Removable Storage and Optical Drives

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Copyright © 2016 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2016.03.02)



The Userful System Tray provides a simple, intuitive way to manage USB-connected peripheral storage devices, including flash drives. Optical drives, such as the host system CD/DVD drive, are also managed through the System Tray.

The Userful System Tray icon is located in the upper task bar of the desktop. When there is a USB flash drive inserted, or when there is a data or video optical disk inserted, clicking on this icon will drop down a list of available devices (see example at right}.

Audio CDs are not managed through the Userful System Tray.

Audio CDs will appear in the Places menu, and can also be accessed through any music or audio application.

Shared Versus Private Access

Userful offers options for both shared and private storage peripherals.

What is Shared Storage?

Shared storage is storage that can be accessed by any logged in user, and can be accessed by more than one user at a time. Shared devices will appear in the System Tray of all logged-on users.

Examples of shared storage in a Userful System:

  • a flash drive plugged directly into the host PC.
  • the CD/DVD drive in the host PC.
  • any optical (CD/DVD) drive plugged into the USB port on any zero-client device.
  • a USB-connected portable hard drive plugged directly into the host PC.

What is Private Storage?

Private storage can be accessed only by one user. Typically this would be a device plugged into a zero client device (which forms a station) or into a USB hub that is associated with a particular station. Private storage devices will appear only in the System Tray of the user who plugged in the device. Examples of private storage in a Userful system:

  • a flash drive plugged into a zero client device or USB hub belonging to a particular station.
  • a USB-connected portable hard drive connected to a zero client device or USB hub belonging to a particular station.
Please Note: Optical (CD/DVD) drives are always shared, regardless of where they are plugged in.

Accessing Storage Devices

Please Note: U3 Smart Drives are not fully supported by Userful.

The "virtual CD drive" will not be recognized by a Userful System. The U3 drive will operate only as a USB flash drive.


When a USB storage device is plugged in, the Userful System Tray icon will briefly change to a "USB" symbol; once the icon returns to normal, the device will be accessible through the System Tray.

To open a window and view or access the contents of a storage device such as a flash drive, click on the System Tray icon, highlight the device, and select "Open". This mounts the storage device. Until a storage device is mounted, it will not be accessible.

A message will appear with a friendly reminder to remember to close the device from the System Tray before unplugging the device, to avoid data loss.

Before unplugging a device, click on the System Tray icon, highlight the device, and select "Closed". Wait one or two seconds -- or until indicator lights on the device stop flashing -- and remove the device.

Note: Flash drives can have different types of filesystems, just like hard disks. Ext3/ext4-based filesystems, which are commonly used in Linux systems, retain permissions that restrict read/write access to the owner.

This means that a flash drive with an ext3/ext4 filesystem created on one system may not be usable when plugged into another system. To avoid this issue, users can use FAT32 formatted flash media, which works well cross-platform, and doesn't have permission issues like ext3/ext4. (Users should be aware that FAT32 storage volumes allow a maximum file size of 4 GB.)

To format or re-format a flash drive, use the Gnome Disk Utility. This application is typically found under Applications > System Tools.

Saving Files to Storage Devices


Storage devices handled by the Userful System Tray are automatically displayed in the Places menu (in the top panel of the Desktop, if using the Gnome display manager), and will also appear in the list of "Save" destination folders when saving a document from within an application.

Using DVDs

Playing Video DVDs

To use the Userful System Tray to play video from DVD, it is necessary to install the open-source media player "VLC" and some additional media codecs. To play DVDs (and other videos):

  • Be sure to install External Packages after the firstboot. Under Control Center > System Operations click "Install Third Party Add-ons" and install the packages available.

Users must be in the cdrom user group to access the optical drive through the Userful System Tray.

To play a DVD: Simply insert the DVD into the optical drive. The Userful System Tray icon will briefly change to a "DVD movie" symbol; when it returns to normal the DVD will be available in the System Tray drop-down list. Simply click on the System Tray icon, highlight the device, and select "Play".

Please Note: Commercial DVD playback is not supported.

Opening Data CDs and DVDs

It is also possible to open an optical disk in a file window; to do so choose "Open" from the System Tray options. It is not necesary to "Close" an optical drive from the System Tray prior to removing it from the system, although it is good practice to wait for the disk to spin down before ejecting it.

Playing Audio CDs


Audio CDs are not handled by the Userful System Tray. Instead, audio CDs show up in the Places menu, or can be accessed via a music playing application.