MBR was first introduced by IBM in the year 1993 which instantly became a popular way to partition disk drives. MBR has two limitations which resulted in its demise. You cannot partition disk drives larger than 2TB and you cannot create more than 4 logical partitions. This is why Windows computers come with a max storage size of 2TB.
This is where GPT comes in. As the size of drives increased, there arose a need for a partition system that could handle larger drives with more logical partitions. GPT formatting can handle up to 128 partitions on an HDD that is up to 18 Exabytes in size. That’s 1 million TB. Needless to say, GPT is here to stay for a long time even though most regular users may never feel the need to use such a large disk drive or so many partitions. I am happy with just 4.
Where MBR drives came with BIOS, GPT drives come with UEFI interface. MBR also makes it difficult to recover lost files.
Here is the short version. You should use GPT because it has a modern interface, can boot your computer faster especially if you are using SSDs, doesn’t get corrupted easily and recovering files are easier.
You should use MBR only if you have to use an old operating system like Windows XP or older, otherwise, use GPT only.
Is My Drive MBR or GPT
A lot of people are still using old computers and operating system. In fact, a recent report states that 49% of all PCs running Windows run on Windows 10. This means a lot of you guys are still using Windows 8 or earlier version which means there is a strong chance that your drive was formatted using MBR system.
How was my drive partitioned? There are 4 ways to find out.
1. Device Management
Close all windows and when you are on the desktop, press the ‘Windows key’ + ‘X’ to select Disk Management option. When it opens, right-click on the drive and select Properties. Select the Volumes tab and there you will find out whether your HDD/SSD is partitioned using MBR or GPT system.
2. Device Manager
You can also use the Device Manager to find out whether your disk drive has been partitioned using MBR or GPT system. To do so, press the ‘Windows key’ + ‘R’ to open the Run command prompt. When it opens, type devmgmt.msc and hit enter to open Device Manager. Alternatively, you can also press the Windows key+X shortcut to open a hidden menu and click on Device Manager.
Expand the Disk drives option here and you will see a list of all your disks. I have only one. Double-click on the drive to open a popup. Under the Volumes column, click on the Populate button to find out how your disk drive was partitioned.
Also Read: 7 Ways To Free Up Hard Disk Space On Windows
3. Command Prompt
For those of you who love to, or rather have to, use the command prompt, there is a simple command to find out whether your disk drive is partitioned using MBR or GPT system. Launch the command prompt by either searching for it in Windows or using the Run command. To use the latter, press ‘Windows key’ + ‘R’ key, type cmd and hit Enter. When the command prompt launches, type ‘diskpart’ and ‘list disk’ on each line and hit Enter.
If your disk drive was partitioned using GPT then there will be an asterisk (*) mark under the GPT column. If there is no asterisk mark then know that your drive was partitioned using MBR.
PowerShell is even more powerful than the Command Prompt. In fact, I suspect that Microsoft will soon remove Command Prompt altogether. Press the ‘Windows key’ + ‘X’ keys to reveal the hidden menu and select PowerShell from there to launch it. Unlike the Command Prompt that has a black background, PowerShell has a blue one. Once it opens, type Get-Disk and hit Enter.
Now that you know the difference between and significance of the two partition styles and how to find out which disk drive partition is your drive using, let us see how you can change your drive’s formatting.
How to Change Partition Format from MBR to GPT
There is no doubt that GPT is the way forward and if you are still using MBR on one of your computer hard drives, you should consider converting it to the GPT format. So how do we do that? Here are two ways to convert any HDD or SSD from MBR to GPT.
If you are using windows 10 on your computer then you already have MBR2GPT tool installed. The utility tool has been developed by Microsoft in-house and ships with every PC that has Creators Update. In case you are wondering, that is V1703. You can find out your build number by typing ‘winver’ in the Run prompt (Windows key+R). If you haven’t updated yet, this is another reason why you must.
The main benefit of MBR2GPT tool is that it will convert your disk drive partition from MBR to GPT without deleting your data or files. I would still recommend everyone to make a backup of all their files and data, just in case. There are two ways to run this tool. You can either run it from Windows PE (Pre-installation Environment) or from the full OS using the dedicated /allowFullOS command. The .exe file is located in the System32 folder but you can search for it using the Windows search feature. No need to drill down the folder structure.
Before you begin, make sure that the following requirements are met which are necessary for the tool to function correctly:
- The disk is in MBR format
- It is an internal disk and not external hard disk
- Currently, no more than 3 partitions
- One partition is for system and is active
- No extended or logical partition
- The system partition has a BCD store with a default OS entry that points to an OS partition
Now, launch the Command Prompt with admin rights. To do so, search for CMD in Windows search, right-click, and select Run as admin. You should see Administrator in the header when the Command Prompt window opens.
You will first validate the disk you want to convert from MBR to GPT as shown in the screenshot above. To do so, type the below command:
mbr2gpt /validate /disk:[enter your disk number]/allowFullOS
In order to initiate the MBR to GPT conversion process, you will have to enter the following command in the command prompt:
If you are using WinPE then type: mbr2gpt /convert /disk:[enter your disk number]
If you are using Windows 10 then type: mbr2gpt /convert /disk:[enter your disk number] /allowfullOS
Note that you will no longer be using BIOS but instead UEFI, so make sure that your system supports UEFI even before you begin. After the conversion is done, you will have to make the change manually. To do so in Windows 10, press the ‘Windows key’ + ‘I’ to launch Settings and go to Update & Security-Recovery-Advanced startup and click on Restart. When your PC restarts, you will see a blue screen where you will change your boot type from BIOS (MBR) to UEFI (GPT). Reboot again to see the change take effect.
Microsoft has created a really helpful video on the topic that I recommend you to watch in its entirety before proceeding with the conversion.
2. MiniTool Partition Wizard
If you are not using Windows 10 with Creators Update then you will have to use a different, a third-party tool to change your partition style from MBR to GPT format. One of the most popular tool is MiniTool Partition Wizard. This nifty little tool is free and compatible with Windows 7/8/10. For the purpose of this guide, the free version is good enough. Download and install it.
When MiniTool Partition Wizard opens, click on Disk & Partition Management. Now simply right-click on the disk you want to convert and select Convert MBR Disk to GPT Disk. Click on Apply to initiate the process.
MBR or/and GPT
Now you know what MBR and GPT partitioning is and how the latter is superior to MBR in every way imaginable. Not only Windows but MacOS by Apple also uses GPT partitioning style. You can easily convert your MBR partitioned disk drive to GPT using one of the above methods. Although there is no need to take a backup, I would suggest you take one anyway.