File Sizes Explained – (Bits vs Bytes vs KB vs MB vs GB)

For many people, getting to understand file sizes seems like an overwhelming task but it doesn’t have to be. We’ll go through some basic aspects that will help you to understand hard drive files sizes and internet speeds better.

How to Understand Files Sizes on Computer Hard Drives

Generally, hard drive file sizes are measured in GB (gigabytes) or TB (terabytes) so when you buy a computer, it is important to know how much space it offers. The majority of computers available in the market these days, offer a several hundred gigabytes of space, which should be enough for most users. However, if you need to store a large amount of music and movies, you mat run out of space within a short time. Many users wonder if the would run out of space on the 1 TB hard drive of their computer, if they store hundreds of Word documents. The truth is that you won’t even get close to it.

Smartphone Space

Smartphone capacity continues increasing but there are still some limits imposed and as a result, your device may fill up sooner than you would expect. Apart from music and movies, your phone also stores a large number of apps. photos, text messages and videos. Every text message takes over a small bit of space. Whenever you include a photo or video on the messages sent or received, a copy of the media is kept in your text message database, regardless of the fact that the same photo or video is stored in another part of the phone.

Internet Speeds

In order to measure internet transfer rates, megaBITS per second are used instead of megaBYTES. If you order Internet service for your home, you are ordering 50 MegaBITS of transfer per second and not 50 MegaBYTES as some believe.

For instance, a 50 MegaBIT Internet connection will download an estimate 6.25 MegaBYTES of music in one second, which is more or less two short music tracks. Understanding the difference between megabits and megabytes can be difficult so it may be better to take a look at what is a Byte first.

What is a Byte?

A byte is composed by 8 bits, which in essence is simply a true/false or on/off flag for computers that is expressed as the numbers 0 (false) and 1 (not false). The letter “a” is represented in the following way in binary code: 01100001

This combination of zeros and ones let the computer know that an “a” should be typed on the screen. A byte can be seen as a single character or number. For instance, the letter “a” would take only one byte to store. If you typed all the letter of the alphabet into Windows Notepad, the size displayed in the file properties would be 26 bytes. It is worth keeping in mind that some non-alphanumeric characters such as symbols and characters used in languages like Japanese or Chinese, can require multiple bytes to describe one character.

How to Convert File Sizes (Bytes to KB, KB to MB and MB to GB)

Using Google Search is one of the easiest way to convert from Megabytes to Gigabytes or from Kibibytes to Gibibytes.

The unit converter from Google can take a plain language query and deliver results. You can ask the converter to let you know how many megabytes would 1000 gigabytes be (you can enter “convert 1000 GB to MB) and the answer will be shown in your search results. Using the two drop-down boxes allows you to change your conversion and type directly over the numbers to get different results.

Difference Between MB and MIB

If you have been looking for a new computer, small storage devices or new internet service, you may have come across new terms and abbreviations. The IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) has updated the terminology that involves file sizes. Seemingly, the original methods used for specifying file sizes were not ideal, which is why they added some new words to describe and organize files sizes.

Brief History of Hard Drive Sizes

When computers has only started to become popular, manufacturers tried not to use a lot of binary math to avoid confusing customers. Instead, they described hard drive sizes using decimal notation. This is why a 10GB hard drive was marketed as 10,000 Megabytes (decimal) instead of 9,536.74 Mebibytes (binary) which is more commonly used these days.

File Size Conversion Table


Name Symbol Equal to Name IEC Equal to
Kilobyte KB 1024 B Kilobit kbit 1000 bit
Megabyte MB 1024 KB Megabit Mbit 1000 kbit
Gigabyte GB 1024 MB Gigabit Gbit 1000 Mbit
Terabyte TB 1024 GB Terabit Tbit 1000 Gbit
Petabyte PB 1024 TB Petabit Pbit 1000 Tbit
Exabyte EB 1024 PB Exabit Ebit 1000 Pbit
Zettabyte ZB 1024 EB Zettabit Zbot 1000 Ebit
Yottabyte YB 1024 ZB Yottabit Ybit 1000 Zbit

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