How to recycle Western Digital USB Hard Drive to back up Linux?

I have looked at some of the threads about backing up and using external hard drives - and all my hair fell out!

I looked further afield for info and did not turn up anything useful.

I am sure that there must be a way to recycle this bit of kit so that I can use it to back up a Linux machine (Peppermint recently installed) and I would be VERY grateful for advice pitched at “Newbie-Linux-User” level:

Western Digital External USB 2.0 Hard Drive “WD Essential 80” Model: WD800B014-RNU

(That’s not a typo at the end - it is RNU not RNN).

It comes “preformatted for Windows” and there are “simple Mac formatting instructions included”

I know I used it previously with a Windows machine but I cannot remember whether or not I subsequently formatted it for Mac as I replaced it with a different drive a while ago.

(I don’t know that the maxim “Keep a thing for seven years and it will come in useful” really applies to computer-stuff but as a hard-core hoarder I find it a difficult habit to break!)

OK … Linux can read/write to Windows formatted (NTFS, FAT/FAT32) hard drives out-of-the box, but it needs a few things installing to read/write Mac formatted (HFS/HFS+) hard drives.

So just in case it’s Mac formatted, let’s install those tools first … open a terminal (Ctrl++Alt+T) and run:

sudo apt-get install hfsplus hfsutils hfsprogs

Now let’s see how the drive is formatted … With the USB HDD attached, can you send the output from:

sudo fdisk -l


df -h

FYI, after installing those tools, Linux will be able to read and write to a Mac drive if it’s formatted as HFS … but if it’s formatted HFS+ it will be read-only unless you attach it to a Mac and use the Mac “Disk Utility” to turn off journalling.

If there’s nothing on the drive you need, and its going to be used exclusively for Linux, let me know as we can just format it EXT4 or NTFS (or possibly HFS) depending on the backup strategy you eventually decide on, but we’ll get to that in a bit :slight_smile:

Will the drive be used exclusively for Linux ? … or will it also be used for Windows and/or OS X ?

Hi Mark :slight_smile:

Sorry if this is a silly question . . . will it work if I plug it into my Mac and send those commands from the Mac terminal?

You have also given me some good questions to have a think about . . .

. . . I had a Plan A there for while but it wasn’t very clever and needs a bit more thought . . factoring in

  • the WD 80GB external hard drive, the size of the HiGrade, the fact may partner is very good at routinely backing-up to CD/DVD whereas I am useless at that

  • the much bigger Seagate external hard drive attached to the Mac that already has:

Partition 1): 800 GB - 100GB used - Big files (mostly video) moved from my Mac to save space (the Mac and this partition are backed up on line)

Partition 2): 300 GB - 80 GB used - Time Machine backup for my Mac

Partition 3): 300 GB (nearly) - empty - Windows formatted - never used. (The plan was that this would be used if necessary to back-up the HiGrade but my partner is VERY good at remembering to back up to CD/DVD so it was not needed).

  • the Amilo: As mentioned in another thread, I have also got an old Amilo with a load of old Windows stuff on it and plan to put Linux on that too. I suspect that the Amilo is all that I have backed up on the WD hard drive but I will need to check to be sure. Whatever it is that is on the WD, I can move it to the Seagate. (What I don’t know yet is whether I can chop up any of those existing partitions on the Seagate to make a new partition for a Linux backup - I am pretty sure I don’t need to keep 300 GB in mothballs for Windows stuff).

Though it irks me not to get the backup sorted out sooner rather than later in order to complete the job, I need to put this on hold for about a week now . . . I will be back with a Plan that hopefully makes sense in human as well as technical terms :slight_smile:

I’ll get back to you on the Mac command thing when my son gets back from college with his OS X thingy :slight_smile:

Can I ask what you intend to backup from the Linux PC(s) ?

a FULL disk backup (including the OS) ?

just the Home directory (user files, such as Documents/Pictures/Videos/Music/etc.) ?

ie. … can you explain what you expect from your backup ?

Resizing the 300GB partition on the Seagate then creating another shouldn’t be a problem … specially as you have room to move the data around if necessary … but depending on your Linx backup strategy/method there may be no need for a Linux formatted partition.