You can deploy VMFS datastores on 512n and 512e storage devices. When you set up a new VMFS datastore, GPT is used to format the device. In specific cases, VMFS can support the MBR format.

Device Sector Formats and VMFS Versions

ESXi supports storage devices with traditional and advanced sector formats.

In storage, a sector is a subdivision of a track on a storage disk or device. Each sector stores a fixed amount of data. Traditional 512n storage devices have been using a native 512-bytes sector size. In addition, due to the increasing demand for larger capacities, the storage industry has introduced advanced formats, such as 512-byte emulation, or 512e. 512e is the advanced format in which the physical sector size is 4,096 bytes, but the logical sector size emulates 512-bytes sector size. Storage devices that use the 512e format can support legacy applications and guest operating systems.

When you set up a datastore on a 512e storage device, VMFS6 is selected by default. For 512n storage devices, the default option is VMFS5, but you can select VMFS6.

This table compares native 512-byte storage devices to the devices with the advanced 512e format.

Storage Device Format

Logical Sector Size

Physical Sector Size

VMFS Datastore




VMFS5 (default) and VMFS6




VMFS6 (default) and VMFS5


Local 512e storage devices do not support VMFS5.

Device Partition Formats and VMFS Version

Any new VMFS5 or VMFS6 datastore uses GUID partition table (GPT) to format the storage device. The GPT format enables you to create datastores larger than 2 TB. If your VMFS5 datastore has been previously upgraded from VMFS3, it continues to use the master boot record (MBR) partition format, which is characteristic for VMFS3. Conversion to GPT happens only after you expand the datastore to a size larger than 2 TB.