When it comes to installing the latest Windows operating system on your computer, the majority of the time the process is simple and works flawlessly without error due to Microsoft’s streamlined installation technology. However, some Windows users who try to do a clean install, a reinstall, or a dual boot, may find themselves with the error message, “Windows cannot be installed to this disk”. This error may be followed up with a message noting that your selected disk for installation is of a certain partition style, which is why the installation is failing. In this article, we are going to look at why your hard drive partition style must support BIOS versions UEFI & Legacy, what to do if your hard drive has a GPT or MBR partition style, and methods to get the installation working for these errors.
Understanding How UEFI/BIOS Legacy Versions Impact Windows Installation Setup & Your Hard Drive Partition Style
As of right now, there are 2 pieces of low-level software that starts up before your computer boots into your operating system.
- The first is Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) which is the more modern version of BIOS (basic input, output system). The UEFI allows your computer to boot from larger hard drives, it contains more security features, is easier to understand and use, plus it has faster boot times.
- The second is Basic Input, Output System (BIOS), and is pretty outdated. It can only boot from drives that are less than 2 terabytes and it has trouble initializing multiple hardware devices at once because of its 16-bit processor mode and 1 MB of executable space. This leads to slow boot times.
Both pieces of these low-level software are stored on your motherboard. Your motherboard will contain one or the other, not both. It is what wakes up all of the hardware attached to your motherboard, including the hard drive with the Windows Boot Executable. When your hard drive and CPU are woken up, your computer boots into the installed operating system.
However, depending on which version of the software you have (UEFI or BIOS), directly impacts whether or not you can install Windows on your hard drive. This is because UEFI and BIOS only play nice with their respective hard drive partition styles.
Which Partition Style Works With Which Firmware?
While there are several iterations of the, “Windows cannot be installed to this disk” error, the most common ones are followed up by either, “The selected disk is of the GPT partition style,” or “The selected disk has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only be installed to GPT disks”. To help clear up the confusion between these two, here is how the firmware is paired with the partition styles.
- If you are getting the “Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk is of the GPT partition style” this is because your motherboard only supports Legacy BIOS mode. This means that you can only install Windows to an MBR hard drive partition, as your BIOS cannot recognize the GPT partition style.
- If you are getting the “Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only be installed to GPT disks”. This is because Microsoft’s ruleset only allows Windows to be installed to GPT partition style disks when your motherboard is using the newer UEFI software.
Now that we have a good understanding of which firmware supports which partition style, we can solve the installation problem by following the solutions for each error type.
3 Solutions to “Windows Cannot Be Installed to This Disk. The Selected Disk is of the GPT Partition Style.”
If you are getting the “Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk is of the GPT partition style” then you will need to figure out if your BIOS only has the legacy mode available and if it does, you will need to convert the drive.
1. Check BIOS Setup.
To check your BIOS setup, you will need to get into the BIOS.
- Reboot the computer.
- Repeatedly press the corresponding BIOS key. You can find out which key this is in your motherboard’s manual.
- Here is where it gets a bit tricky as you will need to navigate through the BIOS until you find an option that details out the boot mode. This is often found under a “Boot” tab menu, which will tell you which boot mode you are in.
- If the boot mode you are in is Legacy BIOS and there isn’t an option for UEFI, you will need to convert the GPT disk partition to an MBR partition table.
- If there is an option to choose UEFI mode or to use a combination of UEFI/Legacy Boot, then select this and save the changes. Now you can install Windows on the desired hard drive.
2. Convert to MBR Using Diskpart.
While using the Diskpart tool, all files on your hard drive will be deleted. This won’t be an issue if your computer is new and this is the first installation. Otherwise, you may want to install Windows to a different hard drive that is completely clean.
- Insert the Windows Installation Media Disk and during setup, open up your computer’s Command Prompt. Press Shift + F10 to do this.
- Enter in the following command: diskpart [enter].
- Enter in the following command: list disk [enter].
- A list of all of your available hard drives will pop up.
- Select the drive you want to install Windows to. Normally this is disk 0. If it is not disk 0, make sure to choose the appropriate disk.
- Enter: select disk 0 [enter].
- Type in: clean [enter].
- Type in: convert mbr [enter] to convert the drive to MBR.
- Type in: exit [enter].
Close the Command prompt and try to reinstall Windows again.
Note: There is no need to add in the brackets around “enter”. It means press the Enter key.
3. Use the Disk Management Utility to Convert to MBR.
If you are trying to do a dual boot and do have access to Windows on another hard drive on your computer, you can use the Disk Management Utility to convert the desired hard drive to MBR.
- In your computer’s search bar, type in “Disk Management”.
- On Windows 10, the program in the search will be called “Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions – Control Panel”. Click this to get to the Disk Management Window.
- Find the GPT disk in the volume list.
- Delete all of the partitions/volumes on this disk.
- Right-click each and choose delete volume.
- Once the entire disk is completely free from allocated space, right-click the disk and choose to “convert to MBR disk”.
Now you can install Windows on this MBR disk.
4 Solutions to “Windows Cannot Be Installed to This Disk. The Selected Disk Has an MBR Partition Table.”
You can use similar solutions to the ones above when trying to convert your hard drive from MBR to GPT. But, there are a few other solutions that you can also try if you are getting this particular error.
1. Jump Into BIOS & Disable EFI Boot Sources.
A quick fix for this error that doesn’t require you to convert is to simply disable EFI boot sources. You will need to jump into your BIOS to see if this is an option.
- Reboot your computer.
- Repeatedly press the corresponding BIOS key. You can find out which key this is in your motherboard’s manual. In most cases it is DEL or F2.
- Locate the Boot Order Section and see if you can disable EFI boot sources.
- Save changes.
- Now try installing Windows again.
If Windows installs successfully, make sure to go back into the BIOS and re-enable EFI boot sources.
2. During Installation, Delete Partition & Reformat.
Warning: This solution will delete all of your important files, so only use it if you are a) okay with losing your files or b) have a backup saved.
During Windows installation, you will get to a point in the process where it’ll ask you which hard drive you want to install the operating system to. During this stage, choose the partition you want to reformat and choose the delete option. You will then need to create a new partition in the GPT style in order to install successfully if you are on a UEFI system.
3. Use Diskpart or Other Mode in BIOS.
Just like in the section above for GPT partition style error, you can use Diskpart to delete the problematic partition and convert it to the appropriate partition style. In this case, it would be converting it to GPT. Follow the same steps as above, but swap out the “Type in: convert mbr [enter] to convert the drive to the MBR” to “convert gpt [enter]” to have it convert to GPT.
You can also check your BIOS to see if there is a combination option for UEFI/Legacy BIOS modes. If there is, simply disable the UEFI boot and enable the Legacy Boot option to install onto your disk. This way, you don’t need to convert your disk at all.
4. Use a 2.0 Flash Drive for Installation.
If you are planning on using an external device to install Windows to your hard drive, use a 2.0 USB flash drive. Why? You will be able to choose to boot using MBR or Legacy with it. 3.0 USB flash drives don’t come with this option.
If you are running a newer motherboard, it may come with support for both the UEFI and Legacy Boot modes enabled. You can check this in the BIOS – several solutions above note how you can do this. If you are installing from a disk and you get the message, “Press any key to boot from disk” – wait and do not press anything. The message will pop up a second time, and you can then press “any key” to then select which designated device you want to boot from. In this case, the installation disk.