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Check if your hard disk drive is using a GPT or MBR Partition Table

A new method of using partitions on your hard disk has been introduced.

The G.U.I.D. Partition Table (GPT) is replacing the long-established Master Boot Record (MBR). GPT forms a part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) replacement for the PC BIOS, Microsoft have mandated that all computers using a Windows 8 logo sticker must use this method and it is expected to become universal.

As of 2010, most current operating systems support GPT. Some, including OS X and Microsoft Windows, only support booting from GPT partitions on systems with UEFI firmware. Most Linux distributions can boot from GPT partitions on systems with either legacy BIOS firmware interface or with UEFI.

Disks larger than 2TB necessitate the use of GPT partition tables. A hard disk cannot be both GPT and MBR (all GPT disks do contain a Protective MBR but that only exists to protect a GPT disk from disk management utilities that operate on MBR). Seperate GPT and MBR hard disks can be mixed on systems that support GPT. However, Windows systems that support UEFI require that the OS's boot partition must be on a GPT disk.

Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008 can read and write on GPT disks (booting is only supported for 64-bit editions on UEFI-based systems). Older Windows versions and MS-DOS cannot access GPT partitions so users need to know if their hard disk does use GPT.

Identifying GPT use is easy in Windows 8

  1. Go to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management, and select Disk Management
  2. On the left of the right lower pane,
    • right-click on Disk 0 and select Properties.
    • Select the Volumes tab.
    • The Partition style: entry will show as either Master Boot Record (MBR) or GUID Partition Table (GPT).

Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

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