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Megabits vs megabytes

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If you don’t know your megabytes from your megabits, don’t worry you’re not alone! It’s an easy mistake to make as they are both commonly used in computing and sound so similar.

But, recognising the difference is key to understanding the internet and more specifically your connection and how you use it.

Megabits

Megabits are used for measuring an internet connection’s bandwidth or download and upload speeds. You will commonly see this abbreviated to Mb or Mbps (megabits per second).

Megabytes

Megabytes are used to measure the size of a file or the amount of data storage available. You will have heard this often referred to as MB or MBps (megabytes per second).

The difference

As you can see, being able to distinguish between megabits and megabytes is important  because they mean entirely different things!

Did you note the little b in megabits per second (Mbps) and the big B in megabytes per second (MBps)? It’s important to remember this as it will help you differentiate the two in future.

Gigabits and gigabytes

Beyond megabits and megabytes we venture into gigabit (Gb) and gigabyte (GB) territory. 

It’s worth mentioning this because bandwidth is increasing all the time, gigabit speeds are becoming more widely available and gigabyte files are also part of everyday computer usage.  

You’ll be pleased to know the principles above apply to Gigabits (Gb) and Gigabytes (GB). 

  • GB is file size 
  • Gb is connection speed

To conclude

Let’s recap. 

  • Bandwidth is measured in bits 
  • File size is measured in bytes. 

It’s also useful to know that it takes 8 bits of data to equal 1 byte. To explain further, if you are downloading a file that is 1MB and your internet connection is running at 8Mbps, then the file should download in one second.

Does that make sense? Hopefully we’ve cleared up any confusion you may have had. and if all else fails you need to try to remember little b and big B!

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