I have a Debian sid system (Wheezy) (and same for arch), without any desktop environment (and no Xorg at all).

I can mount my SD-cards, USB sticks, external HDD by label into a specified directory in /media/ manually with mount / umount and the suitable entries in /etc/fstab, or automatically at boot time, but this is compelling, to restrictive and not dynamic enough for my needs: if I want them to be mounted in /media/<LABEL>, each device with a different <LABEL> needs its own entry, and each <LABEL> subdirectory needs to be created / removed manually in /media/ as well).

So, what is the best way to mount them automatically in /media/<LABEL> at insertion (and to unmount them from the filesystem as soon as they are unplugged no matter how risky it is for the data)?

The ideal solution would:

  1. detect when a removable media is plugged-in (i.e. when added in /dev/ as sdax, sdbx, ... by udev)
  2. create a directory in /media/ according to its label (label of the removable media)
  3. mount it in the directory /media/<LABEL> in RW mode (if it's filesystem supports that) with flush option (for a vfat)
  4. detect if the media has been unplugged
  5. if then, unmount it from the filesystem
  6. remove the corresponding directory from /media/

(the devices should be mounted in synchronous mode oviously, to avoid any data loss when hot unplugged because of caching edit: sync is way too much for vfat removable media so flush has been created as a compromise, less secure than sync, but less risky according to the life-cycles of flash memories)

I found some info about autofs, HAL, udisks, udisks2, usbmount etc., but it's unclear which one is deprecated or preferred, and anyway, I haven't figured out how to configure them easily on my system to do that, up to now ...

  • First, have you searched for similar questions? I remember it has been already asked. Second, the unmount should happen before the unplugging.
    – enzotib
    Aug 1, 2012 at 9:06
  • 1
    Of course I did :o] Here and on superuser. The problem is that tools evolves (udisks/udev), or are deprecated (HAL?), other "not preferred" (udisks2?), and so on. Anyway, I haven't been able to find any working nor clear solution. Most of what I found out up to know rely upon a desktop environment mechanism (Gnome, KDE or XFCE); I don't want having to install any. About unmouting, not necessarily. If the device is set to sync, a deamon can unmount the device from the fs if it detects that it has been unplugged with no data loss. All desktop distros do that. I want that in terminal.
    – cedbeu
    Aug 1, 2012 at 9:18
  • Look at this Replacement for halevt. About unmount, generally DE expect you to eject the device from the file manager, before physically unplugging it.
    – enzotib
    Aug 1, 2012 at 9:24
  • Yes, true. But I've seen that some (formerly used) daemons could unmount devices from fs that hasn't been unmounted before unplugging, and even delete automatically their corresponding directory from /media/, and that staying within the normal way of doing things (if devices are configured to be synchronous of course). Thank you for your link. I'll have a look as soon as I'm back home on udisksevt. I already have a look on devmon and udiskie but they aren't in the Debian packages. If I can find anything else I'll try that but I can't believe there is no native solution on Debian to do that.
    – cedbeu
    Aug 1, 2012 at 9:30
  • 1
    I'm on Debian too and I use fdisk -l and then mount - that's two commands, but OK, if you want it automatized, you'll have to parse the fdisk -l output, and then put it in the mount - I do such stuff with head, tail, tr, cut, etc. but the pros usually do it with awk or, even better, look for the data in the correct place. About deletion, at least for me when I mount to /mnt, that's done automatically. About the trigger (when you plug in) I have no clue, but please tell us when you solve this. Aug 1, 2012 at 10:40

6 Answers 6


I think you're looking for pmount.

If you want automatic mounting upon insertion, see Automounting USB sticks on Debian.

If your system uses udisks2, that's the preferred way of reacting to the insertion of a removable storage device. See the Arch Wiki for configuration tips for Udisks.

