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Even though you rarely need to reinstall Windows these days, if you ever do, there are some speed bumps on the way to installing Windows. One such error is the message “Windows cannot be installed to this disk”, but we have some possible solutions to fix this particular problem.

You may also see an extra line in the error message, specifically “The selected drive is of GPT partition style” or “The selected drive has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only be installed on GPT drives”. Below we explain what these messages mean.

UEFI, BIOS, MBT and GPT conflicts

This error results from a conflict between the type of firmware your computer is running and the partition table that the affected hard drive is formatted with.

Older computers use a BIOS (Basic Input Output System) firmware type, which is compatible with the MBR (Master Boot Record) standard for managing partition tables.

Newer computers use the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) firmware type, which can work with both MBR and GPT (GUID Partition Table) drives. However, in the case of MBR disks used with UEFI, the partition must be less than 2 TB. If possible, use GPT formatted drives with UEFI type computers.

For a more complete explanation of MBT and GPT formatting, check out MBR vs GPT: Which Format is Better for an SSD Drive? However, now that you know this common cause of the error, let’s take a look at the options available to fix it.

Switch between UEFi and Legacy BIOS modes

While most modern computers use the UEFI firmware type, many still offer a “legacy BIOS” or “legacy boot” mode to fix compatibility issues.

Your problem could be due to the wrong mode being enabled. If your drive is formatted with the more modern GPT standard and you boot in legacy boot mode, Windows won’t work with that drive. Then you get the “The selected disk is of GPT partition style† This means you either need to convert the drive to MBR format or change the boot settings in your BIOS to UEFI.

If you get the other message “The selected disk has an MBR partition table”, you have to do the opposite. It means you either need to convert the drive to GPT format or boot your BIOS in legacy mode.

Legacy Boot Modes are not meant to be a permanent solution, so if you need to use them to access a drive, it’s best to back up data on the MBR partition you want to install Windows on and then transfer it to GPT to convert.

How you enable or disable older boot modes depends on your particular computer. You need to access the firmware menu during boot, which is usually done by pressing a designated key. Find that information on your motherboard or in your computer’s manual.

In the UEFI menu, look for an option to: enable legacy BIOS/boot mode and change it to the desired settings. Some computers even have a third mode that supports UEFI and legacy† So if you see that, choose that option.

Reformat a drive with a different partition style

Converting a GPT drive to MBR or vice versa will delete all data and partitions from that drive. However, if you want to run your computer in UEFI mode, you need a system disk that uses GPT. We recommend everyone to use UEFI if possible as it is much more secure and has several advantages over MBR.

If you’re getting this error, it’s probably because your computer only supports the older BIOS and your drive is formatted with GPT. In this case, you can solve this problem by converting the disk to MBR. Go ahead and see how to convert a drive from GPT to MBR.

Again, this is only recommended for systems that don’t have UEFI. On UEFI systems, you must use the GPT format for your Windows drive.

Making a fresh start during Windows installation

A robust disk management application is built directly into the Windows 10 installation software. During the installation, you are given the option to delete and format all partitions on the disk. Windows will format the drive with the correct settings it needs to work.

If you have data on the drive that has not been backed up by any other, this is a bad idea. If you are not concerned about the data on the current drive, this is by far the easiest way to solve the problem while installing Windows.

If you’re not sure how to reinstall Windows, read our comprehensive guide that walks through three methods to install Windows. In the Windows installation process, when you get to the “Where do you want to install Windows?” dialog box, just follow the steps below.

  1. Select each partition in turn, then select remove until there are no more partitions left.
  1. Select Next one and Windows will format the empty space correctly and create the correct partitions.

From there, the installation can continue as usual.

Using third party software to change partition style without formatting

There are third-party applications that offer the ability to convert your partition style without losing data. This is possible, although such applications actually erase and replace every bit of data on the drive as it reformats the media.

However, if the process is interrupted for any reason, you will likely end up with a drive that needs to be reformatted anyway. It’s always a good idea to backup your drive (or at least critical data) before doing such a conversion.

In addition, you must perform this conversion while running the operating system from a different drive than the one you want to convert, for obvious reasons. That means booting from a live boot drive or using an external drive enclosure with another computer to get the job done.

Feel free to check out our list of the best free hard drive formatting and partitioning tools for windows. Some of these tools allow you to convert your hard drive’s partition layout without a complete reformat.

Install Windows

In general, things get a bit complicated when you get this error message. This isn’t the easiest mistake to fix, so take your time and comment if you have any questions. We’re usually pretty good at getting people back.

Hopefully you can follow this guide and install Windows on your drive without any problems. Remember to back up your data before doing anything to be safe.

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