Mega/Giga/Tera Bit vs Byte: What’s The Difference?

CG Director Author Christopher Harperby Christopher Harper   /  Published 

Ever wondered what the difference is between a Megabit and a Megabyte? You’ve come to the right place!

In this article, I’ll break down the differences between bits and bytes in hopes of demystifying these two units of data.

Let’s not waste any time, and dive right into it!

Mega/Giga/Terabit vs Byte: What’s The Difference?

In order to break down the differences between mega-, giga-, and tera-bits and bytes, we’ll start by breaking the word itself down to 2 parts.

  • The first part is your metric prefix, like Mega, Giga, Tera, and so on
  • And the second part is your suffix, so in the digital world, it’s usually bits or bytes.

Now, the prefix is pretty straightforward. Like other units in the metric system, each step is a multiple of 103. So, a Kilobyte is basically 103 Bytes or 1000 Bytes. Similarly, the next step, a Megabyte is 103 Kilobytes or 106 Bytes or 1,000,000 Bytes.

Here’s a list of standard prefixes:

  • Kilo (K)
  • Mega (M)
  • Tera (T)
  • Peta (P)
  • Exa (E)
  • Zetta (Z)
  • Yotta (Y)
  • Ronna (R)
  • Quetta (Q)

The metric system makes it easier to convert units up and down, and is the preferred standard for measurements in most countries. You can find the full list of SI metric prefixes here.

Next, let’s break down the suffixes. So, what’s the difference between a “bit” and “byte” to begin with?

Both terms deal with digital ‘space.’

A bit refers to the smallest possible form of digital information. It’s literally a single value that’s either “1” or “0”.

On the other hand, a byte is the smallest addressable unit of memory, which equals 8 bits.

Bytes contain eight bits and it’s a combination of these bits that make up things like characters, numbers, symbols, etc.

Bit vs Byte Whats the difference

How Mega/Giga/Tera Bits Are Used

Typically, Mega/Giga/Terabits are used in the context of networking hardware and Internet Service Provider plans.

This is a unit for ‘speed’ or digital bandwidth and is measured in quantity of data per second.  However, the ‘per second’ part is often omitted in colloquial usage for simplicity, which is why you’ll see things like 100 Megabit or 1 Gigabit plans advertised by ISPs.

So, a ‘Gigabit’ connection means a speed of a Gigabit per second.

I remember when I first heard about Gigabit Internet connections back in High School and quickly checked if that meant one Gigabyte per second, only to discover with some disappointment that it was more of an eighth of a Gigabyte per second.

Remember, there are 8 Bits in 1 Byte of data. 

Still, though— Gigabit speeds are nothing to scoff at, especially considering the average Internet speed in the US is still about ~127 Mbps, and obviously far lower in rural areas limited to DSL and Satellite Internet.

Terabit network hardware isn’t out of reach either, though its uses are quite limited and not really available to consumers in the way that Gigabit network plans and hardware are.

Terabit Internet connections and hardware are the purview of scientists and social media companies running large data centers, and even then— full Terabit Ethernet technology is still in the works at the time of writing. The current actual peak is 800 Gigabit Ethernet over a single cable.

Ethernet Roadmap

Image Source: Ethernet Alliance

Let’s dial back to professional and enterprise users for a moment, though.

In those environments, 10G or 10 Gigabit LAN controllers and 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches are slowly gaining popularity because professionals may need to transfer massive files or serve files to many users simultaneously.

In fact, even high-end consumer hardware has started to boast 10G LAN speeds. 

That said, regular consumers don’t really need multiple Gigabits of network speed yet. But even this may change over time as our data needs to grow and adapt to new types of content, higher resolutions, etc.

How Mega/Giga/Terabytes Are Used

Mega/giga/terabytes are most frequently used in the context of storage technology and system memory rather than networking hardware.

When it comes to modern consumer technology, Gigabytes and Terabytes see pretty common usage across the board, with Megabytes mostly relegated to individual files rather than core system specifications these days.

RAM Configurations

System RAM is generally measured in Gigabytes, with even modern smartphones using 8GB of RAM as a standard.

