Can anyone tell me if it's possible to switch to a 4tb HDD on my computer that does not have UEFI booting?

  1. Would a computer without UEFI be able to handle a 4tb HDD either as MBR or GPT?

  2. Would I be able to take my current 2tb HDD, formatted for MBR and simply use Clonezilla Live to copy everything and increase the size of SDA2, my Home partition?

  3. Would I have to format the new 4tb HDD as GPT and then do the cloning process?

  4. Would it be impossible to clone from MBR to GPT, so while the HDD will work just fine, I'd need to do a fresh install and transfer everything backed up?

  5. Is there any other info you can give me that I have not thought of myself?

By the way, the computer I'm asking about is a Lenovo Thinkpad W510. I know it's older, but with 16gb RAM and the ease that it's RAM and HDD can be swapped definitely has great advantages. You can even remove the DVD and replace it with a second HDD caddy. That means if I'm able to make a 4gb HDD work, I'd be able to use a whopping 6tb of HDD space internally.

My primary concern is whether my Thinkpad W510 will be able to use the legacy bios-boot since it does not have any EFI options for booting.

Will I have any difficulties getting the 4tb to boot via bios instead of EFI?

If the only way possible would be to reinstall the OS and transfer everything else to the newly made GPT formatted 4tb HDD, I'll definitely go for it; even though it will be kind of a huge pain the butt.

If it's not possible to do this for an internal HDD, I'll juts keep the one I currently have installed and use the new drive as it was intended to give me 4tb external HDD space. Not too shabby, but definitely not the same as it would be as an internal HDD, you know?

Thanks so, so, so, so much for helping me out!

PS -- I thought I'd share the HDD I'm buying in order to make the switch, so if some of you might want to do this yourself. It's a Seagate Backup Plus 4TB Portable External Hard Drive with 200GB of Cloud Storage USB 3.0, Blue (STDR4000901), which as it shows in the Q&A section it is pretty simple to remove and then voila, you have yourself a new internal 4tb HDD! Hope I just made someone's day :)

  • The 4TB drive will have to be gpt. And then you cannot clone from MBR. But you can rsync or cp -a all files from one to the other. If Windows then no. As Windows only boots from gpt with UEFI. I have always preferred a new clean install and copy /home and/or data partitions to a new drive. Some USB HDD caddies do not like gpt or very large drives. I like having both the ESP & bios_grub at beginning of all new drives, even if not currently UEFI or a boot drive. Saves major issues if later you change and difficult to add to front of drive when it has lots of data.
    – oldfred
    Aug 26 '16 at 22:22
  • I do not have Windows, but I do have some followup questions for you. My followup questions were too long for a comment, so I have created a pastebin file here: pastebin.com/raw/H4S9XnVe If you're able to elaborate and answer those questions as well, I'll be grateful! Thanks a lot!
    – Ev-
    Aug 27 '16 at 15:07
  • If wanting to boot current install after copy, there is a lot of editing, and a reinstall of grub. All references to UUIDs in grub, fstab and perhaps other places will have to be updated. I find it easier to do a new clean install of Ubuntu and then copy /home and add the dpkg list of installed apps back in. All that is in your normal backup anyway as when drive fails you have to restore system from scratch.
    – oldfred
    Aug 27 '16 at 15:41
  • That's what I'm begging to think too. I just added some more details above. My ultimate primary concern is whether or not my non-UEFI computer will even be able to boot a GPT HDD. Will that and that alone be problematic? Or could it pretty much work right out of the box after getting it setup via GParted and reinstalling?
    – Ev-
    Aug 27 '16 at 15:52
  • Sorry for missing this, but when you said, "I like having both the ESP & bios_grub at beginning of all new drives, even if not currently UEFI or a boot drive", what does that mean? That I should make a /boot/efi partition even though I'll not be using it? How large should something like that be, I'm guessing 512mb to 1024mb. Sound about right?
    – Ev-
    Aug 27 '16 at 16:11

I answer most of your questions in my GPT fdisk (gdisk) documentation. In particular, see:

  • The page on working around MBR limitations, which describes conditions in which you can use MBR on disks of up to 4 TiB. I don't recommend you try this, but if you're really desperate, you can.
  • The page on converting from MBR to GPT. You could do a dd or similar low-level copy or Clonezilla clone of your current disk to the 4 TB disk, then convert it to GPT, then re-install GRUB to the 4 TB disk. This should get you up and running fairly painlessly, although of course copying 2 TB of data will take a while. Note that you'll need to resize (and possibly move) at least one partition if you take this approach.
  • The page on booting from GPT disks. In brief, it is usually possible to boot from GPT disks on BIOS-based computers; however, some BIOSes have quirks that require tweaking the GPT data structures in some unusual way. There's no way of knowing what might be required without trying it, though; these are quirks of specific BIOSes that cause problems, after all.

Instead of starting the new disk as MBR and then converting to GPT, as implied by the second bullet point, you should be able to set up partitions on the new disk in your final GPT configuration and then clone the filesystems from your original disk, or use tar, rsync, cp -a, or some other file-level tool to duplicate the configuration. There are lots of sites that describe how to copy installations using such tools, but I don't have any specific URLs handy. Personally, that's how I'd do it, simply to avoid having to resize any filesystems.

Your question hints at another possibility: Use your existing 2 TB MBR disk as it is now and add the 4 TB disk as a GPT data disk. This approach will likely be the least troublesome, at least from a software perspective -- but if you prefer to have a single disk or keep your optical drive, replacing the 2 TB model with the 4 TB model may well be preferable. It's your choice.

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