13 Differences Between MBR and GPT

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You will first need to know the differences between the two partition styles Master Boot Record and Globally Unique Identifiers Partition Table if you want to upgrade your computer and make sure that it serves your purpose in the best possible way.

It is however quite hard for any average user to know such differences which is why assistance from articles like this are required. In this article you will know about some of the major differences between them along with some additional facts.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • It is not very easy to recover data from the Master Boot Record partition style since everything is stored in one place which is not the case with Globally Unique Identifiers Partition Table since it has several copies of it stored in the disk.
  • No prior information of data corruption is provided in MBR partition style but in GPT the Cyclic Redundancy Check feature checks such issues beforehand so that it can be recovered from a different place on the disk.
  • Both MBR and GPT manage partitions but MBR does it on the Hard Disk Drives using BIOS firmware and Logical Block Address of 1 to store the codes in the first sector of the disk while GPT uses UEFI firmware and stores the codes in the second sector.
  • MBR partition tables offer up to 26 primary and extended partitions but GPT can offer as many as 128 distinct partitions.
  • The MBR stores data of the location of the window and RAM in the primary storage, Master Boot Code, Master Partition Table, and Disk Signature but GPT stores data and information about the drive, booting and its functionality.

The 13 Differences Between MBR and GPT

Differences Between MBR and GPT

1. Data Recovery

In MBR partitions style all data is stored in one place and therefore recovering the data in case of overwriting or corruption is difficult, if not impossible.

On the other hand, data stored in a GPT based disk is easy to recover because there are multiple copies of it available across the disk.

2. Prior Information of Data Corruption

The MBR partition cannot know about any data corruption existing in the disk beforehand. Booting may fail suddenly and drive partitions may vanish indicating such issues.

GPT partition style, on the other hand, has a feature that allows storing CRC or Cyclic Redundancy Check values.

It helps in checking such data corruptions beforehand so that GPT recovers it from another location on the disk.

3. Working Process

The main job of the MBR is to manage the creation and organization of the partitions on a Hard Disk Drive or HDD.

It uses BIOS firmware for it. It stores the codes in the first sector of the disk with a Logical Block Address LBA of 1.

On the other hand, the GPT too manages creating and organizing partitions on the Hard Disk Drive but it uses UEFI firmware.

It stores all information about the disks such as partitions, sizes, and others in the second sector because sector one is reserved for BIOS and MBR compatibility.

4. Data

The data stored by MBR includes how and where the Window will reside in the primary storage and the Internal RAM or Random Access Memory so that it can manage the boot process.

The LBA 1 data also includes MPT or Master Partition Table, Master Boot Code, and Disk signature.

On the other hand, the data stored in the GPT partition includes information about the drive such as the details of the drives, storage size, partitions, boot information, and data related to functionality and booting.

5. Full Forms

MBR stands for Master Boot Record. Since it contains the code for launching the operating system it is also called as Boot Loader sometimes.

On the other hand, GPT stands for GUID Partition Table or Globally Unique Identifier Partition Table.

6. Age

MBR has been around since the days of IBM PC DOS 2.0 in 1983. It is for this reason MBR is typically paired with the older Legacy BIOS systems.

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However, in comparison, the GUID Partition Table is a newer standard having been developed in the late 1990s.

It is therefore paired with the newer UEFI systems and is gradually replacing MBR.

7. Compatibility

The MBR is supposed to have a much better hardware and software compatibility since it is paired with the old BIOS systems.

On the other hand, the GPT seems to have a lot of ground to cover to catch up with MBR in terms of software and hardware compatibility.

8. Capacity

The maximum capacity of the MBR is up to 2 TB. This means that if you use a drive with a capacity much more than that, the MBR partition table will work but only for the first 2 TB of space.

The rest of the storage space of the drive will be wasted.

On the other hand, the maximum capacity of the GUID Partition Table is much more as compared to the maximum capacity of the MBR partition tables.

In fact, it can go up to 9.7 ZB or Zettabyte, where 1 ZB is nearly 1 billion terabytes. This means that you will hardly run out of storage space anytime soon.

