UEFI and GPT Questions

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UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:51 pm

I now have a motherboard that is UEFI capable and I need some advice regarding MBR vs. GPT volumes.

I'll be installing Windows 8 soon, and I want to use an SSD for a boot drive, and two other SSDs for high-read data. There will also be a 1.5 TB or 2.0 TB HDD drive in this system. Over the next 5 years, I see this drive growing in capacity to about 4 TB (maybe by way of "storage spaces"), but it will be partitioned and it's not likely that I'll need any single application, data, or boot partition will need to be larger than 1.5 TB.

Eventually, this might become a multi-boot system, with Windows 8 as the main system, but also with Windows 7, Windows XP, and Linux on separate hard drives. I might need to use Windows 8 to read hard drive partitions from the other systems (for file transfers and such), but it wouldn't be a common practice or need.

At least one of my SSDs (a Samsung 830 256 GB) has management/trim software that might not run in GPT mode. I am unsure about the newest version, 3.2 because GPT support is not specifically stated in the download support page. A future version of the software may bring GPT support.

In the next couple years, I may want to implement boot security and bitlocker, but I don't plan to do it right now.

I still favor an occasional "cold disk image" backup strategy, in addition to common Windows 8 "warm backup" methods. Therefore, my MBR/GPT decision must be able to support the cold booting from a USB or DVD to take full image backups of all of my drives, including the SSD boot drive.

I am really stuck here. Given the info provided above, is there a strong case either for or against GPT?
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:54 pm

I'd stick with MBR. If in the future you get a drive larger than 2TB, you can use GPT just for that drive.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:03 pm

Ditto. My inclination would be to go with MBR for any drives that are small enough that you don't need the addressing capabilities of GPT. This should give you the best compatibility with other OSes.

Just a few weeks ago I went through hell trying to get Ubuntu to boot from a pair of GPT drives in RAID-1. Granted that's probably a somewhat unusual corner case for a desktop Linux install; but I believe it is a general indication that GPT support still isn't quite as fully baked as it could be.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:20 pm

For a standard user I have never seen any benefit to GPT other than allowing partition sizes of over 2TB.

There are some really great things for enterprise users like Failover Clusters.

Does anyone know of a feature that the standard home user (or even home power user) would benefit from in a non-server environment?
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:27 pm

Arvald wrote:For a standard user... benefit to GPT... allowing partition sizes of over 2.2 TB.
I believe that you answered your own question. If you install a $90 3.0 TB drive or two, GPT is what you need.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:48 pm

Arvald wrote:Does anyone know of a feature that the standard home user (or even home power user) would benefit from in a non-server environment?


Faster boot, better security, and better fault tolerance. Edit: More than four primary partitions.

Windows 8 defaults to creating GPT disks on a UEFI system during install; regardless of disk size. The installer is not going to ask you if you want GPT or not.

Edit: Technically Windows 7 will also default to GPT without asking on a UEFI system.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:59 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:
Arvald wrote:Does anyone know of a feature that the standard home user (or even home power user) would benefit from in a non-server environment?

Faster boot, better security, and better fault tolerance.

Windows 8 defaults to creating GPT disks on a UEFI system during install; regardless of disk size. The installer is not going to ask you if you want GPT or not.

AFAIK the better security part is only true if you also have Secure Boot enabled. I agree it should be more fault tolerant, as there are multiple copies of the partition table.

Given that the OP has expressed a desire to multi-boot older/alternative OSes, the disadvantages almost certainly outweigh any advantages in his case.

As an aside, I *really* wish OSes would *not* silently default to GPT on UEFI systems. You should be prompted, or at the very least there should be an "expert" mode which allows you to override this behavior. This "GPT on UEFI" rule is in fact what tripped me up on my Ubuntu RAID-1 install a few weeks ago (Ubuntu also uses GPT if it detects a UEFI BIOS, but UEFI+GPT apparently doesn't play nice with their software RAID-1 implementation without some manual tweaking).
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:29 pm

just brew it! wrote:AFAIK the better security part is only true if you also have Secure Boot enabled. I agree it should be more fault tolerant, as there are multiple copies of the partition table.


MBR viruses apparently don't work either. Albeit getting additional details about that has been difficult.

JBI wrote:Given that the OP has expressed a desire to multi-boot older/alternative OSes, the disadvantages almost certainly outweigh any advantages in his case.


Perhaps. Albeit I wasn't really arguing against that. Arvald asked a straight forward questions, I gave the answer to that question.

I'd honestly argue that using Hyper-V, VMware, or VirtualBox is probably a better solution for him than doing a multi-boot, but that's for him to decide.

