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UEFI/GPT vs BIOS/MBR July 6, 2012

Posted by Rich in laptop, linux.

So I’m getting a new laptop to replace my old one (topic for a future post), and this laptop has UEFI enabled, along with a legacy interface that acts like a traditional BIOS. UEFI is advantageous over BIOS for a number of reasons and will, in the coming years, replace BIOS in computers more and more.

Another technology is GPT disks versus MBR disks. GPT disks overcome all of the shortcomings of MBR disks. Unfortunately, with Windows, you can only boot Windows from a GPT disk if you’re using UEFI. Linux doesn’t have this same problem, so you could have an MBR/GPT setup.

I’m planning on keeping Windows on the laptop for two main reasons:

  1. Emergency or rare situations when I absolutely need Windows
  2. Act as a “honeypot” so if my laptop is lost/stolen, I can use something like Prey to track it and hopefully recover it
  3. An alternate reason is for gaming purposes, but since the laptop’s video card (Intel integrated graphics) isn’t that beefy, I likely won’t be playing any video games on it

The laptop ships with Windows 7 in the BIOS/MBR setup, but it’s possible to disable the legacy BIOS interface so it is in UEFI mode only, reformat the disk to GPT,  and then reinstall Windows. Then I would install Linux and do the necessary steps to boot it in UEFI mode.

I’ve been seriously considering wiping the laptop, switching/formatting to UEFI/GPT, reinstalling Windows, and then installing Linux, but I’ve changed my mind. It’s really a simple costs/benefits comparison. Here are the benefits to switching to UEFI/GPT:

  • Gain experience in installing Linux using UEFI bootloaders and the like
  • Theoretically, the boot process is sped up by 1 or 2 seconds

And the costs:

  • Lots of extra time to learn and do all these steps, which comes out of my limited free time
  • Possibility of getting things wrong so I may have to reinstall Windows or Linux multiple times, eating up even more time

Another factor in my consideration is that while GPT has a lot of advantages over MBR, since I use LVM, most of the advantages of GPT are superfluous to me.

So while UEFI and GPT are definitely cool and the way future for computing, it seems like it’s too much of a pain right now to switch over. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll change my mind and do it then. There’s no strong reason to make the switch now, so this decision is definitely postponable.



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