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Hard drive partitions

Posted on 2012-09-20
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Hi experts,

OK, I suddenly found out how stupid I am. I know that SSDs and HDDs that are fortmatted with an OS have an MBR at the beggining which is usually 100MBs or so.

But, I purchased a 3 TB drive (don't ask why) to use for a backup for my Storage Server. When I put the eSATA drive into its cradle, I thought it would just be unallocated. For some reason, it had an MBR on it and the rest was unallocated. I wanted to just have one formatted 3 TB drive.

Since it was external, it seemed difficult to do this. Next thing I know I have a 750GB drives with the MBR.

I moved it to another comptuer and connected it externally with one of those external drive kits. Same problem even with an Acronis Disk Director. Try as I might, I couldn't format it as one drive.

I then open the computer case and attached it using the Sata cable and the Sata power connector. I could then see the entire drive with the MBR. Finally, with the disk director, I could get the entire drive as one unitiated drive.

So to iniate it to, I guess, format it, it wants me to choose an MBR again. It also asks me to choose from GPT or MBR, which I know is Master Boot Record.

So my questions are:

Which should I choose?
If it is for storage only, does it even matter?
Do I have to even have the MBR or GPT for storage? I understand why I need it for booting the OS.
Why could I only see 750 MBs when it was an external eSATA. I had done several things to it with the partition software.

Very confused. I guess I need a tutorial on drives and how to format them.
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Question by:Bert2005
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 38420496
ALL drives have to be partitioned -- even if there is only one partition that occupies the entire drive.

When you initialize the drive, it creates a table that maintains the details on the partitioning.   This can be an MBR (Master Boot Record)  or a GPT  (GUID partition table).

An MBR-style structure cannot support drives larger than 2TB, so you have to use GPT  to format this drive -- then you can create a single 3TB partition.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 38420519
Hi Gary,

Do you know why at one moment, I could only see 750 GBs? This was when it was external to the computer, e.g. not connected directly to the SATA data and power drives. I was also only able to get the entire drive unallocated using 3rd party software and not using disk managent in Windows.
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garycase earned 2000 total points
ID: 38420523
... a bit on why you only saw a smaller partition when you were "playing" with it connected to an external dock.

Your external bridge may only support 2TB drives -- if that's the case, the drive can be "seen" in either of two ways, depending on the specific hardware:  (1) as a 2TB drive;  or (2) as a ~746GB drive (the "extra" space above 2TB -- remember, 2TB in "computerese" (the real limit of MBR structures) is about 2.2TB in "disk-drive-maker-ese".    So there's about 800MB (in "disk-drive-maker'ese) left over ... or about 746GB in "computer-ese".

That's likely why the drive looked smaller -- but you may have also just got this through manipulation of the MBR structure.    Once you get it initialized as a GPT drive and a 3TB partition created, you could re-attach it to the external dock and see if it now shows the full size.    If not, your dock isn't compatible with >2TB drives.
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 38420532
Hi Bert -- I was writing the above while you wrote your last post ... I suspect I just answered it.

On another note, r.e. your comment "... I was also only able to get the entire drive unallocated using 3rd party software and not using disk managent in Windows. "  ==>  One simple way to force a drive to be fully wiped and ready to re-initialize is to use the "write zeroes" option in the manufacturer's disk diagnostics.    Both Western Digital's Data Lifeguard and Seagate's SeaTools (on the Advanced Tests menu) have this capability  [I always use Data Lifeguard for this regardless of the drive's manufacturer].     Once you've done that (the quick erase is fine -- it zeroes all that matters in terms of forcing initialization), Windows Disk Management will prompt you to initialize the disk.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Bert2005
ID: 38420536
We'll see. Plus, I bought a new dock. Just for fun. I have also noticed, although maybe due to the fact that the Storage Server must have under 2TBs, that it seems to connect better after the server backup is created. Makes no sense unless it wants to be able to back up the backups. I find it rather overkill to back up clients and then back them up using imaging program of Storage Server. I am only playing with it, since I can set up a database for emergency use.

I must say that for a simple storage server, Microsoft has gone out of their way to make it difficult. At the same time, they have made it a bit "Mickey Mouse" by setting up videos and music and the like. Of course, the clients can access it so maybe that is why, but I don't know why folder redirection or allowing clients to make their own folders isn't good enough. And, as you know, the native imaging backup with each WIN 7 client even to an internal drive is severely lacking in both its intuition and logistics.
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Author Comment

by:Bert2005
ID: 38420542
We keep crossing, but I got the picture. :-)
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 38420555
I agree the Windows 7 built-in backup is lacking in both intuition and logistics.    I've played a bit with it -- but do not use it.    I do my own imaging of the OS; and have a set of automated backup profiles (using SyncBack SE) that run at 4:30 every morning.
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