Units of measurement for information in computers

This post is lesson 8 of 42 in the subject Computer Hardware

The bit is the fundamental unit used to measure information. Aside from bits, numerous other units of measurement are used in computers. In this article, we will present an introduction to the basic units of measurement in computing.

1. Bit – BInary digiT (b)

A bit is the smallest unit of data that a computer can store. To be understood by the computer, all data must be encoded in bits. A binary digit can only have two possible states: 0 or 1.

2. Byte (B)

A byte consists of 8 bits. Byte (B) is usually used to represent the capacity of data storage in the computer.

3. Conversion table for units of measurement

In addition to bits and bytes, we have larger units of measurement to accommodate the growing storage needs.

UnitShortenedIn decimalIn binary
Bitb0 hoặc 10 hoặc 1
ByteB8 bitxxxxxxxx bit
KiloByteKB103 B210 B = 1024 B
MegaByteMB103 KB210 KB
GigaByteGB103 MB210 MB
TeraByteTB103 GB210 GB
PetaBytePB103 TB210 TB
ExaByteEB103 PB210 PB
ZettaByteZB103 EB210 EB
YottaByteYB103 ZB210 ZB

Note, depending on the definition, 1 KiloByte (KB) can be equal to either 1000 Bytes or 1024 Bytes. Hard drive manufacturers often use decimal notation (1 KiloByte (KB) equals 1000 Byte) to measure the capacity of hard drives. This means that a drive with a capacity of 500 GB will always have less than 500 GB of actual storage.

Hard drive capacity

3. Hertz (Hz)

Hertz (Hz) is a unit used to measure the processing speed of the CPU in a computer. The greater the value, the faster the computer can process information. CPU processing speed is typically measured in Megahertz (MHz) and Gigahertz (GHz).

HerztHz1 Hz
KilohertzKHz1000 Hz
MegahertzMHz106 Hz
GigahertzGHz109 Hz
TerahertzTHz1012 Hz

4. bit per second (bps)

bps is a unit of measurement of data transfer rate (DTR) per second in bits. And Bps (Bytes per second) is a unit of measurement of data transfer rate per second in Bytes. The transfer rate refers to the speed at which data is transferred, whether it’s between the CPU and RAM, between computers on a network, or elsewhere.

Note, the bit symbol is the letter b (lowercase b), and the Byte symbol is the letter B (uppercase B).

NameSymbolData transfer rate
Bit per secondbps1 bps
Byte per secondBps8 bps
Kilobit per secondKbps1000 bps
Megabit per secondMbps1000 Kbps
Gigabit per secondGbps1000 Mbps
Kilobyte per secondKBps8.1000 bps
Megabyte per secondMBps8.1000 KBps
Gigabyte per secondGBps8.1000 MBps

Note: 1 Byte = 8 bit so 1 Bps = 8 bps, the same for KBps, MBps,…

5. Rotation speed of hard disk drive

With HDD (hard disk drive), the speed of the hard drive is featured by RPM (revolutions per minute) which means the number of revolutions per minute. Currently, hard drives typically have rotation speeds of either 5400 RPM or 7200 RPM.

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