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I just bought a new 2TB disk drive I plan to use as an external drive (connected via eSATA). When I started my computer it recognized the drive fine, but when I got into the Disk Management, a popup told me that I have to initialize that drive and I have to choose between MBR and GPT layout.

The drive will be primarily used on Windows 7 computers (both x86 and x64) as well as on a Windows Vista x64 computer (which is the one the message appeared on).

I do not plan to create multiple partitions on that drive as it is only supposed to be a data storage disk.

Which partition layout should I choose, MBR or GPT? The dialog itself recommends to use GPT on drives >= 2TB or on Itanium based computers, but I want to make sure that I will be able to access the drive later on my other computers.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

GPT will not be usable by XP and earlier systems (I think), so avoid it if that is an issue. Not having seen an XP machine in 3 years it's not an issue for me so I use it in preference to MBR, but it makes little difference at this point in time. At some point, you will have to use GPT, until then, make a choice.

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Well, I don't plan to ever use an XP (or older) system - well, at least not in combination with this drive - so I guess I'm completely fine with GPT. Thanks! – poke Sep 24 '10 at 12:34
If you have <4 partitions won't XP be fine with the MBR compatibility stuff in GPT? – Glyph Jun 3 '12 at 20:13
@Glyph Actually GPT is safer because it doesn't have "hidden" data that may accidentally be deleted, and it stores the GPT entries in 2 places, so if one has problem it can use the backup one to restore. MBR uses only the first sector to store data so if it fails, you have posibility of losing data. – Lưu Vĩnh Phúc May 24 '14 at 14:46
Sure. I'm saying that GPT is better even if you do need XP support, because GPT has MBR emulation, but not the other way around. – Glyph May 25 '14 at 18:07

As of now, support for GPT among common systems is limited. Check out the list of supported OSes here:

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So if I interpret those tables correctly, then that means if I only want to use the drive as a storange disk and will never boot from it, then using GPT is completely fine? – poke Sep 24 '10 at 12:29
That concerns only bootable drives - not an issue with external (data storage) drives like the OP is talking about. – CJM Sep 24 '10 at 12:32
@poke Basically if you're not interested in XP or earlier, yes. – BloodPhilia Sep 24 '10 at 12:39

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