MBR Vs GPT: What’s The Difference When Partitioning A Drive?

Have you recently re-installed your operating system or integrated a new drive? In any case, when setting up a new disk on Windows 10 or 8.1, you are going to be asked whether you want to use MBR (Master Boot Record) or GPU (GUID Partition Table). If you have stumbled across this article you’re probably wondering what’s the difference between GPT and MBR when partitioning a drive? Well, we are going to be explaining both style’s advantages, compatibility, and limitations, to ultimately help you choose the right one for you.

Partitioning - What Does GPT & MBR Do?

A basic part of the formatting process is partitioning, which essentially divides the available memory into several areas. When partitioning you will come across a partitioning table which boils down to one question: MBR or GPT? MBR (Master Boot Record) and GPT (GUID Partition Table) are two different ways of storing the partitioning information on your drive. It doesn’t matter if you are using Windows, Mac, or Linux, these are the two solutions for partitioning. Some of the partitioning information is where partitions start to begin with, letting your operating system know which sectors belong to each partition and which is bootable.

MBR & GPT Partitions - Advantages

While many are well versed in splitting up hard drive space on operating systems like Windows, it isn’t actually required. Any storage device can be used without dividing up the memory, as long as it has been formatted with a file system that is supported. So why do so many create partitions? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages:

  • OS and services such as boot loader can be stored in the fastest part of an HDD, ensuring max read and write speeds.
  • Data that isn’t modified very often can be put into a separate partition as an easy way of excluding it from defragmentation.
  • You can easily separate system and application programs using partitions, making it easier when the time comes for a system backup.

MBR Vs GPT Limitations

MBR only works with disks up to 2TB and supports just four primary partitions. To create more you would have to make one of your primary partitions an extended partition and create logical partitions inside it.

In truth, GPT doesn’t suffer from the same limitations as MBR, with GPT-based drives able to be much larger. Unlike MBR, GPT allows for a nearly unlimited amount of partitions, with the obvious limit being your operating system. For example – Windows allows up to 128 partitions on a GPT drive, without having to create any “extended partitions”.

On an MBR disk, the partitioning and boot data is stored in one place. This poses an issue if the data is ever overwritten or corrupted. GPT, however, stores multiple copies of this data across the disk, making it a more robust option if the data is ever corrupted.

MBR has no way of knowing if its data was corrupted, in fact, you’d only see an issue when the boot process fails or your partitions vanish. GPT, on the other hand, stores CRC (cyclic redundancy check) values to check if its data is intact. GPT will notice the issue and try to recover the damaged data from another area on the disk.

MBR Vs GPT - Which Partition Is Best?

The short answer is, unless you are still using an old version of Windows, have a 32-bit Windows installed, or have a motherboard that doesn’t support UEFI boot, then the best choice for you is going to be GPT.

Both MBR and GPT are usually offered but in principle GPT has become the standard solution, with support for an unlimited number of partitions and no size restrictions for the storage device.

While there aren’t that many that need more than four partitions, going with GPT is ultimately more secure. GPT disks use primary and backup partitions tables for redundancy and CRC32 fields for improved partitions data structure integrity. GPT is also better for you if your HDD is larger than 2TB, since you can only use 2TB of space from a 512B sector hard drive if you use MBR.

Converting MBR To GPT

If you are still using MBR, we recommend converting your existing MBR partitions to GPT. To do this in Windows, you can convert partitions using the “Disk Management” tool:

  1. Open the control panel and click on “Administrative Tools”.
  2. Find the icon for the “Computer Management” service and double-click on it.
  3. In the menu panel on the left, select “Disk Management” (listed in the “Storage” section).
  4. Windows will now show you a list of the disks set up on your device, including any partitions that have been configured. Right-click on the relevant storage device and select “Convert to GPT disk”.

Users of Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu can convert partitions via the terminal, using the gdisk program.

Final Word

Now we have talked about the difference between MBR Vs GPT when partitioning a drive, it is worth stating again that you should probably go ahead and use GPT when setting up a drive. That is unless you are using a very old computer with an ancient version of Windows, of course, but there are far too many benefits in GPTs corner.

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