What's the difference between bits and bytes

With this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about bits and bytes and explain the difference when buying broadband.

When considering which broadband package to sign up to, thinking about speed is one of the most important elements. If you’re new to broadband or just never really thought about it before, the jargon used can be confusing. When browsing packages, you’ll see the term “Mbps” mentioned everywhere, but what does it actually mean? 

What is a byte?

A byte is a unit of measurement that relates to memory in computer and broadband systems. One byte is made up of 8 bits. Data is normally measured in bytes rather than bits, and larger groupings of bytes will be called different things based on how many bytes there are. When considering broadband packages, you’ll need to keep bytes in mind when measuring how much data you can download. Every download you perform is made up of a certain amount of bytes.

What's the difference between bits and bytes?

As previously mentioned, a single byte is made up of 8 bits. 1,024 bytes make up 1 kilobyte, and this goes on through megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes. In terms of broadband speed, understanding the difference is important. An uppercase B is used when describing bytes and a lowercase is used for bits. Broadband speed is measured in megabits rather than megabytes, which is used for data. When you see Mbps, that stands for Megabits per second (how fast you’re able to download something), but a file you download online is measured in megabytes.

What's the difference between megabits and megabytes?

Megabits measure the speed of broadband whereas megabytes measure the size of a file. Remember, a megabyte is 8 times bigger than a megabit, so downloading a 17-megabyte file with a 17 megabits-per-second broadband connection, for example, will take 8 seconds rather than 1. Using this method, you should be able to work out how long your download will take, no matter the size.  

How many megabytes in a gigabyte?

A gigabyte is made up of 1,024 megabytes. This is important when you’re buying a broadband package that has a data cap, as you’ll need to keep track of what you download so that you won’t go over the limit and incur an extra charge. Luckily, the majority of broadband packages in the UK come with unlimited downloads.

How many bytes in a megabyte?

A megabyte is comprised of 1,024 kilobytes. 1,024 is the number that all different tiers of bytes are made up of (there are 1,024 bytes in a kilobyte), so it’s easy enough to work out how many bytes there are in a megabyte by timesing 1,024 by 1,024, making 1,048,576.
How many megabits in a gigabit?

When it comes down to bits, the maths are a little bit different. There are 1000 megabits in a gigabit, with megabits made out of kilobits and kilobits made out of bits. This works in a similar way to bytes, but with different figures per tier.

How many bits in a megabit?

1 megabit equates to a thousand kilobits, and as there are 1000 bits in a kilobit, that means there are 1,000,000 bits per megabit. Following this data, that means that a gigabit is made up of a billion bits.

What's the difference between Mb and Mbps for internet speed?

There’s a big difference between bits and bytes when talking about broadband speed. Bits are how internet speed is measured and bytes are how data files are measured. For example, you may get 17Mbps internet speed and want to download a 17Mb file. Bits are much smaller than bytes, so it won’t take a second to download a file. There are 8 bits per byte, so it will, in fact, take 8 seconds.

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