Doesn't seem all that jaunty to me.
April 23, 2011 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to copy some windows files to an external USB drive so I can wipe the disk. I am doing this under Ubuntu Jaunty because it won't stay up in XP due to malware (not even long enough to scan the drive, but I'm don't need to repair the system. I just want to get some files off it.)

So I booted from a live Ubuntu DVD and I plugged in a USB hard drive.
The USB drive is a FAT file system while the XP drive may be NTFS. I can see both under Ubuntu and would like to drag files from one to the other. However, when I try and do so, I am ignored. No error message, even. If I "copy" from the XP drive, paste doesn't appear on the menu when I right-click on the USB drive.

My first guess was that it was mounted ReadOnly, but I was able to create an empty file on it, so that's not the case. Will it refuse to transfer from an NTFS system to a FAT one? Or is something else going on? And why won't it tell me?
posted by Obscure Reference to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
In a terminal, the "dmesg" command prints a log of various system level events. If you find things that look like errors or complaints googling those phrases may give a clue.

I like to imagine that the Linux kernel talks to itself as it goes about its business, and dmesg shows a transcript of that mumbling.
posted by idiopath at 1:36 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, while Linux can handle FAT file systems just fine, NTFS is a little more tricky. In my experience (and I'm not a big *nix guy, so I could be wrong), NTFS partitions usually mount as "read only" by default on Linux systems. Usually there's some need to download a 3rd party NTFS addon to support "unsupported" writing to NTFS partitions.

Also this will usually fail if the NTFS file system is dirty and needs to be checked.
posted by kbanas at 1:38 PM on April 23, 2011

Response by poster: What it seems to object to is creating subdirectories--or dragging a folder to the USB drive. It says I lack permissions to do that. I thought that a directory was just a file and didn't need any new permissions. When I tried again, though, it just ignored me, and dmesg had nothing to say about it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2011

Maybe try making a zipped up archive of the files you want? I am not sure why it would prevent you from making directories and not files, but it is worth a try. It could be that when you are dragging and dropping the default is to move the folder rather than copying and that is the permission failure (since you are dragging from a read only system).
posted by idiopath at 2:01 PM on April 23, 2011

Check the umask being used to mount the filesystems (might be defined in /etc/fstab). I know you can set both a (regular) file umask and a directory umask independently, so that may explain the different behavior for files and directories.
posted by axiom at 2:13 PM on April 23, 2011

I have done exactly what you are doing, though with older versions of ubuntu, with no problems. i dont think ntfs should be a problem. can you check your read/write permissions on both the source and target drives?
posted by DarkForest at 2:17 PM on April 23, 2011

Do it from the command line. I bet it works.
posted by Leon at 2:20 PM on April 23, 2011

Weird FAT issue, i.e., something to do with long file names?

Try reformatting the USB drive as FAT32. On Linux, unmount the USB, open a command prompt, and do:

sudo mkfs.vfat /dev/sdb1

or whatever the device for your USB drive is.

While you're in there, you may as well run the copy command by hand; it may give you better diagnostics. Something along the lines of:

cp -r /media/old/windows/drive /media/usb/drive

with the appropriate paths.
posted by chengjih at 2:23 PM on April 23, 2011

Seconding chengjih's suggestion on the commandline sudo mkfs.vfat and cp -r. Be sure to use super user rights before hand (eg. sudo cp -r) which will override any permission issues.
posted by samsara at 4:00 PM on April 23, 2011

Also, another issue could be the way the NTFS volume is being mounted. Unmount your XP drive and use NTFS-3G to mount the drive instead. Create a folder called "mydrive" in your /mnt folder and then run "sudo ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /mnt/mydrive"

If ntfs-3g isn't recognized you may want to install it.
posted by samsara at 4:04 PM on April 23, 2011

Any easy way that might work in the GUI: launch Nautilus as root.

gksu nautilus
posted by quarterframer at 4:39 PM on April 23, 2011

Usually there's some need to download a 3rd party NTFS addon to support "unsupported" writing to NTFS partitions.

This is completely untrue. NTFS-3g has been stable for over four years, supports full read and write access of data and extended attributes, and is included in practically every distro. Why here's the manifest for Jaunty and you can clearly see NTFS-3g is part of the base system, so there is no need to download anything. It is no more a 3rd party utility than any other component of the desktop like GNOME or Firefox (which is to say that every component on a linux system is a third party app from the standpoint of the kernel.)
posted by Rhomboid at 5:29 PM on April 23, 2011

Response by poster: Oddly, I got drag and drop to work. I dragged to the top level directory as shown in the "folders" on the left side of the browser and that worked just fine. I still don't know why nothing else worked but the practical problem being solved, I needn't worry about the theory.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:52 PM on April 23, 2011

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