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Is there a way to split a hard drive into more than 4 primary partitions? I am installing multiple OSs, and it would make life a lot easier if there was a way to do this. My hard drive is 1TB.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

You can use GUID partition table instead of MBR partition table. GPT can handle 128 partitions by default, but you can increase that number by resizing partition table size, as stated in this article posted in comments by @Vality.

Note that GPT is relatively new and older OSes may be unable to handle it correctly. In some cases your GPT can be destroyed completely if software doesn't support it.

A grub menu booting 100+ systems of Dos, Windows, Linux, BSD and Solaris (forum thread) can be helpful if you want to stick to MBR.

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Windows Server 2003 has supported it which was released in 2005. I think with nearly a decade of support we have gone past the "relatively new" status. In order to understand the perspective. Windows NT 3.5 was the first version to support MBR, Windows NT 3.5 was released 19 years ago, so double the time for GPT support but still relatively new( a small joke in my office everyone even with 20 years experience is relatively new ). –  Ramhound Feb 27 at 11:55
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@Ramhound GPT read/write support has existed for a while, but booting from GPT drives has always required [U]EFI in Windows, and therefore an x86-64 copy of Windows installed in [U]EFI mode. Many installations, even new ones nowadays, are installed in legacy BIOS mode. Perhaps it would still work if you used a different bootloader (e.g. GRUB)... but I'm not certain about that, so unless you'd like to confirm...? –  Bob Feb 27 at 16:18
    
Sorry, but I think this is just wrong about GPT supporting unlimited primary partitions, it in fact supports 128 primary partitions. –  Vality Feb 27 at 17:26
    
@Vality if you are completely positive about that, then feel free to edit my answer. –  gronostaj Feb 27 at 18:00
    
@gronostaj Ok, and I am sorry if that comment came across as rude, I just noticed that when reading it back. Just for future reference it is mentioned here. ibm.com/developerworks/library/l-gpt (It's also in the Intel spec but I cant find that freely available) –  Vality Feb 27 at 18:03

Yes, this is possible even with an MBR partition table. There's a special partition type, Extended Partition. It's essentially another partition scheme enclosed in an MBR partition. Wikipedia has a surprisingly detailed description of this scheme.

So long as the boot loader resists on a regular partition, there are no relevant limitations. Still, some operating systems may throw a tantrum. :)

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