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MBR or GPT for Ubuntu Live USB: Which One to Choose for Dual-Boot with Windows 10?

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In the world of dual-booting and multi-booting, choosing the right partitioning scheme for your Ubuntu Live USB is crucial. This article will guide you through the choice between Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table (GPT) when setting up Ubuntu alongside Windows 10.

Quick Answer

If you are using UEFI firmware on your computer, choose the GPT partition scheme for your Ubuntu Live USB. If you are using BIOS firmware, choose the MBR partition scheme. Match the partitioning scheme of your live USB with the firmware interface of your computer or the existing partitioning scheme of your Windows 10 installation.

Understanding MBR and GPT

Before we dive into the specifics of each partitioning scheme, let’s take a moment to understand what MBR and GPT are.

Master Boot Record (MBR) is a special type of boot sector at the very beginning of partitioned storage devices like hard drives. It holds information on how the logical partitions, containing file systems, are organized on that medium. MBR has been around since the IBM PC DOS 2.0 in 1983, making it the widely supported standard.

GUID Partition Table (GPT) is a more modern, robust standard that is gradually replacing MBR. It’s part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) standard, which is replacing the older BIOS system. GPT provides a more flexible mechanism for partitioning disks than the older Master Boot Record (MBR) partitioning scheme that has been common to PCs.

Choosing between MBR and GPT

When creating a bootable live USB for Ubuntu, the choice between MBR and GPT depends on the firmware interface of your computer. If your computer uses the newer UEFI firmware, GPT is the recommended choice. On the other hand, if your computer uses the older BIOS firmware, MBR would be the way to go.

For UEFI Firmware

If you’re using a computer with UEFI firmware, select the “GPT partition scheme for UEFI” option when creating the live USB. GPT is better suited for UEFI, as it allows for a nearly unlimited amount of partitions, and it also supports larger partition sizes.

For BIOS Firmware

If your computer uses BIOS firmware, go with the “MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI” option. MBR is the standard for BIOS firmware and is fully compatible with it.

Dual-Booting with Windows 10

If you’re planning to dual-boot Ubuntu alongside an already installed Windows 10, the partition scheme of your live USB should match the one used by Windows 10.

Most modern computers with Windows 10 are installed using UEFI firmware and GPT partitioning scheme. You can confirm this by checking in the Windows Disk Management tool.

To access Disk Management, press Win + X and choose Disk Management from the menu. Right-click on the disk (usually Disk 0) and select Properties. In the Volumes tab, you’ll see the partition style listed.

If your partition style is listed as GUID Partition Table (GPT), you should choose the “GPT partition scheme for UEFI” when creating your Ubuntu Live USB. If it’s listed as Master Boot Record (MBR), choose the “MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI”.

Conclusion

Choosing the right partitioning scheme for your Ubuntu Live USB is crucial for a successful dual-boot setup with Windows 10. The rule of thumb is to match the partitioning scheme of your live USB with the firmware interface of your computer or the existing partitioning scheme of your Windows 10 installation.

Remember, MBR is suitable for BIOS firmware, while GPT is the way to go for UEFI firmware. When in doubt, check your system settings or refer to your system documentation. Happy dual-booting!

Can I use MBR for UEFI firmware?

No, MBR is not compatible with UEFI firmware. If your computer uses UEFI, it is recommended to use GPT for partitioning.

Can I use GPT for BIOS firmware?

Yes, GPT can be used with BIOS firmware. However, MBR is the more commonly used partitioning scheme for BIOS systems.

How do I check if my computer uses UEFI or BIOS firmware?

You can check the firmware interface of your computer by accessing the BIOS/UEFI settings. Restart your computer and look for a prompt to press a specific key (such as Del, F2, or F10) to enter the settings. Once in the settings, navigate to the firmware interface section to see if it is set to UEFI or BIOS.

Can I change the partitioning scheme of my already installed Windows 10?

Changing the partitioning scheme of an already installed Windows 10 can be complex and risky. It is recommended to backup your data and perform a fresh installation if you want to switch from MBR to GPT or vice versa.

What happens if I choose the wrong partitioning scheme for my Ubuntu Live USB?

If you choose the wrong partitioning scheme for your Ubuntu Live USB, it may not be able to boot or properly install alongside Windows 10. It is important to match the partitioning scheme of your live USB with the firmware interface of your computer or the existing partitioning scheme of your Windows 10 installation.

Can I dual-boot Ubuntu with Windows 10 if I have MBR and UEFI firmware?

Yes, it is possible to dual-boot Ubuntu with Windows 10 even if you have a combination of MBR and UEFI firmware. However, you will need to make sure that the partitioning scheme of your Ubuntu Live USB matches the firmware interface of the computer you are installing it on.

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