How can I tell whether my harddrive is laid out using an MBR or GPT format?


9 Answers 9


You can use parted -l to determine the type of partition table. Eg:

$ sudo parted -l
Model: ATA TOSHIBA THNSNS25 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 256GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system  Flags
 1      4194kB  32.2GB  32.2GB  primary  ext4         boot
 2      32.2GB  256GB   224GB   primary  ext4

Model: ATA Hitachi HDT72101 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sdb: 1000GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system     Flags
 1      1049kB  32.2GB  32.2GB  primary  ext4            boot
 2      32.2GB  996GB   964GB   primary  ext4
 3      996GB   1000GB  4295MB  primary  linux-swap(v1)

The Partition Table field shows that I am using a msdos MBR partition table (the one still commonly used for Linux and Windows) on both disks. From the man page parted can create (and thus hopefully identify) the following types of partition table (or more broadly `disk label'):

gpt    - this is a GPT partition table
loop   - this is raw disk access without a partition table
msdos  - this is a standard MBR partition table


It is worth adding the command for listing a single partition since this is not obvious without some knowledge of parted and it can be a pain finding the data you need if there are multiple drives. For /dev/sda you would do:

parted /dev/sda print
  • That is a great command, Graeme. Although I've been using Linux for several years, I had never really noticed it. Thanks!
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 15:59
  • 3
    parted /dev/sda p will do, too.
    – sjas
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 22:35
  • i had to do "sudo parted -l" Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 3:43

On linux, you can check this via the gdisk tool which should be available for any distro.

gdisk -l /dev/sda

Here, /dev/sda is the device node of the physical drive, not a partition (/dev/sda1, /dev/sda2, etc. are partitions).

If you see something that includes:

Found invalid GPT and valid MBR; converting MBR to GPT format
in memory. 

You have a MBR style disk. Don't worry, this did not do any harm.

If you don't see this warning, you have a GPT disk, or a hybrid GPT/MBR disk. The later are used mostly on Apple machines intended to dual-boot versions of MS Windows which do not support GPT. gdisk will indicate this with:

Found valid GPT with hybrid MBR; using GPT

They may also be used in other situations where support for both styles is required.

  • 1
    Or the reverse - trying to use cfdisk on a GPT partition will also result in a warning.
    – orion
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 14:54
  • If not installed and not in a gdisk package, it can be found in the gptfdisk package... at least on Gentoo.
    – user44370
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 15:22
  • 2
    @orion I would not recommend that as some versions of tools like fdisk or cfdisk may support GPT and therefore not show an error.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 15:37
  • For me gdisk detects a hybrid GPT+MBR partition table and gives Found valid GPT with hybrid MBR; using GPT.. This seems to be the only method which will detect a hybrid table.
    – Graeme
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 19:11
  • @Graeme : Thanks. I was unaware of these (the original hybrid reference was edited in by Stephane Chazelas), but I did a bit of reading and added some details.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 20:34

As the OS was not specified, here is FreeBSD way of doing things.

All is done through the gpart command (short for GEOM partioner - nothing to do with GNU).

A simple gpart show would show you all the available partitions of all the disks, but you can specify the device to have a more precise look on one:

  • legacy partition layout with MBR (aka "msdos") and BSD partition schemes (a 2-level partitioning was usually required for BSD systems, unless using the full disk):

    $gpart show

    =>      63  67108801  ada0  MBR  (32G)
            63  67108545     1  freebsd  [active]  (32G)
      67108608       256        - free -  (128k)
    =>       0  67108545  ada0s1  BSD  (32G)
             0   2097152       2  freebsd-swap  (1.0G)
       2097152  65011393       1  freebsd-ufs  (31G)
  • modern partition layout using GPT:

    $gpart show /dev/ada2

    =>       34  976773101  ada2  GPT  (465G)
             34          6        - free -  (3.0k)
             40        128     1  freebsd-boot  (64k)
            168   67108864     2  freebsd-swap  (32G)
       67109032  901775360     3  freebsd-zfs  (430G)

To know more, all is in the gpart manual.



