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Kilobytes, Megabytes, Gigabytes…. What-a-bytes?

What’s the difference between a Kilobyte and a Gigabyte, and which one is bigger?

One of the things I see regularly is people struggling to work out what computer terms for memory size actually mean and how to tell what’s bigger and what’s smaller.

There are some simple rules to remember to make it easier to work out what’s what, but first, here’s a quick overview of how computer memory works.

Every piece of information you save on your computer takes some physical space to store. Computers operate in binary, which means something can either be off (zero) or on (one).

Each binary digit is called a ‘bit‘.

Geeks like to make things complicated, but in the most common configurations, eight bits equals one ‘byte‘.

A byte is the minimum amount of space it takes to store one character (letter, digit or whatever). So, for instance, to store the word,”hello” would require five bytes of storage space, because it’s five letters long.

Because the numbers can get pretty big very quickly, we use terms to describe large numbers of bytes, like this:

  • 1024 bytes = 1 Kilobyte (kb)
  • 1024 kilobytes = 1 Megabyte (Mb)
  • 1024 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte (Gb)
  • 1024 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte (Tb)

… and then we get into exobytes and who knows where it goes from there….


Why does it go in steps of 1024? Well, that’s a computer architecture thing. They way computers are designed, it just works out that way!

So all you need to do to remember which is bigger, is remember the order that the numbers go in:

  1. Bit
  2. Byte
  3. Kilobyte
  4. Megabyte
  5. Gigabyte
  6. Terabyte

I hope this helps you stop getting your kilobytes and megabytes confused!


Post Info:
Written By: PeterP
On: July 15th, 2014
See More In: Technology
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