Do you know your file sizes?

What are megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes?

Do you know your file sizes?

Megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes. We hear these words thrown about like confetti during conversations about our computer’s speed and hard drive space, and how quickly we can download data. But what do these units of measure actually mean? Today, we put an end to the mystery with this handy guide to understanding file sizes.

Let’s start with bits. All the data on your computer is represented by binary digits or bits.

1 binary digit = 1 bit

1 byte = 8 bits

A byte is a sequence ofbits, with eight bits of memory making up enough to represent one alphanumeric character, such as a single number or the letter ‘A’. Two bytes (or 16 bits) would make two characters; three bytes (or 24 bits) would make three characters, and so on. For example, the word goat is made up of four bytes (or 32 bits).

Below is a list of common file sizes, ranked small to large. The larger the information, the more bytes (memory and data) it requires to be stored by your computer.

For instance:

A Word document is around50–100KB

One songis around 2–10MB

One movie is around 8–20GB

When you purchase a computer, device or USB stick, the size of its hard drive will be specified. For instance, your computer may have a hard drive capacity of 160GB. This means you can store data (files, programs, music, movies and etcetera) within a 160 gigabyte limit.

Common file sizes (small to large):

These file sizes are ones you’re mostly likely to use.

1 kilobyte (KB) = 1024 bytes

1 megabyte (MB) = 1024 kilobytes

1 gigabyte (GB) = 1024 megabytes

1 terabyte (TB) = 1024 gigabytes

Larger file sizes:

These file sizes are rarely used, except by large-scale technology companies.

1 petabyte (PB) = 1024 terabytes

1 exabyte (EB) = 1024 petabytes

1 zettabyte (ZB) = 1024 exabytes

1 yottabyte (YB) = 1024 zettabytes

1 brontobyte (BB) = 1024 yottabytes

Additional information:You may have heard of binary code – a series of ones and zeros that denote text or computer processor instructions. Binary code is your computer’s language. It translates information from bits into ones and zeros. What you end up seeing is the information represented in letters and numbers.

So, eight bits is represented as ‘01010010’ in binary code.

So, next time you need to find out about file sizes and memory, you can refer to this guide. Feel free to comment if you’d like to have further information.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    3rd Nov 2015
    In the last section "Additional Information", the sentence which reads "So, eight bits is represented as ‘01010010’ in binary code." is somewhat confusing. What does the Hex value '52' have to do with the article???
    3rd Nov 2015
    Where did you see 'Hex value '52' ' ?
    3rd Nov 2015
    also helpful to know:
    a CD holds 700 mb of Data
    a DVD holds 4.7 GB

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