I've got a RAID 10 arrays on a couple of KVM host machines. The RAID 10 array is one big VG. I usually create a small LV for guest disk image storage then the rest of the VG I carve out as LVs to add additional disks to guests.

Within these guests I usually run fdisk on the newly added device and create a single partition using 100% of the added drive, then run pvcreate on the partition rather than the device.
e.g. pvcreate /dev/vdb1 vs pvcreate /dev/vdb

I realise that LVM itself operates perfectly normally when creating a PV from full devices rather than partitions. But my habit has always been to partition first.
Can anyone see any downsides to using a non-partitioned drive in my particular scenario?

Any further disks that I add to guests are going to either expand an already existing data logical volume, or to create an additional data partition. I usually leave root/boot alone and just add additional data storage under existing/new mount points.

The advantage of using a non-partitioned drive within my guest is that I don't have to bother partitioning it with fdisk first. Though I realise this probably only saves about 1 minute of time.

Does this have any effects on the potential recovery of data, e.g. being able to access the guest's logical volume from outside the guest in case of VM failure.
Or being able to attach the LVs carved out of the host as additional drives on new VMs in a rebuild scenario?

2 Answers 2


The advantage of using a non-partitioned drive within my guest is that I don't have to bother partitioning it with fdisk first.

That's no advantage.

Isn't the advantage that you don't have to worry about resizing partitions, which the kernel just doesn't like to do while the disk is in use?

When using the disk directly as PV in the guest, you no longer have to add extra drives to it in order to extend LV inside the guest. You can just grow the existing LV, which gives the guest a larger capacity disk, and then grow the PV and LV inside the guest. So all LV stitching is really done on the host side of things whereas the guest side stays simple with a single disk setup (or maybe a two disk setup, if you like to have something for /boot).

The downside with unpartitioned disks is that it's just so easy to make mistakes. If your package manager installs a bootloader to your PV (because it wants to install the bootloader to all disks), that may or may not be harmful. Many programs expect disks to be partitioned (especially partitioning programs and GUI frontends). You're more likely to inadvertently damage it somehow.

So this is a setup you should pick if you know what you are doing, and have a good backup in any case (be sure to include the LVM metadata in the backup).

  • 1
    The kernel is perfectly happy to resize partitions while the disk is in use. parted 3.2 will do this just fine.
    – psusi
    Dec 11, 2014 at 15:10

If you want to have the guest boot load itself with e.g. grub, then then disk has to have a partition table. Otherwise, you have to have the guest kernel and initrd in the host and pass them to qemu to load directly.

Also rather than add additional disks you can simply resize the existing disk to add storage to the vm.

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