Bits and bytes: know the difference

Woman with laptop

Knowing your bits and bytes is useful for picking out a good broadband provider – here’s the important info.

What are bits and bytes?

Bits and bytes are different units of measurement, though you’re likely to have come across both while using the internet.

  • Bits are used to measure connection speed, normally in the form of megabits
  • Bytes are for measuring the size of data, often as megabytes or gigabytes

The differences between bits and bites

There are other things factors separate bits and bytes – they might sound like similar quantities but a byte is eight times bigger than a bit, so you can say that one byte contains eight bits of data. This therefore means a megabyte is eight times bigger than a megabit, and so on.

They’re also represented different when you read or write about them:

  • Bits are given in a lower case ‘b’ – so a megabit is Mb
  • Bytes are given in an upper case ‘B’ – so a megabyte is MB.
Bits and bytes explained

Bits, bytes, and broadband

Though bits and bytes are used to measure different things, you can use both to understand how your broadband will work - by knowing your connection speed and the size of a file online, you can make a rough guess about how long it will take to download the file.

For example, if you want to download a file of 150 megabytes and you know your connection speed is 25 megabits per second:

  1. You know it will take six seconds to for 150 megabits (Mb)
  2. It will then take eight times that amount to download 150 megabytes (MB)
  3. It should therefore take, if your connection speed remains perfect throughout, roughly 48 seconds to download the file.

However connection speeds aren’t always perfect, and there are a number of things that can interfere with your broadband - learn more with our guide to broadband speed.

Measuring data

You might also find it useful to know that megabits and megabytes are far from the biggest units of measurement, but most of us won’t need to go much higher. Bits and bytes are collapsible by the same amount, that being 1,024 of any given unit:

  • This means that 1,024 bytes make a kilobyte, the next highest unit
  • 1,024 kilobytes therefore makes a megabyte
  • 1,024 megabytes make a gigabyte
  • 1,024 gigabytes make a terabyte.

The same is true for bits, kilobits, megabits, gigabits, and terabits if your internet is super powered. You can run a speed test to see how fast the internet is in your area using our broadband speed test.

Comparing broadband packages

Finding a good deal for broadband is easy if you compare broadband quotes on MoneySuperMarket, where you can find deals that offer your ideal connection speed at the best possible price. All you need to do is enter your postcode for an accurate list of deals and providers in your area, and you’ll be given a list of deals close to you.

Then you can compare them by their monthly cost as well as any set up costs involved, the average speed you’ll get, any limits on downloads, and whether or not they include additional offers like vouchers. You can save deals you like the look of, and once you’re ready to pick you’ll be on your way to better broadband.

  • Broadband deals and guides

  • MoneySuperMarket Home Communications Supers Awards 2017

  • The Televised Football Fixtures Index

  • Guide to broadband, phone, TV and mobile bundles

  • Broadband Speed Guide

  • Broadband Consumer Rights

  • Broadband deals and guides

  • MoneySuperMarket Home Communications Supers Awards 2017

  • The Televised Football Fixtures Index

  • Guide to broadband, phone, TV and mobile bundles

  • Broadband Speed Guide

  • Broadband Consumer Rights