HomeHome : Monthly Tips : Oct 2023

Know the Difference Between Bytes and Bits

October 2023 — Tip of the Month

Bits and bytes sound similar, but they are not the same. One byte is eight bits. To put it in mathematical terms:

1 Byte = 8 Bits

That means...

The 8:1 ratio is especially notable regarding data transfer rates. Since internet speeds are often measured in megabytes per second (Mbps), you'll need to divide by 8 to get megabytes per second. For example:

  • 40 Mbps download speed = 5 Megabytes per second
  • 10 Mbps upload speed = 1.25 Megabytes per second

Why is this important?

#1 People often use bits and bytes synonymously. You don't have to be one of those people. Better yet, you can politely correct your friend when they use the wrong term.

#2 Data storage is typically measured in bytes, while download speeds are usually measured in bits. Why? I don't know — it wasn't my idea. But that means a 40 Mbps download speed will not download a 40 MB file in 1 second. Instead, it will take 8 seconds. Likewise, a 1 GB file will not download in 25 seconds. At a consistent download speed of 40 Mbps, a 1 GB file will take 1,000 / 40 x 8 = 200 seconds, or 3 minutes and 20 seconds to download.

Now you know: bits and bytes are not the same. A byte is 8 bits, and a bit is 1/8 of a byte. 👌

- Per Christensson