Otherwise, the program that reacts when a new device appears is udev, so automatic mounting is triggered by a udev rule. The usbmount package provides udev rules to automatically mount USB storage devices and a few others. Calling mount from udev rules doesn't work for FUSE filesystems (such as ntfs-3g), so use udisks if you need that.

You cannot automatically unmount media when they are removed because causality doesn't work that way. The media must be unmounted before it is removed. For read-only media, you can get away with unmounting after removal, although this might confuse some applications if they have files open on the suddenly-vanished filesystem. For writable media, if you unplug a mounted filesystem, data corruption is likely.

  • Thanks a million for the answer. I'll try that as soon as possible and will let the people here know. About unmouting. Guys, please, stop telling me that's a matter of causality where it is not :o] Unmounting after the device is unplugged perfectly make sense (and is possible) as soon as the the device is configured to be synchronous. Then, it is only a matter of filesystem. If data have been transferred without caching (synchronously), then no issue to unplug without unmounting. Then, unmounting can be performed and is only useful to inform the system that the device is not there anymore.
    – cedbeu
    Aug 2, 2012 at 8:08
  • 1
    @cblab You're oversimplifying. If a file is open for writing and you pull the device out, the file is likely to be damaged; unmounting ensures that no file is open. On many filesystems (not FAT though), unmounting is more than setting the dirty bit to 0, they need to e.g. flush a log. For flash devices, a major concern with sync mounts is that it wears the device down a lot faster, because it prevents write grouping. See superuser.com/questions/180722/… and readlist.com/lists/vger.kernel.org/linux-kernel/22/111748.html Aug 2, 2012 at 9:08
  • Hi @Gilles. Thanks for your replies. I don't think I'm oversimplifying, though. Your're right on some points. But, the user decides whether he wants to live risky. You'd agree, your post is 7 yrs old; now, a flush mount option designed especially for vfat avoids those issues: writing isn't performed after each block, but as soon as the device seems to be inactive. And flash memories have greatly increased their dead-end life-cycles as well. Now, obviously the user has to be aware not to unplug devices while files are opened or during a copy (or soon after). But it's the good compromise.
    – cedbeu
    Aug 6, 2012 at 16:58
  • anyway, the usbmount could have been the good option for me, but unfortunately, it doesn't mount the devices on a folder depending on their label names, but in /media/usb-*, which doesn't fit my needs. I want to be able to mount automatically the devices in /media/<DEV_LABEL> with flush parameter when they are detected (if possible with dynamic creation of the directory), and to unmount them and remove the directories from /media/ automatically if they are not detected anymore. The risk I take is up to me.
    – cedbeu
    Aug 6, 2012 at 17:03
  • 1
    Pay attention that usbmount do not support NTFS since jessie anymore: bugs.debian.org/774149
    – malat
    May 19, 2015 at 15:31

Here is how I recently did it, and I am quite happy with this approach now. This is for Ubuntu 12.04 + gentoo, but I guess any distro, which allows to install udev and autofs should work.

Prerequisites: You have to have installed udev + autofs.

Step 1)

Create the following "/etc/udev/rules.d/90-usbsd-auto.rules" file (of course you might use any name as long as it ends with ".rules"). :

# Add symlink /dev/usbdisks/<label> to /dev/sd[a-z][1-9] 
# if partition has a label
# Add symlink /media/usb/<label> to /media/autousb/<label>
# for automounter support
ACTION=="add", KERNEL=="sd*", ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", \
    ENV{ID_BUS}=="usb", ENV{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}=="?*", \
    SYMLINK+="usbdisks/$env{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}", MODE:="0660", \
    RUN+="/bin/rm /media/usb/$env{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}", \
    RUN+="/bin/ln -sf /media/autousb/$env{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC} /media/usb/$env{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}"

# Fallback: If partition has a NO label, use kernel name (sd[a-z][1-9])
ACTION=="add", KERNEL=="sd*", ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", \
    ENV{ID_BUS}=="usb", ENV{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}!="?*", \
    SYMLINK+="usbdisks/%k", MODE:="0660", \
    RUN+="/bin/rm /media/usb/%k", \
    RUN+="/bin/ln -sf /media/autousb/%k /media/usb/%k"

