MBR vs Partition Table: Difference and Comparison

An out-of-date and overly complex hard drive can lead to data loss or even a computer shutdown due to sudden power supply failure.

An MBR (master boot record) database and partition table are two structures that can help to determine how the hard drive is set up. Both MBR and Partition Table are exceptionally similar yet extremely different.

Key Takeaways

  1. MBR (Master Boot Record) is an older partitioning scheme, while the partition table is a more generic term referring to organizing partitions on a storage device.
  2. MBR supports up to 4 primary partitions, while GUID Partition Table (GPT), a modern partition table, supports up to 128.
  3. MBR has a 2 TB storage limit, while GPT can manage partitions larger than 2 TB.

MBR vs Partition Table

MBR is a specific partitioning scheme that includes a partition table. The partition table is a more general concept that can be used in conjunction with different partitioning schemes.

MBR vs Partition Table

The Master Boot Record (MBR) is responsible for loading the hard drive’s boot sector. The MBR is fixed in size and, therefore, cannot be changed.

It is 256 bytes long, or 512 bytes for systems with 512 bytes of RAM. This means that MBR does not support over-partitioning.

A partition table is a data structure for organizing data stored on a hard disk. The partition table stores the starting location of a file on the hard disk and how it should be maintained.

It helps in maintaining how files are organized or categorized so that one file is not overwritten by another when writing data to the hard drive.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMBRPartition Table
DefinitionThe MBR holds information such as what partition table type to use and how big each partition can be.The partition table is a data structure that stores information about the layout of the disk and its partitions.
ElementalThe MBR elemental comprises information about where and in which order to load the operating systems. Partition Table comprises a disk that allows each partition to be allotted its own data space, in units called sectors.
SplittingMBR contains only the basic information about the hard drive, there are no partitions in it. Partition Table accommodates many operations or partitions in it.
SpotThe MBR is always located at sector 0 of the disk.A partition is spotted on the smallest unit of storage on a hard drive.
FeasibleThe MBR is feasible.The partition table is not feasible.

What is MBR?

The MBR, or Master Boot Record, is the first sector on an MSDOS formatted hard drive.

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The MBR is always located at sector 0 of the disk. It divides the disk into one or more sections known as partitions, each of which has its own structured data storage area called a volume-table entry (VT-E).

The Master Boot Record (MBR) is responsible for loading the boot sector of your hard drive. It contains information about where and in which order to load the operating systems.

The MBR also stores the partition table, which translates from the logical drive letter to its physical counterparts.

An MBR-based computer creates one partition for each physical hard disk. The MBR is fixed in size and, therefore, cannot be changed. It is 256 bytes long, or 512 bytes for systems with 512 bytes of RAM.

This means that MBR does not support over-partitioning, which is no more than one partition per logical drive letter. The MBR must be on the zero or first sector of the hard drive, the three first sectors before the EFI partition.

What is Partition Table?

A Partition Table contains information used to access an array of sectors or any space taken up by the partition, which means everything on a hard drive.

The partition table also aids in booting, partitioning, and repairing hard disks. The partition table is a data structure that stores information about the layout of the disk and its partitions.

A Partition Table is a section or slice, also called a location, on a hard drive. A Partition is the smallest unit of storage on a hard drive and contains only the information needed to access its assigned space.

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Partition tables do not take up physical room on the hard drive. They allocate space in units called sectors. The Partition Table is kept in a 16 bits long field, at offset 52 first byte of the MBR. This field contains 4 partitions of 32 bits long each.

A Partition Table must be defined before it can be used. Partitioning a disk allows each partition to be allotted its own data space in units called sectors. Each sector is the smallest unit of disk space that can be assigned.

A sector is the basic unit of disk storage on a physical drive. On a hard drive, one sector equals 512 bytes. However, one sector can hold less when there are more sectors per track.

Main Differences Between MBR and Partition Table

  1. The MBR holds information such as what partition table type to use and how big each partition can be, whereas the Partition Table is a data structure that stores information about the layout of the disk and its partitions.
  2. The MBR elemental comprises information about where and in which order to load the operating systems, whereas Partition Table comprises a disk that allows each partition to be allotted its own data space in units called sectors.
  3. MBR contains only the basic information about the hard drive. It has no partitions, whereas Partition Table accommodates many operations or partitions in it.
  4. The MBR is always located at sector 0 of the disk, whereas a Partition Table is spotted on the smallest unit of storage on a hard drive.
  5. The MBR is feasible, whereas the Partition Table is not feasible.

References

  1. https://www.scientific.net/AMM.336-338.2221
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353485808700291
  3. https://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO201326940560970.page

Last Updated : 21 June, 2023

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8 thoughts on “MBR vs Partition Table: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article is extremely technical and detailed. It provides a deep insight into MBR and Partition Table, which is very valuable for those looking to expand their knowledge in this area.

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  2. The complete comparison between MBR and Partition Table is wonderful and quite helpful for people who want to understand the differences between the two. Great work indeed!

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  3. The comparison of MBR and Partition Table is interesting, but it could be further enriched with real-world examples to make the content more relatable to a broader audience.

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    • I agree! Providing practical examples would definitely enhance the reader’s understanding of the concepts discussed in this article.

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  4. The detailed explanation of the primary differences between MBR and Partition Table is quite impressive. The article gives a comprehensive understanding of these complex concepts.

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  5. The article presents a clear and detailed overview of MBR and Partition Table. It’s a great reference for anyone interested in hard drive architecture.

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  6. This is an incredibly informative article about hard drives’ MBR and Partition Tables. It has greatly expanded my knowledge on the topic!

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