TonidoPlug: Formatting a Attached Hard Drive

I just received the TonidoPlug and wanted to use ext3 as the file system on the drives I attached to it. Unfortunately I didn’t have an easy way to format a drive with ext3. So I used the TonidoPlug itself to do the formatting.

TonidoPlug Logo

tonidopluglogoThe TonidoPlug is a wall-wart type device that runs a Linux server but doesn’t come with any external hard drives. The $99 device has some interesting potential so I got one to take a look at it. I just received it today so what its exact capabilities are remains to be seen. But in setting it up I came across my first problem – attaching the external drive.

Now, this isn’t exactly difficult. The TonidoPlug has a USB port and any external USB drive can be attached to it. In fact, I successfully attached a NTFS formatted USB drive. But I didn’t want to use that drive. Since I plan to experiment I wanted to use a toaster style USB bay so I can easily swap drives. I also wanted to use some older drives I had on the shelf gathering dust. All these would need to be reformatted. I didn’t really want to use NTFS or FAT32 as the file system so formatting on my PC was out. Of the supported file systems the ext3 file system seemed the most reliable choice. I didn’t need to swap drives with other machines and if I was forced to use the drive in another computer there are programs I could use the read the drive from Windows or OS X. With the decision to go ext3 the problem became how to format the drive. The only Linux computer I could easily attach a hard drive to was the TonidoPlug. So here are the steps I followed to format the drive.

I’ve had the device for only a few hours and am far from an expert, so these procedures may not be perfect but they worked for me. To keep this short I’ll assume you can use terminal (on OS X) or Putty (on Windows) to SSH into the TonidoPlug.

  1. Setup the TonidoPlug. I my case I attached a NTFS formatted drive to get used to the plug, but this could be done before any drive is attached
  2. Attach the drive to be formatted. In my case the drive I used did not have a valid file system so it was not mounted. But if the drive mounts then use the Admin console (or command line after SSH) to unmount it.
  3. Go into the admin panel and verify the disk is recognized, also make a note of the device name. In my case I saw the following (double-click any image for full size):
  4. The drive isn’t currently mounted and I make a note that it’s seen as device  /dev/sda. I’ll need this later.
  5. Connect to the TonidoPlug using SSH.
  6. Create the partition by running fdisk /dev/sda.
    When prompted I select a primary partition that uses the entire drive and select a type code of 83 (Linux active partition). The output transcript is:
  7. Now that the partition is created I need to add the file system and run: mkfs.ext3 /dev/sda1 The transcript for this is below and it takes a few moments to run.
  8. I mount the drive manually just to make sure: mount /dev/sda1 /media/disk1part1. The drive shows as mounted in the admin console.
  9. The final test is I reboot the TonidoPlug and verify the drive is available.

Now the drive is available like any other drive and I can start finding out what this thing is capable of.