Best format for partitions larger than 2TB ? VDH?

I need some large storage space, preferably more than 2 TB. My Windows 7 is running as a virtual machine (VM or domU in Xen slang) on top of a Linux Xen hypervisor.

I have two 2TB disks (to be exact: two partitions on them) set up as logical volumes (LVM) to give me 3.5TB disk space. I had formatted this virtual disk under Linux using NTFS format. Somehow the Linux utility mkfs -t ntfs didn't complain about the large size (maybe a bug?).

In Windows the disk shows up with about 6 partitions, some of them unformatted. I then learned that NTFS has a limit of 2TB. The only option I got under Windows was creating a VDH volume, probably the Microsoft equivalent of LVM.

Now I'm wondering what the best (or available) options are for getting a 3.5TB single partition to work under Windows?

As far as I know, Linux supports VDH. But I'm a bit worried about performance and administration/backup. My LVM setup is using stripe to get similar performance to RAID0. The data on the logical volume are almost entirely larger files, starting from several hundred KB to usually at least 16MB up to a few hundred MB or even above 1GB.

Backup will be done within Linux using LVM snapshots and then backing up the entire volume at the first run, later incremental backups. A third backup will be on external drives.

I also like to stick with LVM volumes, as I have the ability to add more drives when needed and increase the logical volume accordingly. I will be needing some 8-12TB storage space all together inside the box, and some 4-6 TB external drive capacity for backup.

In other words, the 2TB limit of NTFS is a real pain in the neck. What are the Windows alternatives for larger volumes? How do they perform?
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  1. Best answer
    In windows 7, when you first partition the drive, it will ask if you want an MBR partition or a GPT partition. You need a GPT partition to access over 2.2TB. Windows 7 can't boot from a GPT partitioned disk unless it's the 64bit version of the OS and your motherboard is an UEFI motherboard. These aren't requirements for a storage drive, just a boot drive.

    I don't know if linux can read GPT/GUID partitioned drives, but I'd assume yes since Mac OS X is linux based and it uses GUID partitions.
  2. NTFS supports volumes up to 16 Exobytes in size. However, you must use GPT partitions beyond 2 Terabytes.
  3. Thanks for all your input! I will check if my Linux ntfs formatting utility is putting GPT or MBT partition on the virtual drive. That would explain the problem.

    However, even with no NTFS formatting done under Linux, Windows still isn't able to format more than ~1.6 TB. I need to look at this with regard to MBR versus GPT - it may be that I put an MBR header on the virtual drive.

    Will report back.
  4. Best answer selected by powerhouse32.
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