When you are initializing a new hard drive with
built-in Disk Manager in Windows 10, Windows 8/8.1, or Windows 7, a window pops up and
asks you to choose between MBR (master boot record) and GPT (GUID partition table) disk.
What's the difference between them and is there any benefit to choose one over the
As known to us, a brand new hard disk must be initialized before you can partition it
for data storage. So when you install a new hard drive to the computer, it will
first initialize the disk and ask you to choose between MBR and GPT partition style.
Typically, most people would straightly click next step without knowing any of the
advantages or disadvantages among MBR and GPT. However, the default setting of
Windows would initialize the disk to MBR partition style or even you choose GPT,
someday, you may find it not meet your needs.
The MBR, short for Master Boot Record, is an old and commonly-used disk layout. The
GPT, short for Globally Unique
Identifier Partition Table, is a new disk layout associated with UEFI. Firstly, you
may know something about MBR like how to fix MBR, which leads you to think MBR just
refer to a specific important data. Actually, MBR and GPT also determine the style
of the disk between MBR and GPT. After initializing it, we can call a disk as MBR
disk or GPT disk. The two different styles of disk own different schemes to manage
the partitions on a disk. The differences between them are caused by the rapid
development of the information age. The older scheme shows more and more
disadvantages, so there introduced a new scheme to fit the changes. Once a hard disk
is initialized, the structured information will be recorded and stored to a
particular segment of the disk. On the other hand, the information will change with
the changes of partition information so that it is called partitioning scheme.
In details, the organization of the partition table in the MBR limits the maximum
addressable storage space of a disk to 2 TB (232 × 512 bytes). And it only supports
up to 4 primary partitions, or 3 primary partitions and 1 extended partition
combination. However, with the progress of the times, larger storage devices need to
be applied to the computer field. Therefore, the MBR-based partitioning scheme is in
the process of being superseded by the GUID Partition Table (GPT) scheme in new
computers because of GPT partition table disk supports a volume up to 2^64 blocks in
length e.g. for disks with 512-byte sectors, that would be 9.44 ZB – zettabytes, 1
ZB is 1 billion terabytes, and the ability to have up to 128 primary partitions. A
GPT can coexist with an MBR in order to provide some limited form of backward
compatibility for older systems.
Are you confused with the concept and knowledge behind MBR and GPT? Maybe you just
want to know how to identify what disks you are using.
How to check if your hard disk is MBR or GPT?
There are 2 methods to find out which partition style your hard drive is using. One
is built-in graphical Disk Management tool. The other is the DiskPart command
Method 1: Use Disk Management Tool
Step 1. To open Windows Disk Management, press "Windows
Key +R" to open the Run dialog, input "diskmgmt.msc"
into the box, and click OK.
Step 2. Select the disk (here is Disk 0) you want to check.
Right-click it and select "Properties".
Step 3. Select the "Volumes" tab. In
"Partition style" line, you'll know whether your disk
is MBR or GPT.
Except Disk Management tool, you can also check using the DiskPart utility in a
Command Prompt window.
Method 2: Use DiskPart Command Line
Step 1. To launch DiskPart utility, please click Start menu and
type "diskpart" in the Search box. Right-click diskpart.exe and select
"Run as administrator".
Step 2. Type "list disk" command and hit Enter. A
table will display all disks connecting to your computer. If a disk is GPT, it will
show an asterisk (*) under the "Gpt" column. If a disk is MBR, it will be
blank under the "Gpt" column. In this example, The Disk 1 is a GPT disk,
while the Disk 0 is a MBR disk.
Be careful when creating a 5th partition on a MBR disk. If you want to create more
partitions, you have to create a structure of no more than 3 primary partitions plus
an extended partition and then create more logical partitions resides on the
extended partition. Otherwise, the disk will be converted to dynamic disk. It is not
recommended to average users as some users may encounter dynamic disk invalid
problems and unable to install OS on a dynamic disk.
To sum up, you may see that GUID partition scheme has more advantages, is that mean
you can adopt this kind of partitioning scheme to every disk? No, not all Windows
systems support this partitioning scheme.
- Windows XP 32-bit, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4, or Windows 95/98 cannot read,
write, and boot from GPT disks, they will see only the Protective MBR.
- Windows XP x64 Edition can use GPT disks for data only.
- All versions of Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista,
Windows 2003 Server, Windows Server 2008 (R2), Windows Server 2012 (R2), and
Windows Server 2016 can use GPT disk partition for data. Booting is only
supported for 64-bit editions on UEFI-based systems.
When you are facing those conditions, you can mix GPT and MBR disks on systems that
support GPT. However, systems that support UEFI require that boot partition must
reside on a GPT disk. Other hard disks can be either MBR or GPT. Besides, both MBR
and GPT disks can be basic or dynamic disk.
The major differences between MBR and GPT disk are mentioned above. So you can choose
GPT or MBR depending on what you have and what you need to do.
Tips: If you have initialized your new hard disk to either MBR or
GPT, and stored data or installed system on either of them, however, you want to
apply the other disk layout because of 2TB disk space limit or incompatible OS
Partition Assistant Pro allows you to realize the conversion between MBR and GPT
without data loss, which can be downloaded here.