If you’re building a PC, you may even find yourself using 64+ Gigabytes of RAM, especially if you’re pushing pro-level workloads like video editing, CAD, and 3D rendering.

If you want more specific information on how much RAM you need for a specific workload, I highly recommend Alex’s extended RAM Capacity Guide.

How Much Solid State Memory do you need

Meanwhile, SSDs and HDDs regularly ship in quantities of 2+ Terabytes. The sheer file size of modern project files, games, and video files often necessitates actually using the full capacity of storage available to consumers today.

Hundreds of Gigabytes can be used up surprisingly quickly on a modern gaming PC or workstation, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

At the time of writing, Ark: Survival Evolved comes in at a whopping 400 GB file size, while even the latest mainstream Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game weighs in at 235 GB.

It’s good that technology like DirectStorage and RTX I/O are making their way to PC, otherwise fast SSDs would still be hindered by HDD-centered programming limitations.

For more on SSD capacity and how much you need for your particular PC build, consider checking out my extended SSD Size Guide for more information.

I don’t recommend HDDs for modern gaming or productivity workloads, but having a sizable HDD for media storage and system backup purposes can be a nice-to-have, too, and for much less dollar-per-gigabyte, at that.


So there you have it. 1 Byte contains 8 Bits, So a one Gigabit / s data transfer speed is 8 times slower than one Gigabyte / s transfer speed, and so on.

Bit is most often used to measure transfer speeds, and byte is most often used to measure storage space but they can be both used for either.

Beware of abbreviations: GB is Gigabytes (Data size), and Gb (small b) is Gigabits (data transfer speeds).


What Is a Mebibyte?

A Mebibyte (MiB) is an alternate measurement to megabyte and megabit, used in a variety of scenarios as a more “accurate” alternative.

Compared to a megabyte, which is equal to 1 million bytes, a mebibyte is equivalent to 1,048,576 bytes.

Whereas the megabyte is based on the decimal system of measurement and “10”s, the mebibyte is based on binary and starts with “2”s.

This…actually leads to more discrepancies and confusion than anything else.

For example, while storage drives are typically advertised in the decimal “megabytes”, they’re usually read by operating systems in mebibytes instead, which can still read as MB/TB instead of MiB or TiB.

Local Disk Properties

This is why when you buy, say, a 2TB SSD…its maximum capacity will still read as “1.8 TB” instead.

You didn’t have 200 GB of data disappear into the void; your OS is just measuring “MB” as “MiB.” Jerry has written about the discrepancy between TB and TiB as well if you’re interested in learning more.

Why Are Some Things Measured in Bits Instead of Bytes?

While bytes are more intuitive as a form of measurement, they still ultimately boil down to “bits” like everything else on your PC does.

Thus, some aspects of PC hardware simply make more sense when referred to with “bits” instead of “bytes”.

Memory (RAM) Limitation on x86 CPUs - 64 bit vs 32 bit

The primary example can be seen in CPUs, with 32-bit CPUs eventually being overtaken by 64-bit CPUs in the mainstream.

In the context of processors, “bits” refer to the complexity of instructions and the number of memory addresses that can be used. I’ve written more on this in the article linked in the paragraph above if you want to learn more about CPU “bits”.

Over to You

And that’s all, for now!

I hope this article on Mega/Giga/Tera Bit vs Byte helped clear up the differences between these two fundamental pieces of data measurement in PC hardware and elaborated on how they’re actually being applied in hardware and advertising, too.

Any other questions about PC hardware? Feel free to fire them off in the comments section below, where I or another member of the CGDirector Team will be happy to help you.

Alternatively, if you’re working on a new PC build or just want to engage in a community of fellow Enthusiasts and Experts, you can also check out the CGDirector Forums for more in-depth engagements.

Until then or until next time, happy building! And for the road, remember: a byte is eight bits, but no one is gonna sell storage to you in “bits”.

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Christopher Harper

I have been a passionate devotee to technology since the age of 3, and to writing since before I even finished high school.

These passions have since combined into a living in my adulthood and have made writing about PC Hardware very satisfying.

If you need any assistance, leave a comment below: it’s what I’m here for.


Also check out our Forum for feedback from our Expert Community.

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