9. Number of Partitions

The MBR partition tables can offer up to 4 separate partitions. However, you can configure one of these four partitions to make it an extended partition.

This can be further divided into as many as 23 extra partitions. This means that the total number of partitions an MBR partition table can offer is up to 26.

On the other hand, the GPT partition tables can offer you up to 128 separate partitions. This is more than enough for anyone to use in most real world applications.

10. Partition Name

The MBR stores the name of the partition in the partition itself. On the other hand, in the GPT, the unique Globally Unique Identifier and the 36 character is used to name the partition.

11. Partition Addressing Method

The partitions of the MBR tables are usually addressed by two methods namely, the CHS or Cylinder Head Cycle and the LBS or Logical Block Addressing.

On the other hand, the GUID Partition Tables use only one method for addressing the partitions namely, LBA or Logical Block Address.

12. Partition Type Code

In the MBR Partition Table only 1 byte code is used. On the other hand, the GPT uses 16 byte GUID.

13. Bootable Version of Operating System

The MBR can boot a 32 bit operating system but, in comparison, the GPT can boot a 64 bit operating system.

Which is Better to Upgrade to  – MBR or GPT?

So, with the differences now known to you, you should not have any more doubt as to which one among the GPT and MBR partition styles is better to go for.

Even then if you are wondering which one you should upgrade your system, here are some other facts that will help a great deal in that matter.

It is quite obvious that the GPT partition style brings in a varied and wider range of benefits with it but MBR, on the other hand, cannot be considered to be unnecessary outright.

You will still need an MBR partition in some particular cases.

And, most importantly, MBR happens to be the most compatible one with older computers.

The MBR partition table is considered to be a unique boot sector. It is located at the front end of the drive and contains a boot loader.

It usually contains the information regarding the logical partitions of the drive and the installed operating system as well.

The boot loader is usually a small bit of code which stores the opening bits of the Windows boot loader if you run a Windows operating system.

The larger boot loader is usually loaded from a different partition on the drive.

And, if your system runs on Linux, the MBR will have the GRUB or Grand Unified Bootloader stored in it.

It is for this reason you will need to repair the MBR partition table in case the operating system does not start or it is overwritten.

If you consider the data stored and a bit of technicalities of these two types of partition tables, In the GPT, the MBR sector 1 or LBA 1 is LBA 0 and GPT is sector 1 or LBA 1.

In the GUID Partition Table, the data stored in LBA 1 of the Hard Disk Drives or HDD stores information regarding the following:

  • Partition entries data
  • MBR data
  • GPT data and
  • Secondary or backup GPT data.
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The MBR partition tables, on the other hand, store different types of data as well. These are:

  • Master Partition Table or MPT
  • Master Boot Code or MBC and
  • Disk Signature.

Here the Master Partition Table stores all of the information of the HDD such as:

  • The format type
  • The capacity and
  • The information and sizes of the partitions.

All these are necessary for the computer and the operating system to function properly and make it easier to identify the active and bootable partitions.

The Master Boot Code carries out the launching of the operating system.

It also controls the boot up process and the configurations necessary for it. This includes:

  • Detecting the drives
  • Calculating the external RAM
  • Detecting the displays and more.

The Disk Signature refers to the unique identifier of a drive which is necessary for all.

This identifier makes sure that the right drive and its partition reads and writes the data when you use multiple disks.

The main job of it is to ensure that the appropriate functionality of the computer and security protocols for all read and write data transactions are followed.

All these work with the BIOS of the computer or the motherboard.

The BIOS first looks for the MBR in the device and then performs the volume boot code from the particular partition that holds the code.

Then after, the boot sector in the hard drive is activated by the MBR so that the operating system is launched.

However, MBR comes with its unique limitations.

First, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to boot it up again in case you damage the MBR sector in the drive, which is quite easy and commonplace.

In that case, you will first have to make a recovery USB drive with Linux or Windows and make an effort to repair the MBR.

If that is not possible, you will need to wipe the drive entirely and install the operating system once again.

This is quite a headache, and it is surely not worth it.

Then, the MBR partition style also has limitations in supporting larger disk size, number of primary partitions and others, which add to the hassles, which are silly and unnecessary.

