There are few things as frustrating as experiencing trouble with your computer’s hard drive, but is there a partitioning scheme that works better than an MBR-based one? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a curious reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Clay Nichols wants to know if GPT partitions are less likely to corrupt compared to MBR-based ones:

I know that GPT (GUID Partition Table) partitioning has some benefits over MBR (Master Boot Record), including support for:

  • More partitions (128)
  • Hard drives larger than 2TB

Are there any other benefits like less potential for corruption or are you just playing whack-a-mole where GPT can also  become corrupted in the same way as MBR? The two hard drive failures I have experienced were due to corrupted MBRs.

Are GPT partitions less likely to corrupt compared to MBR-based ones?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor mtak has the answer for us:

According to the Wikipedia article on GUID Partition Tables, there is redundancy built into the GPT partition scheme. The GPT header is written at the beginning as well as at the end of the disk (see graphic below). In addition, the partition table header also contains a CRC32 checksum for itself and for the partition table.

The redundancy is not available in the MBR partition scheme, which only occupies the first 512 bytes of a disk. The extra redundancy would allow for more resilience against corruption. The CRC32 checksum allows the system to detect which of the two headers is the correct, uncorrupted one if a problem arises so that it can be used to repair the other one.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here (URL of the original question/thread in this last sentence).

Image Credit: GUID Partition Table Scheme by Kbolino (Wikipedia)

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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