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Partition styles

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Partition styles

Partition style refers to the method that Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003 operating systems use to organize partitions on the disk. All x86-based and x64-based computers use the partition style known as master boot record (MBR). MBR contains a partition table that describes where the partitions are located on the disk. Because MBR is the only partition style available on x86-based computers without Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1), you do not need to choose this style. It is used automatically.

Itanium-based computers, x86-based computers running Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP 1), and x64-based computers can use either the MBR partition style or the GUID partition table (GPT) partition style. There are some differences between MBR and GPT partition styles, but most disk-related tasks remain the same. Basic disks and dynamic disks work the same way as in Windows 2000, and these storage types are available on disks that use either partition style. For more information about basic disks and volumes, see Basic disks and volumes. For more information about dynamic disks and volumes, see Dynamic disks and volumes. For more information about GPT disks, see GUID partition table.

In order to start, x86-based and x64-based computers must have an MBR disk with an active partition. You can also install GPT disks on x86-based computers with Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1), and on x64-based computers, but you cannot start an operating system from them. Itanium-based computers require a GPT disk that contains an Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) system partition and the files necessary to start the computer. You can also install MBR disks on Itanium-based systems, but you cannot start an operating system from them. For more information about EFI and EFI System partitions, see Extensible Firmware Interface.

In order to more easily differentiate between disks that use the MBR and GPT partition styles, Disk Management labels disks that use the master boot record partition style as MBR disks, while disks that use the GUID partition table partition style are labeled GPT disks.

The following table depicts storage types and partition styles in Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003 operating systems:

 

Operating system Basic volumes Dynamic simple, spanned, and striped volumes Dynamic mirrored and RAID-5 volumes MBR boot volume MBR data volume GPT boot volume GPT data volume

Windows XP Home Edition

X

 

 

X

X

 

 

Windows XP Professional

X

X

 

X

X

 

 

Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition

X

X

X

X

X

 

 

Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition

X

X

X

X

X

 

 

Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition

X

X

X

X

X

 

 

Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition with Service Pack 1 (SP1)

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Windows XP 64-bit Edition (Itanium)

X

X

 

 

X

X

X

Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition for Itanium-based Systems

X

X

X

 

X

X

X

Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition for Itanium-based Systems

X

X

X

 

X

X

X

Windows XP Professional x64 Edition

X

X

 

X

X

 

X

Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Windows Server 2003, Enterprise x64 Edition

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Windows Server 2003, Datacenter x64 Edition

X

X

X

X

X

 

X

Disk Management requires NTFS on all dynamic disks and GUID partition table (GPT) disks. You can, however, use the format command to format these disks using FAT or FAT32. For more information about the format command, see Format.

For more information about file system compatibility and limitations, see Choosing a file system: NTFS, FAT, or FAT32.

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