Why Use GPT fdisk?

by Rod Smith, rodsmith@rodsbooks.com

Last Web page update: 6/26/2011, referencing GPT fdisk version 0.7.2

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Note: This page is part of the documentation for my GPT fdisk program.

If you want or need to use GPT, you have relatively few choices for partitioning software. Under Linux, libparted and the programs that use it (GNU Parted, gparted, and so on) have been your only real choice for a while. In early 2009, these programs worked, but they also suffered from several problems. For instance, as of GNU Parted 1.7.1, when creating a partition with a FAT filesystem, Parted marked it with a Microsoft Reserved partition type code, which makes the partition inaccessible to both Windows and Mac OS. As Homer Simpson would say, d'oh! This problem has been resolved in more recent versions of libparted, but others remain. For instance, libparted 3.0 can't handle disks with partition tables that can store more than 128 entries. Such disks are legal according to the GPT specifications, and every OS I've tested can use them, but libparted claims that "both the primary and backup GPT tables are corrupt."

To work around such problems and to satisfy personal curiosity about GPT, I wrote gdisk. This program's user interface is modeled after that of Linux's fdisk utility for manipulating MBR disks, although gdisk necessarily deviates from fdisk in many respects. I subsequently added the sgdisk command-line-driven version of the program, as well.

Compared to GNU Parted, GPT fdisk has several advantages and disadvantages. Broadly speaking, you should consider using GPT fdisk if:

Chances are you'll be happier with GNU Parted, its GUI cousins, or some other program entirely if:

Overall, I believe gdisk will appeal to those who like to use simple tools that provide relatively direct control over the things they manage. If you prefer fdisk to Parted on MBR disks, you'll probably prefer gdisk to Parted on GPT disks.

One further comment: There's wisdom to the saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket." Even if you regularly use just one partitioning tool, keeping another available can be very useful in the event that a bug or limitation causes problems with your primary tool. Note that a bug that affects one libparted-based program, such as GNU Parted, is likely to affect other libparted-based programs, such as GParted. Thus, on Linux, you need both GPT fdisk and one or more libparted-based programs to get the benefit of unrelated tools that can potentially work around each others bugs and limitations. Similarly, libparted and the fdisk family from util-linux-ng provide redundancy for MBR operations. (Note that there's a GNU fdisk that's based on libparted but that attempts to mimic Linux fdisk's operations. It's useless for providing redundancy with other libparted-based tools.)

GPT fdisk originated on Linux, and Linux remains my main development platform. If you use another OS, you may want to compare GPT fdisk to your own platform's partitioning tools, so the preceding comparisons may not be very relevant. Compared to OS X's Disk Utility, GPT fdisk provides a great deal more precision and flexibility, but as Disk Utility is a GUI tool, it's much more accessible to those with moderate technical skills. Similar comments apply to Windows' native GUI partitioning tools. FreeBSD, OS X, and Windows all provide their own text-mode GPT partitioning tools with more flexibility than their platforms' native GUI tools.

Go on to "A gdisk Walkthrough"

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If you have problems with or comments about this web page, please e-mail me at rodsmith@rodsbooks.com. Thanks.

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