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megabit vs. megabyte

megabit vs. megabyte: What’s the difference?

The difference between megabits and megabytes involves both size and context. Megabits are most commonly used in the context of data transmission rates, like internet upload and download speeds, which are measured in megabits per second (abbreviated as Mbps), while megabytes are used as a measure of computer memory or file size (for example, a file size of 8 MB means 8 megabytes). As for the size difference: a bit is the smallest unit of computer memory (a binary value of “0” or “1”). A byte is a unit of eight bits. The prefix mega- commonly means “one million,” and the word megabit usually refers to 1 million bits. However, the word megabyte usually refers not to 1 million bytes but to precisely 1,048,576 bytes (which is 220). This is because the calculation of data storage capacity is based on powers of two, and 220 is the power of two closest to 1,000,000.

[ meg-uh-bit ]
  1. 220 (1,048,576) bits.
  2. (loosely) one million bits. Abbreviation: Mb
[ meg-uh-bahyt ]
  1. 220 (1,048,576) bytes.
  2. (loosely) one million bytes. Abbreviation: MB

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