# Some FileSystems emit a "change" event when they are unmounted.
# UDEV seems to delete the device symlink in this case :-(
# So we need to re-create it here
ACTION=="change", KERNEL=="sd*", ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", \
    ENV{ID_BUS}=="usb", ENV{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}=="?*", \
    SYMLINK+="usbdisks/$env{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}", MODE:="0660"

# Fallback: If partition has NO label, use kernel name
ACTION=="change", KERNEL=="sd*", ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", \
    ENV{ID_BUS}=="usb", ENV{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}!="?*", \
    SYMLINK+="usbdisks/%k", MODE:="0660"

# When device is removed, also remove /media/usb/<label>
ACTION=="remove", KERNEL=="sd*", ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", \
    ENV{ID_BUS}=="usb", ENV{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}=="?*", \
    RUN+="/bin/rm /media/usb/$env{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}"

# Fallback: If partition has no label, remove /media/usb/%k
ACTION=="remove", KERNEL=="sd*", ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", \
    ENV{ID_BUS}=="usb", ENV{ID_FS_LABEL_ENC}!="?*", \
    RUN+="/bin/rm /media/usb/%k"

What does this do: It creates two symlinks, one for the USB storage device partition under "/dev/usbdisks/<...>". It will either use the label of the USB storage partition or the kernel name, if there is no label. The second symlink will link from "/media/usb/<...>" to "/media/autousb/<...>" this is done for automounter support (see step 2).

Note: I originally did not use the rules with the ID_FS_LABEL_ENC variables, since this is dangerous in my opinion. What happens if you plug in two USB sticks which use the same label ?

But the poster specifically wanted to use the label of the USB disk, so I modified the rules accordingly.

To make sure udev reads these rules use

sudo udevadm control --reload-rules

With this udev rules file everything is setup to automount the USB storage device partition. Note though that right now, the device will NOT be automounted (intentionally). It will be automounted once you use it with

Step 2)

Setup autofs to automount /media/autousb/<...> : I added the following line to my "/etc/auto.master" file (for Ubuntu 12.04):

/media/autousb /etc/auto.usb --timeout=60

This means that AutoFS will unmount the device after 60 seconds of inactivity. You might want to use less or more, dependent on your taste.

For Gentoo you have to modify "/etc/autofs/auto.master" so it makes sense to use

/media/autousb /etc/autofs/auto.usb --timeout=60

Now I created "auto.usb" with the following content:


fstype=$(/sbin/blkid -o value -s TYPE /dev/usbdisks/${key})
if [ "${fstype}" = "vfat" ] ; then
  echo "-fstype=vfat,sync,uid=0,gid=plugdev,umask=007 :/dev/usbdisks/${key}"
  exit 0
if [ "${fstype}" = "ntfs" ] ; then
  echo "-fstype=fuse.ntfs-3g,sync,uid=0,gid=plugdev,umask=007 :/dev/usbdisks/${key}"
  exit 0
if [ "${fstype}" = "ext4" ] ; then
  echo "-fstype=ext4,sync,nocheck :/dev/usbdisks/${key}"
  exit 0

exit 1

This auto.usb needs to be executable, so that autofs uses this as a (bash) script. So for example

sudo chmod 0755 /etc/auto.usb

What does this do: This script will tell AutoFS (/usr/sbin/automount) how to mount the usb storage device partition.

The script will first use "/sbin/blkid" to find out what kind of file system is on the partition.

The script will then provide the right mount options depending on the device partition.

Note: I included sample code for "vfat" (probably most common for usb sticks), "ntfs" and "xfs" file systems. Of course it is quite easy to extend this to support more file systems.

