The difference between megabytes and megabits

Megabit (Mbit) and megabyte (MB) sound confusingly similar. That is why they like to be confused. TECHBOOK explains what the terms mean and how to use them correctly.

Mbit and MB, Megabit and Megabyte. You come across these two terms over and over again when dealing with technology. And since smartphones, for example, are now a significant part of almost everyone’s everyday life, many people should be able to do something with words. Although the two terms sound similar and “mega” in this case means the same unit of measurement, they mean different things.

What is Megabyte (MB)?

Simply put, megabytes are the size of a digital file. The basic unit for this unit of measurement is the byte. At the beginning of computer history, files were only a few bytes in size. With advancements in technology, file sizes have also increased. How to combine 1024 bytes into one kilobyte (kB) and 1024 kilobytes into one megabyte. This can be compared to meters and kilometers.

Meanwhile, images taken with a smartphone are several MB and text files several KB in size, so files in the byte range almost never appear in the everyday life of normal PC users. Megabyte and the next larger unit gigabyte (1 GB = 1024 MB) are more present than ever. Whether it is the data volume on the smartphone, the download size of games or the storage capacity of hard drives – in all these cases we are talking about bytes or megabytes, gigabytes and even terabytes.

Also read: The difference between HDD and SSD storage

What is Megabit (Mbit)?

Like megabytes, megabits or bits are also a unit of measurement for an amount of data. The ratio is 1:8 because 1 byte in today’s computer systems usually consists of 8 bits. Unlike bytes, bits are also used to represent information content. Bit is short for “Binary Digit”, which is a binary digit that represents the smallest possible difference between two states.

Computer information always consists of two states: “On” and “Off” or 1 and 0. A bit is the carrier of just such information. Bits are combined into bytes in order to store at least the smallest amount of data. Historically, 8 bits were required to represent a single character of text, which is why this unit has become the standard for a byte. A bit is the smallest unit of information and storage, while a byte is the smallest amount of data and is therefore used to describe the available space on a storage medium.

While memory sizes are specified in bytes, as already mentioned, bits are mainly used in the context of networks to identify data transmission rates. But always in bits per second, because bytes are always sent bit by bit through the Internet.

In everyday life, internet users usually come across bits in connection with the speed of DSL connections – here as Mbit/s or Mbps, i.e. megabits per second. In this area, the greatest potential for error lies in confusing the units megabytes and megabits. For a 50,000 DSL line, promise 50 Mbit/s and not 50 megabytes per second, as some still believe. Mbit/s must first be converted to be truly meaningful to the general public.

Also interesting: WhatsApp uses so much data volume

How do I convert Mbit/s to MB/s?

Only very few can do anything with megabits per second, so the conversion to megabytes per second makes sense. Since a byte consists of eight bits, this is therefore not too difficult. Simply divide the internet speed (eg 100 Mbit/s) by eight and you have already determined the maximum amount of data in megabytes that the line can download in the best possible case. In this example, it would be a maximum of 12.5 megabytes per second.

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