A master boot record (MBR) is a special type of boot sector at the very beginning of partitioned computer mass storage devices like fixed disks or removable drives intended for use with IBM PC-compatible systems and beyond. The concept of MBRs was publicly introduced in 1983 with PC DOS 2.0.
The MBR holds the information on how the logical partitions, containing file systems, are organized on that medium. The MBR also contains executable code to function as a loader for the installed operating system—usually by passing control over to the loader’s second stage, or in conjunction with each partition’s volume boot record (VBR). This MBR code is usually referred to as a boot loader.
The organization of the partition table in the MBR limits the maximum addressable storage space of a disk to 2 TiB (232 × 512 bytes). Approaches to slightly raise this limit assuming 33-bit arithmetics or 4096-byte sectors are not officially supported, as they fatally break compatibility with existing boot loaders and most MBR-compliant operating systems and system tools, and can cause serious data corruption when used outside of narrowly controlled system environments. Therefore, the MBR-based partitioning scheme is in the process of being superseded by the GUID Partition Table (GPT) scheme in new computers. A GPT can coexist with an MBR in order to provide some limited form of backward compatibility for older systems.
MBRs are not present on non-partitioned media such as floppies, superfloppies or other storage devices configured to behave as such. On such a superfloppy, the entire media is treated as a single partition.