$ sudo fdisk -l 

Disk /dev/sda: 119.2 GiB, 128035676160 bytes, 250069680 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x987c1a05

Device     Boot   Start       End   Sectors   Size Id Type
/dev/sda1  *       2048    999423    997376   487M 83 Linux
/dev/sda2       1001470 250068991 249067522 118.8G  5 Extended
/dev/sda5       1001472 250068991 249067520 118.8G 8e Linux LVM

See the Disklabel type: dos. If it shows dos that means it is MBR schema else GPT schema


With udisks on Linux:

$ sudo /lib/udev/udisks-part-id /dev/sda
using device_file=/dev/sda syspath=/sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:0b.0/ata1/host0/target0:0:0/0:0:0:0/block/sda, offset=0 ao=0 and number=0 for /dev/sda
Entering MS-DOS parser (offset=0, size=500107862016)
found partition type 0xee => protective MBR for GPT
Exiting MS-DOS parser
Entering EFI GPT parser
GPT magic found
Leaving EFI GPT parser
EFI GPT partition table detected

Above, I've got a drive with hybrid GPT+MS-DOS partitioning. In that case, the Linux kernel ignores the MS-DOS partitioning, which is why udisks sets UDISKS_PARTITION_TABLE_SCHEME to gpt.

That udisks-part-id tool is used to populate the udev database. So if you've got udisks installed, you should be able to query that information even as a non-priviledged user with:

$ udevadm info -q property -n sda | grep UDISKS_PARTITION_TABLE_SCHEME
  • 2
    Note that you will get similar output regardless of whether there is a hybrid GPT+MBR or not. GPT requires a fake MBR with a single full disk partition of type 0xee. In a hybrid this is a normal MBR with one 0xee partition (and potential for major problems if the MBR data goes out of sync with the GPT data).
    – Graeme
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 18:55
  • On one of the CentOS systems where I tried this, it prints ID_PART_TABLE_TYPE=dos, so grep fails to find the line. Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 12:55

You can use blkid. But you may need to run it as root or as sudo blkid.

Examples with output:

# blkid /dev/sdc
/dev/sdc: PTUUID="92f03b9b-7402-4ad2-8316-08a991c237b3" PTTYPE="gpt"

# blkid -o export /dev/sdc

Or in a script, with the -o value option :

part_type=$(blkid -o value -s PTTYPE $disk)
case $part_type in
    gpt)  echo "GPT";;
    dos)  echo "MBR";;
    *)    echo "partition is $part_type";;

Alternatively as a $USER you could check for the existence of an EFI Partition (which would indicate a gpt partition scheme):

$ lsblk | grep -i efi

├─nvme0n1p1      259:2    0   100M  0 part  /boot/efi
  • Which blkid version is this? When I try with 2.17.0, it doesn't print anything for the whole disk, it only shows information for individual partitions. Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 12:53
  • 1
    @MilanBabuškov : Indeed, version 2.27 in Ubuntu 16 doesn't show it. Version 2.33.1 in Debian 10 does show it.
    – mivk
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 14:36

In my Alpine Linux Partition scripts I use:

check_scheme() {
    fdisk -l $1 |grep "Disklabel type:" |awk '{ print $3 }'
  • On my Ubuntu 18.04 system fdisk -l /dev/sda | grep -i disklabel returns nothing, (GNU Fdisk 1.3.0a).
    – agc
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 18:02
  • should be Disklabel, not lowercase disklabel, maybe this is the problem?
    – piertoni
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 14:27

With lsblk from util-linux v. 2.33 and later, one can print only the partition table type via

lsblk /dev/nvme0n1 -dno pttype

d omits children/slaves, n omits headers and o prints only the specified field.
It's quite handy since it doesn't need post-processing the output and doesn't require root access.

  • For an MBR formatted device this reports dos instead.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:35
  • @goldilocks - afaik the concept of mbr was first introduced with IBM PC-DOS 2.0 and most likely that's why almost all disk management tools call this type of partition table dos (rarely msdos) instead of mbr (the only exception being gdisk which is a fairly new app) Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 20:52
  • o_O I know. Just indicating it for posterity. I think "DOS MBR" is/was used often as well, but that fact that there aren't any other widespread flavours of mbr led to one or the other being sufficient.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 14:41

You can do this with fdisk and awk

fdisk -l | awk '/Disklabel type:/ {print $3}'

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