disk size more than 2TB: MBR or GPT?

I finally decided to store my video collection in an external hard disk instead of optical disks because of my limited time. I bought a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 3TB in need of capacity but I’ve come to a serious bottleneck in usage: maximum disk partition size in different environments, obviously less than 3TB. 

Disk comes pre-formatted 3TB. I hadn’t checked its partition table format. It always feels good to me to have a clean slate, so I’ve formatted the disk with NTFS. Ooops, disk size dropped to 2TB, the rest was unusable. And then I remembered the size limit of a Windows disk. I was able to make two separate partitions with the help of tools like Acronis Disk Director but why instead of one? OK, I admit, it was obsession 🙂

Single 3TB partition is possible with a new partition table standard: GPT (GUID Partition Table)… Reaching the new limitations coming with GPT is not likely in the near future. It’s also more redundant in data integrity than its predecessor, MBR (Master Boot Record). You can find detailed information from the links below:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/hardware/gg463525
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/proddocs/en-us/guid_partition_table.mspx?mfr=true

However, GPT isn’t fully compatible with legacy technology. Devices that don’t comply Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) standards yet, can’t read data from GPT partitions. This includes Windows XP 32-bit and most importantly new generation LED/LCD televisions, DVD/BlueRay players etc. These search for a MBR disk but only find an empty drive, in fact it isn’t. It doesn’t bother me at home, I access data through my computer. But it’s disappointing that you can’t carry your whole archive to your friend’s place to watch possibly with these.

So we have these choices (for now):

  1. change partitioning format to GPT, have more redundancy for data integrity in single partition, but only have access through computer with the OS versions (apart from Unix derivatives) mentioned above.
  2. leave it as it is, MBR, pray not to lose data with that size, make at least two separate partitions (each possible only less than 2TB, not sure the device can see more than one), plug the disk in whatever you want, in wherever you want.

Tough choice for one that seeks both mobility and reliability like me. I guess I’ll advance to GPT in 3TB disk and carry data with my good old MBR 320GB disk. I believe it is also better for the integrity of the original copy.

By the way, I recommend not to lose time or data with the backup software included in: Memeo…

Wish you happy archiving 🙂

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