How To Internet & Network Kilobytes, Megabytes and Gigabytes — Network Data Rates Size and speed use similar language but different systems of measurement Share Pin Email Print Bill Hinton/Getty Images Internet & Network Key Concepts Basics Guides & Tutorials Installing & Upgrading Tips & Tricks What Are Bitcoins? by Bradley Mitchell An MIT graduate who brings years of technical experience to articles on SEO, computers, and wireless networking. Updated January 31, 2019 Bits and bytes aren't the same thing — they're based on different computational systems. A bit is generally a single unit of information, represented as a binary value of zero or one. Eight of these bits create one byte. Usage You'll more likely work with bits with computer networking. Most networking protocols and speeds are represented in a standard unit of measurement called bits per second. Measurements use standard SI prefixes like kilo, mega, and giga such that 1,000 bits per second is equal to 1 kilobit per second. It's all base-10 math when you're counting bandwidth. However, computer storage aggregates bits into bytes and it is these bytes that form the basic unit of measurement for things like hard-drive capacity. In a practical sense, the basic unit of measurement for storage are kilobytes such that 1 KB is equal to 1,024 bytes, and 1 MB equals 1,024 KB. Because a byte consists of 8 bits in the binary system (e.g., 2^10), you'll always increment by 1,024 units as you increase the kilo/mega/giga scale instead of the 1,000 units you'd increase if you were working in bits. Why It Matters In theory, information transfers from one location to another one bit at a time. A computer with a 64-bit processor can simultaneously transfer 64 bits — but it's still one bit at a time, it's just that the "pipe" contains 64 channels within it. For that reason, all data-throughput measures accrue in bits. Computers don't work with information one bit at a time, though. Usually, it takes eight bits considered as a group (as one byte) to render the smallest intelligible fact to a computer. This byte represents 1,024 different possible values, depending on whether the bits within the sequence represent a zero or a one. Although you can translate bits to bytes and vice versa, use bits to measure throughput and bytes to measure file size and avoid cross-comparing the two. Therefore, because computers tend to think in bytes rather than in their constituent bits, a file on your hard drive is constituted in bytes and thus increasing an order of magnitude requires you to multiply by 1,024 instead of just 1,000. Sample Conversions Conversion of Bits and Bytes Bit Kilobit Megabit Byte Kilobyte Megabyte 1 0.001 0.000001 0.125 0.000125 0.000000125 10 0.01 0.00001 1.25 0.00125 0.00000125 100 0.1 0.0001 12.5 0.0125 0.0000125 1000 1 0.001 125 0.125 0.000125 10000 10 0.01 1250 1.25 0.00125 100000 100 0.1 12500 12.5 0.0125 1000000 1000 1 12500 125 0.125 Bits and bytes generally aren't cross-comparable. Put in practical terms, a 1-gigabit Ethernet connection will transfer a 125 MB file in one second. It'll take a 10-megabit Wi-Fi connection one minute and 40 seconds to effect the same transfer. The interplay of bits and bytes in computer networking presents interesting math challenges given that they're working in both decimal and binary number systems. Continue Reading What's the Difference Between Bits and Bytes? How Is Megabit (Mb) Different From Megabyte (MB)? How Is Network Performance Measured? Explore the differences between kilobits, megabits, and gigabits The Meaning of Kbps, Mbps and Gbps Ratings for Network Equipment Meaning of Byte in Computer Networking Computer Technology Is Based on the Concept of the Bit 9 Common Dorm Room Tech Troubles & How to Fix Them Getting a "Limited or No Connectivity" Error or in Windows? Try This Look Up Common Virtual Private Network (VPN) Error Code Numbers Troubleshoot Your Problems With Windows File and Printer Sharing Here's What to do When You See Error 619 on Your VPN Connection See an Error Code in Your Browser? Here's What to Do How Do You Fix Windows' 'Network Path Was Not Found' Error? How to Fix Packet Loss Do You Have a MAC Address You Need to Trace?