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How Many Megabytes in a Gigabyte

Computer data are measured with the help of the binary number system, which is counted by twos (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc). But the prefixes denoting the multiples are borrowed from the metric system (kilo, mega, etc). Thus 1024 bytes are called a kilobyte, like 1000 grams are known as a kilogram. No wonder, this has caused a lot of embarrassment.

Bits and Bytes

Basic units of information, which are used for computer data storage, are called bits1 (contraction from the phrase “binary digit”). Every bit can have one of the two possible values, denoted by digits 1 and 0. All files in a computer are kept in the form of binary files. They are transformed into pictures, words, music and video by special programs, which are also zeros and ones. This is called the binary number system.

Eight bits make up the byte2, one of the most common units of measuring digital information. Originally, one byte meant the quantity of bits necessary for encoding one character of text. Since then, bytes are the basic elements in the majority of computer system architectures.

Different Definitions

According to the standard definition, we have such measurements:


According to the prefixes, which are used in this system, it is correct. But we all know that manufacturers of computer memory prefer to use the binary system with the same metric prefixes. This definition states the following:


And they are not worried about the fact that it causes confusion.

The IEC Standards

There is a simple and convenient way to avoid any misinterpretation in this question. In 1998 it was suggested by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission)3. This organization approved a new standard with specific prefixes instead of metric ones. The first letters of every prefix were taken from the metric variants (me-, gi-, etc). To them the syllable “bi” (contraction from “binary”) was added. Thus we got the terms kibibyte (KiB), mebibyte (MiB), gibibyte (GiB), etc.

The table below presents all the definitions from the new IEC Standard.

Term
Abbreviation
Equals to
Bit
bit
0 or 1
Byte
B
8 bits
Kibibit
Kibit
1024 bits
Kibibyte
KiB
1024 bytes
Mebibyte
MiB
1024 kibibytes
Gibibyte
GiB
1024 mebibytes
Tebibyte
TiB
1024 gibibytes
Pebibyte
PiB
1024 tebibytes
Exbibyte
EiB
1024 pebibytes

Though this standard could have solved many problems, it is not commonly used, and computer manufacturers still ignore it. As a result, most people do not even know what these terms (kibibit, kibibyte, mebibyte, etc) mean.

How to Convert Non-Official Units

The chart below helps to convert traditional units, used by manufacturers of memory and in computer programs.

 
One Bit
One Byte
Bits
1
8
Bytes
8
1
Kilobytes
8,192
1,024
Megabytes
8,388,608
1,048,576
Gigabytes
8,589,934,592
1,073,741,824


 
One Kilobyte
One Megabyte
Bits
8,192
8,388,608
Bytes
1,024
1,048,576
Kilobytes
1
1,024
Megabytes
1,024
1
Gigabytes
1,048,576
1,024


 
One Gigabyte
One Terabyte
Bits
8,589,934,592
8,796,093,022,208
Bytes
1,073,741,824
1,099,511,627,776
Kilobytes
1,048,576
1,073,741,824
Megabytes
1,024
1,048,576
Gigabytes
1
1,024


 
One Petabyte
One Exabyte
Bits
9,007,199,254,740,992
9,223,372,036,854,775,808
Bytes
1,125,899,906,842,624
1,152,921,504,606,846,976
Kilobytes
1,099,511,627,776
1,125,899,906,842,624
Megabytes
1,073,741,824
1,099,511,627,776
Gigabytes
1,048,576
1,073,741,824


 
One Zettabyte
Bits
9,444,732,965,739,290,427,392
Bytes
1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424
Kilobytes
1,152,921,504,606,846,976
Megabytes
1,125,899,906,842,624
Gigabytes
1,099,511,627,776
  1. The bit – is the fundamental unit of computer information. In means the amount of data that has one of the two possible values: digits 0 or 1.
  2. The byte (abbr. B) – is the most common unit of computer information, consisting of 8 bits. Bytes make up kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), terabytes (TB), petabytes (PB), exabytes (EB), zettabytes (ZB), and yottabytes (YB). The standard definition states that one kilobyte has 1000 bytes and so on, but the non-official standard means that one kilobyte has 1024 bytes. The IEC suggests the term “kibibyte” for the latter case.
  3. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) – is the international non-profit organization, developing International Standards for various branches of electrotechnology. It has invented such terms, as Kibibit (Kibit), Kibibyte (KiB), Mebibyte (MiB), Gibibyte (GiB), Tebibyte (TiB), Pebibyte (PiB), Exbibyte (EiB).
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