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(1) Is it true that the new GUID Partition Table scheme allows a user to partition a drive however he/she like, outside of the traditional MBR "4 primaries or 3 primaries + 1 extension" paradigm? If so, are there any limitations to the GPT? If my assumption is wrong, what are its advantages over the MBR model?

(2) I'm getting a new laptop this week and will be installing Ubuntu (and, more generally, Linux) for the first time ever. Does Ubunutu come pre-configured with MBR as a default? If so, how do I get Ubuntu w/ GPT? If not, how do I specify GPT over MBR?


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The number of supported partitions depends on the amount of space reserved for the table. By default (at least for Mac/BSD) gpt creates a table supporting up to 128 partitions. Partition size limit also increases from 2.2TB to 9.4ZB (zettabytes), but I doubt that's a relevant issue for your laptop.

Latest versions of Ubuntu use Grub2 which is a complete rewrite of Grub (the boot loader). I don't know which type of partition system is currently used by default (probably GPT), but I would stick with the default either way. As this is your first stint with Linux, you can avoid learning too much the hard way at once by avoiding unnecessary customization. Just choose 1 partition for system/root, 1 for swap, 1 for home, and 1 for bulk data (media, backup. etc).

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Thanks! I will take you up on your recommended partition layout. My laptop will have 6GB RAM and 320GB HD. I (unfortunately) need Windows 7 so my fiance can use it as well. Here's what I'm thinking: (a) 50 GB Windows 7, (b) 12 GB swap and (c) 512 MB for Boot partition. Any suggestions for how big my system/root, home and bulk data partitions should be? This will primarily be a development machine an needs to be fast. Thanks again! – Zac Dec 29 '10 at 20:08
System should be at least 5GB. My servers use about 3, but they don't have the burden of dev libraries or even a desktop environment. 8GB would be safer. Swap only needs to be large enough to save your 6GB of RAM to disc, and you can go without one if you don't need hibernation capability. Home requirements depend on usage. If you won't be maintaining personal photo/music/video libraries, 1GB per user should do fine. The bulk data partition can take whatever is left, and will be readable by both OS's if NTFS. Make sure you install Windows first so Ubuntu can handle dual-boot support. – HonoredMule Dec 29 '10 at 23:26

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