MBR vs GPT: Which One Is Better for You?.
If you ever install a fresh copy of Windows onto your hard drive, you may be asked to choose which disk partitioning standard you want to use. Usually choose between Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table (GPT).
Most users probably don’t know the difference between the two, and since you’re here, we suspect you are too. If you have a modern computer, it is likely that your system drive is a newfangled solid-state drive, so which is the right option for this type of storage technology?
Fasten your seatbelts, because the answer requires a very little history lesson and some experience in hard drive technology that you didn’t expect to learn today.
MBR vs GPT
MBR is a traditional system for keeping track of hard disk partitions. It was first introduced in the early 80s along with PC DOS 2.0 and IBM PC XT. Since then, it has become the standard solution for partition tables as well as a way to manage multiple bootable partitions.
GPT is the official replacement for MBR and was introduced along with the new firmware standard for computers, UEFI, which replaced the traditional BIOS.
These two types of partition tables differ in different ways, but the most important thing you need to know is that GPT is a newer standard and generally outperforms MBR. This does not mean the MBR is dead! Many computers still use the traditional non-UEFI BIOS, and newer computers may well use MBR disks.
What Are Partitions and Why Use Them?
The main influence this choice has is on the nature of your disk’s partitions. A partition is a virtual partition of your physical hard drive. For example, you can partition a 2TB drive into a 1TB boot partition and a 1TB partition for data storage.
Why would you do that? In this case, it means that you can format the system partition and reinstall the operating system without touching anything in the other partition.
With partitioning, you can create multiple boot partitions with different operating systems. Users who need to use both Linux and Windows often create partitions for each one and then select the OS of their choice at boot time.
Partitions are also used for recovery. For example, most laptops have a secure partition on the main system drive that contains software and data that can restore the computer to its factory defaults. Besides this, there are other ways to use partitions, but these are the most important ones.
The downside of using partitions as opposed to using multiple physical disks is performance degradation. Since partitions exist on the same physical disk, access contention is possible. However, modern SSDs have largely addressed this issue.
Interestingly, the opposite approach to partitioning a disk is to combine multiple physical disks into one virtual disk. This can offer tremendous benefits in performance and redundancy. Take a look at HDD Raid Vs SSD Raid: Key Differences You Should Know For More Information.
Why Are SSDs Special?
Why do people ask the question about MBR and GPT specifically in relation to SSDs? Solid state drives are becoming the standard computer storage technology. They are much more reliable than mechanical drives and much faster.
SSDs have a list of problems of their own, however. Chief among them is SSD wear. Write data to the SSD too many times and the drive switches to read-only mode and has reached the end of its useful life.
To maximize the lifespan of your SSDs and get the best performance out of them, it is important to format them using a standard that is optimized for SSD storage. For Windows systems, this will be NTFS, for macOS – APFS. You should also use a modern operating system that supports SSDs and knows how to handle them properly.
With all the dire warnings about using the wrong formats or software with SSDs, it’s understandable that people are wondering which is the best fit for an SSD – MBR or GPT.
The short answer is you should use GPT. The long answer depends on several factors that may influence the choice in your particular situation.
Itâ€™s All About Booting
An MBR can only have four bootable “primary” partitions on a disk. You may have more partitions, but these are “logical” partitions that exist within a special extended partition type.
Honestly, there are more bootable partitions than most bootable partitions. If not, your only choice is GPT, which supports a whopping 128 bootable partitions.
This is not the only boot-related difference between the two partition table standards. If you are using a computer with a traditional BIOS and not a newer UEFI implementation, you will not be able to boot from a disk using GPT. Such a disk can still be read by a BIOS-based computer, it simply cannot boot from it. So you don’t have to worry about external drives.
Operating System Compatibility
GPT is incompatible with Windows operating systems prior to Windows 8. Therefore, if you want to use these older operating systems, you will have no choice but to use the MBR. If you are using this OS on a BIOS computer, this is of course a moot point, as we just explained above.
If you have a specific reason why you want to run an older operating system in a multiboot configuration on a modern computer, consider running it in a virtual machine. For example, if there is a particular application that only works on Windows XP that you still need, it should work fine with something like VirtualBox.
Converting From MBR to GPT: Should You?
It is possible to convert from MBR to GPT, but this usually deletes all data on the disk. Likewise, there are methods to do the conversion in place, but you need to back up all the data to be safe, so it doesn’t make much sense.
Converting an existing disk from MBR to GPT should only be done if the MBR limits you in some way. We do not recommend doing this without a specific reason. If you really want to, you should wait for the next formatting of the disk to make the change.
Does MBR vs GPT Matter for SSDs?
There is no direct link between using an SSD and choosing MBR or GPT. That being said, it’s best to use GPT as the new standard on any UEFI computer. If you are using a solid state drive with a BIOS based computer and want to boot from disk, MBR is your only choice.
Since SSDs tend to be much smaller in capacity, the 2TB MBR capacity limit is almost never enforced. Plus, the small average size of the SSD makes it unlikely that you’ll need a lot of boot partitions on it.
The important thing is that GPT offers fast, stable, and reliable downloads. Because GPT propagates important information about the partition table across the disk, unlike MBR, it can recover from disk corruption that affects only one partition. So that the lost boot record data can be recovered.
It’s not a top choice, but when asked and a particular computer might be using a newer standard, GPT is almost always the right choice.
MBR vs GPT: Which One Is Better for You?
MBR vs GPT: Which One Is Better for You?.