On the other hand, GPT is more modern and replaces the old and unwieldy BIOS with each partition having a ‘Globally Unique Identifier’ which is why it is called the GUID Partition Table.

The GUID is a long and random string that makes each of them unique.

Moreover, the GPT based drives are much larger since there is no size limitation provided the operating system and the file systems are not limited.

You can make as many partitions as you like and the operating system supports it without needing to create another extended partition to make things work.

Another major point of worry regarding the MBR partition style is that the boot data and the partitioning data on an MBR disk are all stored in one place.

This means that you will be in serious trouble when this data is corrupted or overwritten.

On the other hand, the data stored in a GPT based disk is easy to recover because it stores several copies of it across the entire disk, making it more robust and reliable.

Another good thing about the GPT partition style is that it allows storing CRC or Cyclic Redundancy Check values so that it can check whether or not the data is intact.

If it is corrupted, the GPT will notice it instantly and will try to recover the damaged data from a different location on the disk.

MBR, on the other hand, cannot know about such issues beforehand. Instead you will notice that the boot process is affected or it failed.

You may also see that the partitions of the drive do not exist anymore.

Most importantly, the GPT drives come with a ‘protective MBR’ which indicates that the drive includes a single partition extending over it entirely.

This will enable an old tool that can read MBRs only and with which you try to manage the disk to see it and not overwrite the data with a new MBR considering it as an un-partitioned GPT drive.

This means that the protective MBR prevents the data on a GPT based disk from being overwritten.

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Using GPT is much more reasonable because the 64-bit versions of Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista operating systems as well as the corresponding server versions on UEFI-based computers can boot up only from GPT.

All these versions can read and use the data on GPT drives and simply cannot boot without UEFI or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface.

GPT can be used by all other modern operating systems as well. For example, Linux comes with built-in support and the Intel Macs of Apple do not use the proprietary Apple Partition Table pr APT scheme any more.

They both now support GPT instead.

Therefore, you should find a GPT partition to be better if you want:

  • Something more modern
  • Something more robust and reliable and
  • Something that most computers are moving toward.

Typically, you should upgrade or format your system with a GPT partition scheme if you have an external Hard Disk Drive or a Solid State Drive and your computer supports GPT and MBR partitioning.

This will offer you to enjoy significant benefits such as:

  • Much faster speeds
  • Unlimited partitions and
  • Much larger storage capacities.

On the other hand, it is better to stick to an MBR partition if you want more compatibility with older systems than Windows 7 and are okay with drives that are lower than 2 TB in size.

Moreover, if you are still using Vista or XP in your old system, it is highly likely that the GPT partition scheme may not work at all.

In such situations, you will be better off with your MBR partition. This will retain the compatibility with the hardware of the computer.

With that said, there may be some other cases where you may want to upgrade your system from an MBR to a GPT partition style.

For example:

  • When you need more than 2 TB and
  • When you want more than 26 partitions.

However, you will first need to do two things essentially even in such cases before you start with the upgrading process.

These are:

  • You will need to make sure that the hardware of your system can support a GPT and a UEFI Basic Input/output System and
  • You will also need to make sure that you have kept proper backup of all the important data stored in the drive.

This will save you from all the hassles of reinstalling everything right from scratch in the worst case scenario. You can simply roll back.

One last but important fact to know is that today most of the manufacturers are moving over to UEFI BIOS.

This means that the drives in the newer system will now need to use the more modern GUID Partition Table format.

It is therefore more prudent to move to a GPT partition scheme.

Therefore, in the end, you can see that the differences between a GPT and an MBR are quite straightforward.

However, the significant amount of background information that has been provided in this article has surely helped you have a much clearer picture about each of these two types of partition tables.

This will surely help you to make a quick and correct decision.

A word of caution: Whenever you want to mess around with the partition of the drive in your system, do make sure that you have proper backup of the data.

In fact, you will be better off if you have two backups, just in case of a worst case scenario.

Conclusion

So, after reading this article, now you know what the differences between MBR and GPT partition styles are.

Such knowledge will be really helpful when you need to upgrade the partition of your system from one to another and do not know which one to choose.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin