Reuse of old USB sticks

The times are not so long ago, when everybody always had an USB stick in his pocket. After the era of optical storage media, USB sticks were for a few years the medium of choice. Today, physical storage mediums were relieved by the cloud so nearly nobody needs to cary a stick with him anymore.

But what to do with all the old sticks, lying somewhere between cables and other useless IT stuff in a box below your desk? If you also have some old USB hubs and a Raspberry Pi, you can reuse them as a big mass storage medium…

Lets plug everything together. In the picture above, I plugged 8 USB sticks into two USB hubs and connected them to a Raspberry Pi 4 with 4 GB RAM. The system sees them as:

/dev/sda
/dev/sdb
/dev/sdc
/dev/sdd
/dev/sde
/dev/sdf1
/dev/sdg1
/dev/sdh1

The devices and partition layout can be different in another setting. Lets create a logical volume via the Logical Volume Manager (LVM) out of them.

Be careful: All data on the sticks will be erased! Make sure not to choose the wrong device in the following commands!

Lets initialize the USB sticks:

pvcreate /dev/sda /dev/sdb /dev/sdc /dev/sdd /dev/sde /dev/sdf1 /dev/sdg1 /dev/sdh1

Now, create a LVM group out of the physical sticks:

vgcreate GROUP /dev/sda /dev/sdb /dev/sdc /dev/sdd /dev/sde /dev/sdf1 /dev/sdg1 /dev/sdh1

In this group, create a volume with a given size, here 64 GB:

lvcreate -L 64G -n VOL GROUP

Last step, create a filesystem on the volume and mount it to a directory (here “/mnt/vol”):

mkfs.ext4 /dev/GROUP/VOL
mkdir /mnt/vol
mount /dev/GROUP/VOL /mnt/vol/

You can see now a big volume of nearly 64 GB, mounted on /mnt/vol:

df -h
...
/dev/mapper/GROUP-VOL   62G     53M   59G    1% /mnt/vol
...

Don’t expect good performance or reliability. Copying a 5 GB folder needed 20 minutes. But in general it works.