How to Reformat an External Hard Drive to NTFS Format In Ubuntu Hardy

If you have files that are bigger than 4GB in size, you will find that you can’t back them up to your external hard disk, even though it has 1TB of storage space. The reason being, when you first bought the hard disk, it is pre-formatted with FAT32 format, and in case you don’t know, FAT32 has a 4GB file size restriction. This means that it can’t store files that are bigger than 4GB in size.

A good way to overcome this is to reformat the external hard disk to NTFS format. NTFS does not has a 4GB file restriction and can be accessed easily from Windows, Mac and Linux (with the help of NTFS-3G).

Mac and Linux users might be tempted to reformat the hard disk to either HFS (for time machine) or Ext3 format. It will work well with your computer, but in the event that your system crashes and you want to retrieve your backup files from other computer (that are not Mac or Linux), you might have difficulties getting it to read your files.

Update: Before you try this, please back up all your files from on your external hard drive. The process will completely wipe off all data on your hard disk. Thanks to cneil for reminding.

Reformat external hard disk to NTFS

In your Ubuntu Hardy, open up the terminal and install the following applications:

sudo apt-get install gparted ntfsprogs

Plug in your external hard disk.

Your system should detect the hard disk and automount it to your system.

Before you can do a reformat, you will have to unmount it. On the desktop, right-click on the hard disk icon and select “Unmount volume“.

Go to System->Administration->Partition Editor. On the top right, click on the dropdown box. You should see something like the image below. Select the entry that corresponds to your external hard disk.

partition editor

On the main window, select the partition, right-click and select Format to -> NTFS. Click Apply.

partition editor screenshot2

That’s it. Your external hard disk is now in NTFS format.


  1. You need to make it extremely clear that this method will delete all of the data on the disk. I thought that the magic of Gparted was that it would save the data while it formatted to a different file system. This is not the case. There was no warning that this would happen. The only Gparted warning was “it is recommended that you backup your data before executing this operation.

    Performing this format will delete all data on the disk!

    Fortunately for me, I just formatted my backup disk so unless my computer breaks in the next five minutes it doesn’t matter.

  2. @cneil: My apologies. I think I forgot to mention that. I have updated the post and place a reminder on this issue. Thanks

  3. Very good!

    used this for myself!

    thank you

  4. great straightforward guide. just what i was looking for.

  5. Thnx :) v’nice

  6. Didn’t work for me. The option of Format to -> NTFS is greyed out for some reason. Any clues?

  7. ohh forgot to add…am using Ubuntu Karmic. And using GParted(in place of Partition Editor).

    1. @Nitin Sanwgan: Did you install the ntfsprogs package

  8. Thankyou! I looked far and wide and THIS was the solution to my problem, thanks!

  9. Thank You very much :)

  10. Very nice! thanks

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