What Is The Difference Between Bits And Bytes?


Bits and bytes accompany our everyday life these days. While the Internet provider advertises data transfer rates of “up to 100 Mbit/s”, the new laptop has a 512 gigabyte SSD hard drive installed – but what exactly is the difference between bits and bytes and how does the conversion work?


Bit and byte – the difference

The word Bit is the abbreviation for Binary Digi t . Translated, this means binary digit, i.e. a unit of information that can only distinguish between the two states 1 (on) and 0 (off) . A bit is at the same time the smallest information unit of a computer.

Since a computer naturally has to represent far more than just ones and zeros in order for humans to understand it, several bits are combined into one byte. 1 byte always consists of 8 bits . These eight bits can each assume the state 1 (on) or 0 (off), which in turn allows the byte to assume a total of 256 (2^8) different states. This allows the binary states to be represented in human-readable characters.


Example: letters in binary code

A = 01000001

B = 01000010

C = 01000011

Z = 01011010


Conversion from kbit/s to Mbit/s to Mbyte/s


To convert the speed from bits per second to bytes per second, you have to divide the bit specification by eight (1 byte = 8 bits). Between the various prefixes (kilo, mega, giga, tera) there is a thousand fold increase. A megabyte is 1000 kilobytes, a gigabyte is 1000 megabytes, and a terabyte is 1000 gigabytes.

For a better understanding, we have converted the typical Internet speeds into megabytes per second in the following table, so that you can immediately understand the maximum speed at which you can download data.


Difference: data transfer rate and storage space


Data transfer rates are usually measured in bits per second. The speed of the Internet connection, the transfer of data from one storage medium to another or the reading and writing speeds of hard drives and CDs are given in bits per second.

The memory size is usually given in bytes. The size of the memory is specified, for example, on hard drives, SD cards and blank DVDs to show how much data can be stored on the respective storage medium.


Abbreviations of byte and bit



To distinguish between bits and bytes, the units are actually abbreviated differently. A small “b” is used for bit and a capital “B” for byte. Unfortunately, this is often quickly overlooked or confused. In order to be sure that the specification is understood correctly, it is therefore advisable to write out at least the bit or byte – i.e. kbit, Mbyte etc.




How many bits is a byte?


While a byte can hold a letter or symbol, a bit is the smallest unit of storage, storing just one binary digit. The standard number of bits in a byte is eight, but that number can vary from system to system, depending on the hardware.


Is a byte 8 or 4 bits?

Common binary number lengths

Each 1 or 0 in a binary number is called a bit. From there, a group of 4 bits is called a nibble, and 8-bits makes a byte. Bytes are a pretty common buzzword when working in binary.


What are 2 bits called?


The smallest unit of binary information, equal to a single 0 or 1. Two bits are called a crumb, four bits are called a nibble, and eight bits are called 1 byte

Why do 8 bits make a byte?


The byte was originally the smallest number of bits that could hold a single character (I assume standard ASCII). We still use ASCII standard, so 8 bits per character is still relevant. This sentence, for instance, is 41 bytes. That’s easily countable and practical for our purposes.