

Can I use a USB stick formatted with NTFS on both Linux and Windows?

Yes, NTFS is supported by both Linux and Windows, allowing for seamless file sharing between the two operating systems.

Will formatting the USB stick to NTFS erase all data on it?

Yes, formatting the USB stick will erase all data on it. It is important to backup any important files before proceeding with the formatting process.

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