Step 3) Optional... To "eject" == unmount your usb stick(s) (or partitions on your usb stick), create a script under /sbin/usbeject :

killall -s SIGUSR1 /usr/sbin/automount

With this script you might use "sudo usbeject" to unmount all mounted USB device partitions (by telling automount to unmount them).

Of course you can simply make sure that the partition is not used anywhere; automounter will then unmount the partition after the 60 second timeout...

The real trick here is to use symlinks from "/media/usb" to "/media/autousb":

  • The "/media/usb" symlinks will be created by udev, giving a user a simple overview which usb storage device partitions are there
  • AutoFS will then automount the partition on demand if you use it via /media/usb
  • With the scripted "auto.usb" file you might support any kind of file system and additionally you also are able to support any kind of naming scheme.
  • This approach supports USB sticks with multiple partition, even if these partitions use different file system types.

Ok, it's been a long time, but I'll still answer my question with the best option I found as of now. To summarize: create a udev rule, associated with some scripts (that will create/remove directories and un/mount removable devices), and attached to udev device event type=partition.

1 - Creating add / remove scripts

Save following script storage-automount.sh to /lib/udev/ and make it executable (sudo chmod a+x /lib/udev/storage-automount.sh):


# set the mountpoint name according to partition or device name
if [ -z $mount_point ]; then

# if a plugdev group exist, retrieve it's gid set & it as owner of mountpoint
plugdev_gid="$(grep plugdev /etc/group|cut -f3 -d:)"
if [ -z $plugdev_gid ]; then
    chown root:plugdev $mount_point

# create the mountpoint directory in /media/ (if not empty)
if [ -n $mount_point ]; then
    mkdir -p /media/$mount_point
    # other options (breaks POSIX): noatime,nodiratime,nosuid,nodev
    mount -t $ID_FS_TYPE \
      -o rw,flush,user,uid=0$gid,umask=002,dmask=002,fmask=002 \
      $DEVNAME /media/$mount_point

Save following script storage-autounmount.sh to /lib/udev/ and make it executable (sudo chmod a+x /lib/udev/storage-autounmount.sh):


# set the mountpoint name according to partition or device name
if [ -z $mount_point ]; then

# remove the mountpoint directory from /media/ (if not empty)
if [ -n $mount_point ]; then
    umount -l /media/$mount_point
    rm -R /media/$mount_point

2 - Creating the udev rule to attach those scripts to events

And finally, add a udev rule in /etc/udev/rules.d/, for instance 85-storage-automount.rules:

ENV{DEVTYPE}=="partition", RUN+="/lib/udev/storage-automount.sh", ENV{REMOVE_CMD}="/lib/udev/storage-autounmount.sh"

and make it have the same permissions as the other rules in that dir/folder

Now, when you plug a storage device in, a directory will be created in /media/ according to the partition name (I don't remember but I think it's working with NTFS partition as well) and your partition will be mounted into it. It's R/W for users if you have a plugdev group on your system. Also, the devices are mounted in synchronous mode in order to limit the risks of data loss in case of hot unplugging.

When the device is removed, it's unmounted and the directory is removed from /media

Also, the tool to monitor the udev events is udevadm monitor, with options like --env or --property:

$ udevadm monitor --env

This is tested and working fine on both debian and arch, but probably work on all distributions that rely on udev.

  • I think that +r should be replaced by +x in "set it to executable (sudo chmod +r /lib/udev/storage-autounmount.sh)"
    – J..y B..y
    Dec 27, 2014 at 14:42
  • I have a new jessie install on which I followed your directions closely, but cannot make automount happen from tty1, even after restart (which is not in your instructions, but I also got no automount pre-restart). Inserting the USB drive is detected (I get console messages), but nothing is visible in /media/ (except cdrom). I can manually mount the USB drive, so I know that works as well. [continued in following comment]
    – TomRoche
    Jul 12, 2015 at 23:54
  • [continued from previous comment] I have package=udev installed, have dirs={/etc/udev/rules.d/ , /lib/udev/} pre-populated, and have executable=udevadm in $PATH. I'd like to know (1) in what Debian release did you make this work? (I'm assuming wheezy) (2) what Debian packages do you have installed besides udev?
    – TomRoche
    Jul 12, 2015 at 23:54
  • @TomRoche Was Wheezy, at the time, indeed, and I had no special package installed, I was trying to make a minimalistic setup and was trying to avoid as far as possible to use packages that were not provided by the minimal install. I did not need to restart, that it why this is not in my instructions. It's been quite a long time I haven't dived into it… I might try again soon.
    – cedbeu
    Jul 25, 2015 at 6:04

