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What is gibibyte?

Oct 29 - 2018

Since school computer classes we are used to that information amount is measured in bytes. We remember also that everything is calculated in binary in computer science; and we even can intuitively imagine the following series of numbers concerning configuration parameters of hard- and software: RAM is 2, 4 or 8 gigabytes; Windows is 32-bit or 64-bit; and hard drive size is usually 128, 256 or 512 gigabytes.

All in all, we are used that all these numbers are 2 raised to some power: 32 is 2 in the 5th power, 512 – in the 9th power, and 1,024 – in the 10th power.

And a trick question now. Generally prefixes like “kilo”, “mega” and “giga” mean multiplication of some value by 1,000; 1,000,000 and 1,000,000,000 respectively. Everyone is obviously aware of the fact that one kilogram is one thousand grams. So why then a kilobyte is not 1,000, but 1,024 bytes?

In fact, it is a catchy question. A kilobyte is actually 1,000 bytes. While 1,024 bytes is a kibibyte. These new, slightly distorted prefixes were proposed by International Electrotechnical Commission. And they are applied to all familiar names – mebibyte, gibibyte, tebibyte, and pebibyte.

Meticulously, we have the following:

— 1 gigabyte, or GB – is 10 in the 9th power, or 1,000,000,000 bytes.

— 1 gibibyte, or GiB – is 2 in the 30th power, i.e. 1,073.741,824 bytes.

That is, numbers with “bi” prefix are always a bit larger than normal megabytes and gigabytes. But if the difference between a “binary” and a “decimal” kilobyte is only 2.4 %, the difference between a decimal terabyte and a binary tebibyte will be more significant – almost 10 %.

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