JBI wrote:As an aside, I *really* wish OSes would *not* silently default to GPT on UEFI systems. You should be prompted, or at the very least there should be an "expert" mode which allows you to override this behavior. This "GPT on UEFI" rule is in fact what tripped me up on my Ubuntu RAID-1 install a few weeks ago (Ubuntu also uses GPT if it detects a UEFI BIOS, but UEFI+GPT apparently doesn't play nice with their software RAID-1 implementation without some manual tweaking).


FWIW, I suppose you could argue that Windows Vista, 7, and 8 have the advanced mode to undo this. Depends on if you consider advanced mode functionality that isn't detailed except in technical articles. Shift+F10 during the install process will open up a command prompt. From there you can use diskpart to create MBR disks, create partitions to your desire, and then format the disk.

Edit: Albeit there is a slim chance bcboot might fail in this above scenario due to technical reasons. Hmm.

Edit: There's actually another way to bypass GPT creation, but it requires your firmware to support booting into "BIOS" mode. I've only really seen that option with Asus.

I just realized I forgot another benefit of GPT. More than four primary partitions.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:56 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:I just realized I forgot another benefit of GPT. More than four primary partitions.

Ahh, yes. Especially important on a multi-boot system...
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:09 pm

Sorry for derailing some of the thread but I think that the answers should be useful to BIF too.

Good points, all. I had done a quick search and the results did not turn up good answers.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:42 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:MBR viruses apparently don't work either. Albeit getting additional details about that has been difficult.

Instead you can have UEFI malware. There's none out there yet, but I've seen some in early development stages. It'll be really nasty if ever polished/released.

JBI wrote:Given that the OP has expressed a desire to multi-boot older/alternative OSes, the disadvantages almost certainly outweigh any advantages in his case.


Yep. If you want to boot things that aren't Win7/Win8, then stay MBR whenever possible.

JBI wrote:As an aside, I *really* wish OSes would *not* silently default to GPT on UEFI systems. You should be prompted, or at the very least there should be an "expert" mode which allows you to override this behavior. This "GPT on UEFI" rule is in fact what tripped me up on my Ubuntu RAID-1 install a few weeks ago (snip)

All depends on how you booted. On most of the machines I have, you can choose UEFI or BIOS boot at boot time, flexibly. What you choose there directly informs the OS's choices into partition table types and boot handling. That said, mixing and matching GPT/MBR with BIOS/UEFI boot types is NOT a good idea. Even if you get it to kinda-work, they are designed to NOT work together. UEFI booting really requires GPT formatting. If you're not GPT formatted, you are *not* UEFI booting, you are booting via the BIOS compatibility modes of your UEFI firmware.

Ryu Connor wrote:(Snipped away info about BIOS/GPT and UEFI/MBR hybridding. See above) I just realized I forgot another benefit of GPT. More than four primary partitions.

That was the deal maker for me. That and more flexibility when multi-booting (rEFInd FTW!).
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:31 pm

This is a very good thread; thank you all for contributing.

I think I may want to try GPT. I like the Secure Boot and REF options and I think I would like to implement them later this year. I would be willing to sacrifice MBR multiboot options if it means having more future options without having to reinstall Windows 8, because Win 8 will be my main "production" system. And with 1.5 TB+ of sound sample software, I would like to limit the number of times I have to rebuild windows.

If my suspicion holds true and Samsung's management software is not yet GPT capable, then I'd like to know if there is an alternate way that I can manage the 830 drive (via run commands or a schedule item)? I do believe the drive is GPT capable but the management software may not be. If I can get trim to be done another way, then I'd be willing to try going GPT now and just handle maintenance manually while I wait for Samsung to catch up to GPT with their management software.

Your thoughts on this?
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:42 pm

I have a Samsung 830 256GB in my X220 (UEFI) laptop and also in my Z68 (UEFI) desktop. I use Samsung Magician without any problems I'm aware of, but I never used it on an MBR system, so we'd have to compare notes.

What's REF? Secure Boot requires explicit firmware support for it. None of my systems support it, though we just bought some brand new Latitudes at work that offer the option. They came with an MBR-based Windows 7 install, though, so I probably won't be able to look into it.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:48 pm

ReFS is Resilient File System, the next iteration of NTFS. But my first google search right now shows that it probably will only be available for servers. If true, I'm just left with secure boot, which would be fine enough for my needs.

Forge, do you happen to know which version of Samsung Magician you're using? 3.1 came with my drive and I think I read someplace that it doesn't support GPT drives. But 3.2 is available for download and that's the one that is not so clear on whether or not it supports GPT.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:13 pm

I'm using 3.1. There are a few things that I haven't used, but I do know that the TRIM catchup/cleanup function was doing *something*, and did not complain. That's 99% of what I wanted.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:19 pm

From an Admin command prompt type: defrag <target drive> /o

In Windows 8 this will carry out TRIM operations. I'm unconvinced that the Samsung Magician is needed. Your choice of course.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:21 pm

I just updated Magician to 3.2, I was on 3.1. Performance Optimization now takes *forever* to run (2.5-3 minutes), while it was pretty instant before. It might have been quietly failing, in which case I'm a little annoyed at Samsung for putting up the "Optimization completed successfully!" message immediately after.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:34 pm

BIF wrote:I like the Secure Boot and REF options and I think I would like to implement them later this year.

