Since the beginning of humankind, there has been a necessity to store information on some physical medium. Paper was the first solution and the most obvious solution. However, with the beginning of massive production, the world was overwhelmed. Humans needed something new, something more efficient, humans needed – computers. In shape we know it today, computer science began in the 20th century, mainly for its usage in the World Wars. But with time, as our perception of the known universe grew, we were inventing more efficient ways to store information – from punctured papers to transistors. Bytes, kilobytes, bits, and so on are quantitative information units. With our Byte Conversion Calculator and our other converters, you will easily convert between them.

What is a byte?

Like we said before, the most efficient way to store information on our computer is with numbers. But how do we do that? How can transistors differentiate between 157 and 468? Well, it can’t. Every transistor in our computer can have only two states, ON and OFF, just like a standard light switch. So if we have just two states, that means we can’t use a single transistor to differentiate between nine digits. Our solution binary.

Unlike the decimal system, which has ten digits, binary has only 0 and 1. And with the correct algorithm, we can easily convert between decimal and binary (for more information on connections between different numerical systems). One state of our transistor is called BIT, and it is the primary and the most basic unit of information, and it can have a value of 1 and 0, referred to as TRUE and FALSE. The computer uses multiple transistors connected in a certain way, which is equivalent to using different digits to represent a single number and store any regular information.

Eight of these basic units called bits that are stored in such a way to express single info make a Byte. A byte can hold a total of 255 numbers, which is enough to represent one character in a basic version of ASCII table.

Data Conversion units

Units like bits and bytes exist for quantifying and measuring the size of the data.  Other units like kilobytes and gigabytes are just bigger quantities of bytes. One byte consists of 8 bits, one kilobyte consists of 1024 bytes, one megabyte consists of 1024 kilobytes, and every next unit consists of 1024 previous units. Why 1024, and not 1000? Well, that’s because every memory unit is based on the powers of two, and 1024 is the power of two closest to one thousand.

Examples of Byte conversion

For example, one text file on my computer contains 153 kilobytes of information, which is 153 \; kB=153 \times 1024 \; bytes =153 \times 1024 \times 8 \; bits=1253376 \; bits . Other types of files may be as large as a few gigabytes or even terabytes, depending on type of computer. It’s important to note that we often don’t use units larger than terabytes in the real world.

For example, a yottabyte is around 10 to the power of 24. It’s even hard to imagine the amplitude of numbers as large as that and come up with comparisons. But the fact that modern computers use that much space shouldn’t be surprising. For example, look at the number of passwords social networks like Facebook need to store.

Bits and Bytes reference table

Term (Abbreviation)Approximate Size
Byte (B) 8 bits
Kilobyte (KB) 1024 bytes / 103 bytes
Megabyte (MB) 1024 KB / 106 bytes
Gigabyte (GB) 1024 MB / 109 bytes
Terabyte (TB) 1024 GB / 1012 bytes
Petabyte (PB) 1024 TB / 1015 bytes
Exabyte (EB) 1024 PB / 1018 bytes
Zettabyte (ZB) 1024 EB / 1021 bytes
Yottabyte (YB) 1024 ZB / 1024 bytes
Memory Capacity Conversion Table

As you can see from the table, every one of those units has an appropriate unit prefix, just like in any other measuring system.

Most common conversions

Files on your computer are most commonly from a few kilobytes up to a few megabytes. The software can take up even more space. Sizes vary depending on the types of the data file is supposed to store. In programming (C programming in particular), multiple data types exist. Those include int to represent an integer, char to represent a single character, and so on. Sizes of those datatypes (memory space program reserves for a variable) vary from one computer to another. Still, the integer is supposed to occupy more space than the character, and floating-point number (number with decimal part) is supposed to take up even more space.

Int can be as large as about 4 bytes, and floats and doubles can be as large as eight bytes. These numbers don’t seem so important, do they? If you are writing, let’s say, a book about 10000 characters long, every one of those characters takes up precisely one byte. Don’t forget that even the whitespace is a character. So the total file length is at least 10000 bytes, or about ten kilobytes, plus the information about document formatting.

Bit to byte conversion

We convert bits to bytes by dividing the number of bits by eight. So, 64 bits is 8 bytes, 128 bits is 16 bytes and so on. It is important to note that number of memory units in the real world doesn’t usually have the decimal part. It’s easier to say that something takes up twelve bytes and 7 bits.

Bytes to Megabytes conversion

To convert from bytes to megabytes, you have to divide the number of bytes with the size of one megabyte in bytes according to the formula:

\frac{number \; of \;bytes}{number\;of \;bytes\; in\; one\; megabyte}=\frac{number\; of \;bytes}{1024\cdot1024}

Or use our trustworthy calculator. It’s easier. For example, 1048576 bytes is exactly one megabyte. For instance, a PDF file on my computer takes up about six million bytes of memory space or is converted to megabytes of just 5.5 MB. From this example, we can see that megabyte is a much larger memory unit than a byte.