GPT brings with it many advantages, but MBR is still the most compatible and is still necessary in some cases. This isn’t a Windows-only standard — Mac OS X, Linux, and other operating systems can also use GPT.
What Do GPT and MBR Do?
MBR (Master Boot Record) and GPT (GUID Partition Table) are two different ways of storing the partitioning information on a drive. This information includes where partitions start and begin, so your operating system knows which sectors belong to each partition and which partition is bootable. This is why you have to choose MBR or GPT before creating partitions on a drive.
MBR standards for Master Boot Record. It was introduced with IBM PC DOS 2.0 in 1983.
It’s called Master Boot Record because the MBR is a special boot sector located at the beginning of a drive. This sector contains a boot loader for the installed operating system and information about the drive’s logical partitions. The boot loader is a small bit of code that generally loads the larger boot loader from another partition on a drive. If you have Windows installed, the initial bits of UEFI replaces the clunky old BIOS with something more modern, and GPT replaces the clunky old MBR partitioning system with something more modern. It’s called GUID Partition Table because every partition on your drive has a “globally unique identifier,” or GUID — a random string so long that every GPT partition on earth likely has its own unique identifier.
This system doesn’t have MBR’s limits. Drives can be much, much larger and size limits will depend on the operating system and its file systems. GPT allows for a nearly unlimited amount of partitions, and the limit here will be your operating system — Windows allows up to 128 partitions on a GPT drive, and you don’t have to create an extended partition.
On an MBR disk, the partitioning and boot data is stored in one place. If this data is overwritten or corrupted, you’re in trouble. In contrast, GPT stores multiple copies of this data across the disk, so it’s much more robust and can recover if the data is correupted. GPT also stores cyclic redundancy check (CRC) values to check that its data is intact — if the data is corrupted, GPT can notice the problem and attempt to recover the damaged data from another location on the disk. MBR had no way of knowing if its data was corrupted — you’d only see there was a problem when the boot process failed or your drive’s partitions vanished.