Just keep in mind that (as Forge noted) having a UEFI BIOS does not automatically mean you've got Secure Boot support. Check the motherboard manual...
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:51 pm

just brew it! wrote:
BIF wrote:I like the Secure Boot and REF options and I think I would like to implement them later this year.

Just keep in mind that (as Forge noted) having a UEFI BIOS does not automatically mean you've got Secure Boot support. Check the motherboard manual...


I have a ASUS P9X79 Pro board and the secure boot option showed up in the newer 'bios' updates. If you use UEFI to set up your boot options, you may lose them when you update your UEFI 'bios', so document your boot set up.

Just as a side note, I have never seen any motherboard that I have owned or worked with go through so many 'bios' versions. Probably an indication of how new and troublesome the UEFI buisiness is.

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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:56 pm

hhhoudini wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
BIF wrote:I like the Secure Boot and REF options and I think I would like to implement them later this year.

Just keep in mind that (as Forge noted) having a UEFI BIOS does not automatically mean you've got Secure Boot support. Check the motherboard manual...


I have a ASUS P9X79 Pro board and the secure boot option showed up in the newer 'bios' updates. If you use UEFI to set up your boot options, you may lose them when you update your UEFI 'bios', so document your boot set up.

Just as a side note, I have never seen any motherboard that I have owned or worked with go through so many 'bios' versions. Probably an indication of how new and troublesome the UEFI buisiness is.

harry


A very good point. Generally when you update the system board firmware, you will lose all the saved boot options, so you may need to manually 'finesse' the first boot past update, and/or regenerate the UEFI listings, depending on what boot loader you are using and how it is set up.

UEFI is not complicated to setup. The motherboard makers are having the same problem that cell phone makers have with Android. They all want it to look very different from their competitors, and they all have conflicting ideas. These are expensive and labor-intensive. Companies that implemented UEFI without a lot of customization have had solid and reliable firmwares for a year or more now. They're just not usually very flashy, and they were expensive to make, in dollars and man hours.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:05 pm

hhhoudini wrote:Just as a side note, I have never seen any motherboard that I have owned or worked with go through so many 'bios' versions. Probably an indication of how new and troublesome the UEFI buisiness is.

Yup. We're replacing a piece of the PC platform infrastructure that has literally existed for decades. Sure, the classic BIOS has undergone incremental changes over its life; but UEFI is a *major* change. A period of chaos was almost inevitable.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:45 pm

Hi again!

Ryu, thanks for the command; I think I'm going to make a go of GPT. My motherboard is an Asus P9X79 WS. I updated the UEFI BIOS today to 3306, created on November 28th. And Windows 8 Pro will be a fresh install. I'll play with it a bit and if things are futzy, I'll reinstall BEFORE I start adding too many applications.

Forge, that was my first suspicion too; your comment about "quietly failing" in the background. Maybe the first issuance of TRIM under 3.2 caused your drive to have to work through a big backlog of prior failed attempts? If so, then subsequent issuances may not take quite so long.

JBI, I'm not going to implement secure boot just yet, but I know that the partitions need to be in GPT and the motherboard needs to be running in UEFI, so those are my first steps. Once I get the OS installed and updated on the main SSD, then I'll add the two additional SSDs and the HDD, get them formatted as GPT and see if I can get my old data onto these drives.

Does anybody know...if my Windows drives are all GPT, will I be able to plug in a drive with MBR partitions so that I can copy the contents from the old drive to the new SSDs or the new HDD (those new drives being GPT) under Windows 8? I have tons of sample data that will need to be copied over from old SATA drives or USB drives. I'm thinking this should not be a problem or else nobody would be able to fully reconstruct their systems, right?
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:10 pm

BIF wrote:Does anybody know...if my Windows drives are all GPT, will I be able to plug in a drive with MBR partitions so that I can copy the contents from the old drive to the new SSDs or the new HDD (those new drives being GPT) under Windows 8? I have tons of sample data that will need to be copied over from old SATA drives or USB drives. I'm thinking this should not be a problem or else nobody would be able to fully reconstruct their systems, right?

Shouldn't be a problem. Even if it was, you could plug them into another system and copy the files over the network.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:43 pm

GPT and MBR can freely mix.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:48 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:GPT and MBR can freely mix.


Some caveats: Any OS with a UEFI option can read GPT formatted disks, and a few others besides. Windows XP, 32bit pre-SP1 2003 Server and previous Windows releases cannot read GPT disks.

