Multi-Partitioned USB ThumbDrive




About: Full-time netbook user. It's cheap, and battery life is good. I like open source software. Proud maker of a Woodpunk desklamp.. Find me on Twitter: @JavaNut13, flick me a @ reply too..

I am a devoted Linux user, and only use Windows when I have too, and avoid Mac at all costs. I came up with this moderately easy-ish hack, to stop Windows users from reading, or even seeing, the contents of part of my thumbdrive.

Its all based on partitions, and filesystems. Windows can only read NTFS, and FAT filesystems, whereas Linux can read NTFS, FAT, Ext2, Ext3 (and soon Ext4), and some others, but I'm not quite so up-to-speed on those.

Basically, we split the thumbdrive into two parts, one FAT (so anyone can read it) and the other Ext3 (so any linux user can read it.) Simple.

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Step 1: Ingredients

These are the basic bit of software and hardware you will need:

Thumbdrive (AKA USB flash memory stick, jump-drive, pen-drive, etc) The bigger storage the better.

Puppy linux (a ~100M operating system) head to: (I used version 4.1.1, but they are pretty similar.) on a live CD.. (I'll get to that later)
An Ubuntu installation, with GParted Installed (this is slightly better)

A working computer with a writeable CD Drive (with power, screen, tasteful desktop background, keyboard mouse, etc..)

Step 2: Download and Install Puppy

This step can be skipped if you have GParted installed onto Ubuntu, or any other Linux distribution.

Once you have downloaded the Puppy Linux ISO file, and write it to a CD, there is an inbuilt ISO writer in Windows XP, so all you need to do is head to where you saved the ISO, and right click, and you should find 'write to CD' or something like that. Finish going through the ISO Wizards steps, inserting the blank CD on command, and so on..

Step 3: Start Up GParted

Put your Puppy linux CD into the CD tray, re-boot your PC and Puppy should start up, go through the set up, choosing your mouse type, keyboard layout and screen resolution.

Click 'Menu>System>GParted' (this may differ from version to version) a dialog window should pop up, asking which drive you want to edit, click the one with the make and version of your thumbdrive, then click OK.

A window should pop up, looking something like this: (without the numbers, and arrows)

Step 4: Start Partitioning!

My recommended order (use instructions below as guidelines)
I.Select device
II.Fomat it to Ext3
III.Click Apply, this may take some time..
IV.Click Resize/ Move
V.resize the Ext3 partition, the left-over size will be FAT32 'Resize/ Move' in the dialog, to confirm the resize the 'Unallocated', grey partition
VIII.Format that to FAT32, not FAT16
IX.Click Apply

Use dropdown (4) to select your device, make sure you have the right one

Use button (1) to resize the partition. If the partition won't resize, try formatting it to Ext3 first.

Click 'Partition>Format to>FileSystem' to change the filesystem type.

(3)May come in handy

(2) click to apply.

Step 5: Fin. Finis. Finish. Kaput.

Once that has finished, shut puppy down, remove the disk.

When you boot onto Windows, only the FAT32 partition will show up.
When you boot onto Linux, both will show up. Amazing.

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    19 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    can i use partition software to do this on usb?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i have a 16gb patriot XT with 3 partitions.. all three partitions are for OS installers fist partition is an AIO windows 7 64 & 32bit. partition 2 is Mac OSX SnowL, partition 3 is ubuntu netbook version (small). I love it that way its friggin awesome i use chameleon boot loader to pick which partition to boot with. easy as pie.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Seesh! I wish I had a drive big enough for all that.. Mine's really old and only 1gb..


    "avoid Mac at all costs" - awww thats just rough - Mac is a lot closer to Linux than Windows is...

    Nice instructable - cool idea

    2 replies

    Yeah, I know. I was a 'Windows-ie' but it costs far too much for me.. and Mac has to be installed onto an Apple computer, which would be a problem for me, as I don't buy computers, I build them..

    Mac is just to user-friendly.


    Mr CheeseoJavaNut13

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Was going to be mean but I read your last comment.  As for building and not buying you minght wnt to check out OSX86 for info on how to install OSX on a PC.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wouldn't it be a better idea to use a more flash suitable filesystem like jffs2 or yaffs because that would make your flash drive last longer.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I don't actually know about other filesystems, but I guess you could format it to whatever you wanted. Its just Ext3 is kind of the 'standard' in Linux, and FAT32 is readable by anyone.

    You could create 3 partitions if you feel the need to.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    These flash file systems are specifically designed for use on a flash drive and will not wear it down as much as file systems designed for magnetic storage like normal harddrives.
    These filesystems should be mountable in any modern linux distro.
    Have a look at and for some more information :)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    just be careful.  the up/downside to windows being such a popular platform is that there are apps/drivers/etc for everything. and ext is no exception. for example on my tripleboot laptop (mac/win/ubuntu) all three operating systems can see ext, fat, ntfs, and hfs.  

    now i know most people won't have it set up, but those likely trying to steal your information will be able to if they try.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    This isn't supposed to be an IronKey all over again, it would be good if it was though.
    I don't store sensitive data on my Thumbdrive..

    Thanks for that anyway..