Please see the ArchWiki Udev page. You are not supposed to execute mount from Udev rules or from scripts that are executed by Udev rules.

However, as shown in the udev-media-automount project, it is pretty simple to do it by invoking a Systemd unit from the Udev rule, which then calls a script which does the mounting. Unlike udisks2 and other solutions, udev-media-automount is geared towards the simple case where you want to mount something as the root user without necessarily waiting for a desktop environment or "user session" to be present. It seems to be exactly what the OP is asking for, and I found it to be functional and easy to understand.

  • Nice, thank you. It’s a pretty old question I’ve asked (almost 7 years ago… doesn’t make me feel younger ^^). But still, I’ll have a look at your proposition. I guess the systemd environment got much more mature since then. Thanks, i’ll check this out!
    – cedbeu
    Mar 20, 2019 at 13:15
  • Thank you - this was a clean way of doing it via udev rules. There's an open issue with fixes for Raspbian. Run systemctl restart [email protected] to verify. Nov 10, 2020 at 15:54

I think its pretty late but I will post this if anyone needs it : (also my first StackExchange answer)

After checking for the solution in many places, I found a simple solution in Arch Wiki:

Link to Arch Wiki.

We can add a udisks2 rule to change default mount directory from /run/media/$USER/ to /media/<Label>.

Add the following rule in /etc/udev/rules.d/ with name like 99-udisks2.rules:

ENV{ID_FS_USAGE}=="filesystem|other|crypto", ENV{UDISKS_FILESYSTEM_SHARED}="1"

Then we can just install a simple tool like Udiskie for automount.

  • Hi, and welcome here. Thanks for your option. For Udiskie, I actually wanted a full command line option (no Xorg nor any graphical interface available on the system). And… Question is 6.5 years old (ow, gosh!), I guess things changed now :) But anyway, +1 for your first answer, thank you.
    – cedbeu
    Jan 24, 2019 at 3:30

I found a way in doing this by editing /etc/fstab file. A simple entry looks like:

/dev/sdb1 /media/robot/hdd1 ntfs defaults 0 0

<file system> <mount point> <type> <options> <dump> <pass>

  • Mounts in /etc/fstab are only automatically mounted at boot.
    – Graeme
    Jan 4, 2015 at 9:52
  • @Graeme, I have an sdcard that I mount via /etc/fstab. As a test, I tried unmounting and physically removing the sdcard from my computer. I verified that the mount no longer showed via 'df'. When I re-inserted my sdcard, the mount then re-appeared even though I had not explicitly remounted it. This is on Ubuntu 16.04.
    – Gino
    Jul 21, 2017 at 3:05
  • @Gino, Ubuntu has done auto mounting by default for some time now.
    – Graeme
    Jul 21, 2017 at 7:53
  • @Graeme, it looks like the Ubuntu automounter is picking the correct mount from /etc/fstab, if it exists there. So, at least on Ubuntu 16.04, the mount is automatically mounted at boot and after subsequent re-insertions into the usb port, if there are any..
    – Gino
    Jul 21, 2017 at 21:49
  • @Gino I haven't used Ubuntu for a while, but I'm fairly sure it will automount your sd card regardless of what is in the fstab. Fstab is more about setting up core system elements than additional disks on modern systems.
    – Graeme
    Jul 21, 2017 at 22:00

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