Mount an external drive at boot time only if it is plugged in

I’ve got an entry for an external harddrive in my fstab:

UUID="680C0FE30C0FAAE0" /jgdata ntfs noatime,rw

But sometimes this drive isn’t plugged in at boot time. This leaves me half way through a boot, with a prompt to “Continue Waiting, press S or press M” but no keypress has any affect at this stage (including CtrlAltDelete, not even caps-lock).

Short of writing a script to check the output of fdisk -l, how can I mount this drive at boot time only if it is present? It would be handy to have an fdisk entry for this drive, so I can just type mount /jgdata instead of needing a device name.

Asked By: Jeremy


does the noauto option let the boot process continue?

it doesn’t automatically mount if present, but it does get it known if present so a simple mount /jgdata works…then a scripted mount /jdata wouldn’t need an output check, just catch the error and keep booting

edit: upon some further reading bootwait is probably a more correct option to pass…(usually used for network shares that might not be present until later in the boot process, but it might still cause a hang, idk)

and the mount script could be added like so:

Answered By: RobotHumans

The recommended way to mount during the boot is instructing their system through the fstab file. Looking at your Ask, I could see you are almost there, lacks only the instruction that sets the device to use automount options, allowing your system to mount the device when its available.

So, just rewrite the line in your fstab to be like below:

# <file system>           <dir>       <type>    <options>         <dump> <pass>
UUID="680C0FE30C0FAAE0"   /jgdata      ntfs      user,auto,rw       0     0

After change and save it, try to mount it by hand:

$ sudo mount -a

It’s important to note that:

  1. you need to be sure about the device’s UUID. UUIDs are generated by the make-filesystem utilities (mkfs.*) when you create a filesystem.
  2. Those <options> needs to be written following a very specific format, separated by commas but no spaces after each comma. Be careful with this 😉
  3. I’m not sure if this will work smoothly because you are trying to automount a NTFS filesystem, that are handleable using NTFS-3G utilities. While my instructions are supposed to work correctly, I never tried automount NTFS before. So, if its failed, I recommend you to look at this Mounting Windows Partitions for alternative uses of NTFS.


Answered By: crncosta

I had the same issue – I’ve done one extra step

If you use the nofail option in /etc/fstab, the system will look for your disk (and partition) at boot time. If the device is plugged, the filesystem will be mounted. If not, the boot will continue as normal.

See arch wiki:


UUID=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX    /myhdd ntfs  auto,nofail,noatime,rw,user    0   0

I’ve tried to boot the system with and without the device plugged, and it works ok.

What I’ve not achieved is to automount when disk is plugged after boot (when isn’t plugged at boot). I must use mount -a as root to mount all again.

Answered By: user898384

You’re all on the right trail. I’ve found a way that is a little more clean and better form.

The correct option to add in fstab is nofail, however, it needs to come after auto. If you change it to noauto, it will never mount during boot. If you add nobootwait to the bootloader, you could potentially miss something serious, such as mounting the partition before fsck finishes checking it, or not mounting a partition that is used in the boot process.

After making the above change, The system will start normally (and mount the volume) if the device is plugged in while the system is shutdown.
It will also boot normally if the device is not present at boot time.

The only inconvenience is that if you connect the device while the system is running, depending on configuration (too many variables to test), the device may not mount immediately. This can be remedied with a simple mount -a or mount /specific_device or a reboot.

Answered By: Bryan Gonzalez
/dev/xvdh1 /myfs xfs defaults,nofail,x-systemd.device-timeout=30 0 0

worked for me.

  • nofail – Do not report errors for this device if it does not exist.
  • x-systemd.device-timeout=30 – Boot will take 30 seconds longer if device does not exist (default is 90 secs).


Answered By: user313829
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