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I am trying to format an external drive, but getting the error

/dev/sdb1 is apparently in use by the system; will not make a filesystem here!

Based on the internet, I have to

run cat /proc/mounts:

/dev/sda3 /media/backup fusebl w,nosuid,nodev,relatime,user_id=0,group_id=0,default_permissions,allow_other,blksize=4096 0 0
/dev/sdc1 /media/movies ext3 rw,relatime,user_xattr,barrier=1,nodelalloc,data=ordered 0 0

run mount:

/dev/sda3 on /media/backup type fuseblk (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime,user_id=0,group_id=0,default_permissions,allow_other,blksize=4096)
/dev/sdc1 on /media/movies type ext3 (rw,relatime,user_xattr,barrier=1,nodelalloc,data=ordered)

Also fuser -v dev/sdb1 and nothing is using it.

I don't know what else to check to see why this is still in use.

I was able to run cfdisk on it, and remove the old (NTFS) partition and add a new one, but still cannot format.

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2 Answers

If you are sure that it is the right device you want to format, did you tried:
umount -fl /dev/sdb1 ? What do you use to format?

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result of umount -fl /dev/sdb1 is umount: /dev/sdb1: not mounted I used sudo mkfs.ext3 /dev/sdb1 and the result again was /dev/sdb1 is apparently in... –  cjburkha Feb 14 '13 at 12:52
    
rebooting the system worked, thanks –  cjburkha Feb 15 '13 at 13:02
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1) Disconnect the drive, wait a few seconds, plug it back in, then try again
2) If 1 fails, reboot, then try again (right away, without using a file explorer)

Sometimes, using a file explorer (like Nautilus or Dolphin) locks the drive. One of the above usually fixes it.

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I can try to disconnect, but this is a remote (basement) headless system and I am trying to do everything remotly –  cjburkha Feb 14 '13 at 12:55
    
rebooting the system worked, thanks –  cjburkha Feb 15 '13 at 13:02
    
You're welcome. Please mark your question as "answered." –  Tom Feb 16 '13 at 1:26
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