Multiple-byte units
Value Metric
1000 103 kB kilobyte
10002 106 MB megabyte
10003 109 GB gigabyte
10004 1012 TB terabyte
10005 1015 PB petabyte
10006 1018 EB exabyte
10007 1021 ZB zettabyte
10008 1024 YB yottabyte
10009 1027 RB ronnabyte
100010 1030 QB quettabyte
Value IEC Memory
1024 210 KiB kibibyte KB kilobyte
10242 220 MiB mebibyte MB megabyte
10243 230 GiB gibibyte GB gigabyte
10244 240 TiB tebibyte TB terabyte
10245 250 PiB pebibyte
10246 260 EiB exbibyte
10247 270 ZiB zebibyte
10248 280 YiB yobibyte
10249 290
102410 2100
Orders of magnitude of data

The kilobyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information. The International System of Units (SI) defines the prefix kilo as a multiplication factor of 1000 (103); therefore, one kilobyte is 1000 bytes.[1] The internationally recommended unit symbol for the kilobyte is kB.[1]

In some areas of information technology, particularly in reference to random-access memory capacity, kilobyte instead typically refers to 1024 (210) bytes. This arises from the prevalence of sizes that are powers of two in modern digital memory architectures, coupled with the coincidence that 210 differs from 103 by less than 2.5%. A kibibyte is 1024 bytes.[1]

Definitions and usage

Decimal (1000 bytes)

In the International System of Units (SI) the metric prefix kilo means 1000 (103); therefore, one kilobyte is 1000 bytes. The unit symbol is kB.

This is the definition recommended by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).[2] This definition, and the related definitions of the prefixes mega (1000000), giga (1000000000), etc., are most commonly used for data transfer rates in computer networks, internal bus, hard drive and flash media transfer speeds, and for the capacities of most storage media, particularly hard disk drives,[3] flash-based storage,[4] and DVDs. It is also consistent with the other uses of the metric prefixes in computing, such as CPU clock speeds or measures of performance.

The international standard IEC 80000-13 uses the term "byte" to mean eight bits (1 B = 8 bit). Therefore, 1 kB = 8000 bit. One thousand kilobytes (1000 kB) is equal to one megabyte (1 MB), where 1 MB is one million bytes.

Binary (1024 bytes)

The term 'kilobyte' has traditionally been used to refer to 1024 bytes (210 B).[5][6][7] The usage of the metric prefix kilo for binary multiples arose as a convenience, because 1024 is approximately 1000.[8]

The binary interpretation of metric prefixes is still prominently used by the Microsoft Windows operating system.[9] Binary interpretation is also used for random-access memory capacity, such as main memory and CPU cache size, due to the prevalent binary addressing of memory.

The binary meaning of the kilobyte for 1024 bytes typically uses the symbol KB, with an uppercase letter K. The B is sometimes omitted in informal use. For example, a processor with 65,536 bytes of cache memory might be said to have "64 K" of cache. In this convention, one thousand and twenty-four kilobytes (1024 KB) is equal to one megabyte (1 MB), where 1 MB is 10242 bytes.

In December 1998, the IEC addressed such multiple usages and definitions by creating prefixes such as kibi, mebi, gibi, etc., to unambiguously denote powers of 1024.[10] Thus the kibibyte, symbol KiB, represents 210  bytes = 1024 bytes. These prefixes are now part of IEC 80000-13. The IEC further specified that the kilobyte should only be used to refer to 1000 bytes. The International System of Units restricts the use of the SI prefixes strictly to powers of 10.[11]

Use of term

Data examples

See also


  1. ^ a b c International Standard IEC 80000-13 Quantities and Units – Part 13: Information science and technology, International Electrotechnical Commission (2008).
  2. ^ Prefixes for Binary Multiples Archived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine — The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty
  3. ^ 1977 Disk/Trend Report Rigid Disk Drives, published June 1977
  4. ^ SanDisk USB Flash Drive Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine "Note: 1 megabyte (MB) = 1 million bytes; 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes."
  5. ^ Kilobyte – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary Archived 2010-04-09 at the Wayback Machine. (2010-08-13). Retrieved on 2011-01-07.
  6. ^ Kilobyte | Define Kilobyte at Archived 2010-09-01 at the Wayback Machine. (1995-09-29). Retrieved on 2011-01-07.
  7. ^ Definition of kilobyte from Oxford Dictionaries Online Archived 2006-06-25 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2011-01-07.
  8. ^ "Prefixes for binary multiples". International Electrotechnical Commission. Archived from the original on 25 September 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Determining Actual Disk Size: Why 1.44 MB Should Be 1.40 MB". 2003-05-06. Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  10. ^ National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Prefixes for binary multiples". Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. "In December 1998 the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) [...] approved as an IEC International Standard names and symbols for prefixes for binary multiples for use in the fields of data processing and data transmission."
  11. ^ Le Système international d’unités [The International System of Units] (PDF) (in French and English) (9th ed.), International Bureau of Weights and Measures, 2019, p. 143, ISBN 978-92-822-2272-0. "The SI prefixes refer strictly to powers of 10. They should not be used to indicate powers of 2 (for example, one kilobit represents 1000 bits and not 1024 bits). The names and symbols for prefixes to be used with powers of 2 are recommended as follows: kibi Ki 210 [...]"
  12. ^ "SA400 minifloppy". 2013-08-14. Archived from the original on 2014-05-27. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2011-06-24.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-23. Retrieved 2011-06-24.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "How OS X and iOS report storage capacity". 2013-07-01. Archived from the original on 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  16. ^ "How Mac OS X reports drive capacity". Apple Inc. 2009-08-27. Archived from the original on 2009-12-22. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
  17. ^ "3G/GPRS data rates". Vodafone Ireland. Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  18. ^ "Data Measurement Scale". AT&T. Retrieved 26 October 2016.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Internet Mobile Access". Orange Romania. Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  20. ^ "Our Customer Terms" (PDF). Telstra. p. 7. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Vulgata Clementina". pater noster qui es in cælis sanctificetur nomen tuum adveniat regnum tuum fiat voluntas tua sicut in cælo et in terra panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris et ne nos inducas in tentationem sed libera nos a malo
  22. ^ Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Cask of Amontillado" – via Project Gutenberg.
  23. ^ Dickens, Charles (July 1, 1998). "Great Expectations" – via Project Gutenberg.
  24. ^ Melville, Herman (July 1, 2001). "Moby Dick; Or, The Whale" – via Project Gutenberg.