USB drive


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USB drives include USB flash drives (known as "memory sticks", "USB keys", "thumb drives" or "jump drives") and also larger USB hard drives.

The Sugar Manual and has more information and graphics to help you.


How to install and mount

Insert the USB drive in one of three USB ports on the side of the display of the laptop. The SD card inserts into a slot under the display.

Accessing the USB drive

Go to the Journal, which you can access from the Home View. Select the notebook icon just below the XO character to open the Journal.

The USB icon appears in the lower left corner of the display.


Copying a file from the Journal to the USB drive

To copy a file from the Journal to the USB drive, move the cursor over the Journal item and drag it to the USB icon.

Copying a file from the USB drive to the Journal

To copy a file from the USB drive to the XO, click on the USB icon itself (rather than the number or text above the word "Unmount"), then drag the item from the USB drive to the journal icon.

Removing the USB drive

To remove the USB drive, mouse over the USB icon itself and click on the word "Unmount". When the USB icon disappears, it is safe to remove the USB drive.

USB drives and Open Firmware

The XO's firmware can access a USB drive during boot, for example to upgrade system software or write a new image.

Most USB drives should work.

Some USB drives require features of a complete operating system, and may not work reliably with Open Firmware. You can test compatibility with Open Firmware by using the dir command at the Ok prompt:

ok dir u:\

If this command shows the files on the USB drive, then the combination of (a) Open Firmware version, (b) the USB drive and (c) the filesystem on the drive, is likely to work for upgrading system software or firmware. You should proceed with hope. If an error is displayed by the dir command, then the possible causes are:

  • unrecognised partition table, (such as GPT used by Mac OS X),
  • unrecognised partition type, (such as HFS+ used by Mac OS X. Partition types known by Open Firmware include ISO9660, FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, ext2, and ext3),
  • there are multiple partitions and the first partition is not recognised, (your host operating system may freely access the second partition without knowing about the first partition, resulting in files being copied to the drive fine, but not being visible in Open Firmware),
  • the drive is a specialised device such as U3, which asserts that it is a hub with a CD-ROM and mass storage drive attached,
  • Open Firmware may need upgrading,
  • faulty USB drive,
  • faulty laptop.

For a flash drive to be compatible with firmware, make sure it is formatted as FAT, FAT32, ext2, or ext3, and only contains one partition. Most ordinary USB flash drives are set up by factory as FAT or FAT32, except "U3" flash drives which won't work. Remove U3 with uninstall software from

Other USB Flash Drives *Confirmed* Incompatible with XO's as of Dec 20, 2008: * Kingston DataTraveler (1GB). This appears to be fixed in firmware versions Q2D08 and later. (verified by Lord Nightmare on a Kingston DT-1/1GB flash drive, PN&SN CH040408 // 04226-309.A01LF)

These all-black USB flash drives were purchased by OLPC late Nov 2008, and none of them work when reflashing 656 to 767.

Mitch Bradley says: The bug (ticket #5354) was fixed in firmware Q2D08 (and in all subsequent firmware versions), but unfortunately, the firmware that was included in build 656 (also known as "Ship.2" and release 7.1.2 is Q2D07. The best solution is to update to later firmware. Upgrading the XO to a newer release will install newer firmware, or see Upgrading firmware to only update the firmware. But note that the Kingston DataTraveler 1G device also has problems under Linux during the initramfs stage, see [1] .

USB and U3

Some USB drives come with the U3 software pre-installed. U3 is software for a Windows PC and it's presence on a USB drive prevents successful mounting of the drive on the XO laptop. Further, presence of the U3 software on a drive may cause the XO to incompletely mount the drive, in such a way that even if you can remove the U3 software, the remanents of the incomplete mount will still prevent a successful mount. Re-formatting the USB drive from a Windows computer should remove the U3 software and any remnants of an prior incomplete mount.

For advanced users

The Journal automatically mounts the USB drive's filesystem under /media or /run/media/olpc based on the drive's disk label, for example /run/media/olpc/KINGSTON/ You can use Linux commands such as df in the Terminal activity to access its files. For example cp tmp/* /run/media/olpc/My_drives_name

How to Damage a FLASH Storage Device is a detailed page telling you how to degrade the performance and reliability of FLASH-based storage devices such as SD cards and USB flash drives. And by implication, how not to damage them.

See also

  • Secure Digital card - the XO-1 also has a slot for an SD/SDHC memory card, which you can access from the Journal and Terminal in a similar manner. The XO-1.5 uses an internal microSD card.
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