It gets people confused because the restrictions for *booting* a GPT disk are fairly tight, but the restrictions for just *reading* one are pretty permissive.

Ryu was 99% right... I just didn't want anyone out there to format all their disks to GPT and then have their day ruined when XP32 ignores those disks or offers to format them. Really the attraction in GPT is 2TB+ disks and geeks like me. Joe Average has no clue what a partition is, much less why he'd want more than four on one disk.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:56 pm

Got it guys. I'm making my final data and power connections now, then will be doing some reading before installing Windows 8.

Wheeeee! :P
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:59 pm

BIF wrote:Hi again!

Hi BIF! Welcome back to your thread!

BIF wrote:Windows 8 Pro will be a fresh install. I'll play with it a bit and if things are futzy, I'll reinstall BEFORE I start adding too many applications.

Some painfully-earned info:

There are no Windows 8 clean installs. The OEM licenses proper and the System Builder mini-OEM licenses are about as close as anything will get to it. Retail copies are *always* upgrade.

If you enter your serial during the install, which IS required unless you've tinkered a bit, then Windows automatically activates the very first time it sees live internet. This can be before all the drivers are loaded, making you reactivate before you even see your own desktop.

BIF wrote:Forge, that was my first suspicion too; your comment about "quietly failing" in the background. Maybe the first issuance of TRIM under 3.2 caused your drive to have to work through a big backlog of prior failed attempts? If so, then subsequent issuances may not take quite so long.


Friggin Samsung. I'm going to give them a piece of my mind at some point. Failing and reporting success anyways is just plain bad and wrong, no matter the situation. Add in that I'm not even running Windows 8 right now, these are Windows 7 GPT installs, which have been in place for a year or more in some cases, and this software badness is just plain inexcusable.

"Nobody is likely to do that" is not a valid reason to deny support.

BIF wrote:JBI, I'm not going to implement secure boot just yet, but I know that the partitions need to be in GPT and the motherboard needs to be running in UEFI, so those are my first steps.

I hope you're not offended, but I have no idea why you'd want to do this. So-called "Secure Boot" is one of the most shameless and overt attempts at hardware-enforced vendor lockin I've ever seen. I sincerely doubt it'll add anything to security, and it certainly does make you an MS-only operation for a while to come.

About GPT and non-boot disks: I really, really wouldn't bother. As others have mentioned, GPT and MBR both read fine in recent systems, and the benefits of GPT over MBR diminish when it's not a booting disk. I rarely want to read any of my disks from an XP32 system, but I like knowing that I can, in a pinch. My first fully-GPT-only, multi-disk system is still in the future, and I'd guess a few years away at least.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:27 am

Forge wrote:I hope you're not offended, but I have no idea why you'd want to do this. So-called "Secure Boot" is one of the most shameless and overt attempts at hardware-enforced vendor lockin I've ever seen. I sincerely doubt it'll add anything to security, and it certainly does make you an MS-only operation for a while to come.


Similar concept as a TPM module. Nothing nefarious to see here. Is real security.

Was not created by MS was created by the UEFI Forum.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:12 am

Forge wrote:About GPT and non-boot disks: I really, really wouldn't bother. As others have mentioned, GPT and MBR both read fine in recent systems, and the benefits of GPT over MBR diminish when it's not a booting disk. I rarely want to read any of my disks from an XP32 system, but I like knowing that I can, in a pinch. My first fully-GPT-only, multi-disk system is still in the future, and I'd guess a few years away at least.

I seem to be "needing" :P to move to 3TBs sooner than I think I would have to (all those TBs of storage ought to be enough for a while, ha!), so I have been reading up on GPT as of late.
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Re: UEFI and GPT Questions

Postposted on Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:19 am

Ryu Connor wrote:
Forge wrote:I hope you're not offended, but I have no idea why you'd want to do this. So-called "Secure Boot" is one of the most shameless and overt attempts at hardware-enforced vendor lockin I've ever seen. I sincerely doubt it'll add anything to security, and it certainly does make you an MS-only operation for a while to come.

Similar concept as a TPM module. Nothing nefarious to see here. Is real security.

Was not created by MS was created by the UEFI Forum.

I agree that -- properly utilized -- it should improve security by preventing many rootkit-type attacks.

OTOH... while the requirement that x86 systems have a BIOS kill switch for Secure Boot does back it way down on the "evil meter" scale, I wouldn't go so far as to say flat out that there's "nothing nefarious" going on. For ARM platforms (which, depending on who you believe, may be the "wave of the future"), there's a requirement to *not* have the kill switch; and *that* really does smell like an attempt at vendor lock-in to me.

It's also worth noting that MS is on the board of the UEFI Forum... as is Apple (the de facto experts on vendor lock-in).
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