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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The gigabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information storage. The prefix giga means 109 in the International System of Units (SI), therefore 1 gigabyte is 1000000000bytes. The unit symbol for the gigabyte is GB or Gbyte, but not Gb (lower case b) which is typically used for the gigabit.

Historically, the term has also been used in some fields of computer science and information technology to denote the gibibyte, or 1073741824 (10243 or 230) bytes. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) defined the unit accordingly for the use in power switchgear.[1] In 2000, however, IEEE adopted the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recommendation, which uses the metric prefix interpretation.

Today the usage of the unit gigabyte is still ambiguous: its value may depend on the context of usage. When referring to disk storage capacities it usually means 10003 bytes. This also applies to data transmission quantities over telecommunication circuits, as the telecommunications and computer networking industries have always used the SI prefixes with their standards-based meaning. When referring to RAM sizes it most often (see binary prefix adoption) has a binary interpretation of 10243 bytes, i.e. as an alias for gibibyte. File systems and software often list file sizes or free space in some mixture of SI units and binary units; they sometimes use SI prefixes to refer to binary interpretation - that is using a label of gigabyte or GB for a number computed in terms of gibibytes (GiB), continuing the confusion.

In order to address this confusion, the International Electrotechnical Commission has been promoting the use of the term gibibyte for the binary definition. This position is endorsed by other standards organizations including the IEEE, the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), but the binary prefixes have seen limited acceptance. The JEDEC industry consortium continues to recommend the IEEE 100 nomenclature of using metric prefixes in binary interpretation for memory manufacturing designations.

Prefixes for bit and byte multiples
Value SI
1000 k kilo
10002 M mega
10003 G giga
10004 T tera
10005 P peta
10006 E exa
10007 Z zetta
10008 Y yotta
1024 Ki kibi K kilo
10242 Mi mebi M mega
10243 Gi gibi G giga
10244 Ti tebi
10245 Pi pebi
10246 Ei exbi
10247 Zi zebi
10248 Yi yobi


Consumer confusion

Since the early 2000s most of consumer hard drive capacities are grouped in certain size classes measured in gigabytes. The exact capacity of a given drive is usually some number above or below the class designation. Although most manufacturers of hard disk drives and flash-memory disk devices define 1 gigabyte as 1000000000bytes, the computer operating systems used by most users usually calculate size in gigabytes by dividing the total capacity in bytes by 1073741824, but report the result with the symbol GB. This practice can be a cause of confusion, as a hard disk with a manufacturer-rated capacity of 400 gigabytes may be reported by the operating system as only 372 GB. Notable exceptions in such usage are some components of Linux Kernel[2] (GNOME, and most Linux/GNU applications use IEEE 100-1992/JEDEC definitions) and Mac OS X 10.6.[3]

The JEDEC memory standards uses the IEEE 100 nomenclatures which defines a gigabyte as 1073741824bytes (or 230 bytes).[4]

The difference between units based on SI and binary prefixes increases as a semi-logarithmic (linear-log) function—for example, the SI kilobyte value is nearly 98% of the kibibyte, a megabyte is under 96% of a mebibyte, and a gigabyte is just over 93% of a gibibyte value. This means that a 300 GB (279 GiB) hard disk is indicated only as 279 GB. As storage sizes increase and larger units are used, this difference becomes even more pronounced. Some legal challenges have been waged over this confusion such as a suit against Western Digital.[5][6] Western Digital settled the challenge and added explicit disclaimers to products that the usable capacity may differ from the advertised capacity.[6]

Because of its physical design, computer memory is addressed in multiples of base 2, thus, memory size at the hardware level can always be factored by a power of two. It is thus convenient to use binary units for non-disk memory devices at the hardware level, for example, in using DIMM memory boards. Software application, however, allocate memory, usually virtual memory in varying degrees of granularity as needed to fulfill data structure requirements, and binary multiples are usually not required. Other computer measurements, like storage hardware size, data transfer rates, clock speeds, operations per second, etc., do not depend on an inherent base, and are usually presented in decimal units.

Examples of gigabyte-sized storage

  • One hour of SDTV video at 2.2 Mbit/s is approximately 1 GB.
  • Seven minutes of HDTV video at 19.39 Mbit/s is approximately 1 GB.
  • 114 minutes of uncompressed CD-quality audio at 1.4 Mbit/s is approximately 1 GB.
  • A DVD-R can hold 4.7 GB.
  • A dual-layered Blu-ray disc can hold 50 GB.
  • A Universal Media Disc can hold 0.9 GB of data. (1.8 GB on dual-layered discs.)

See also


  1. ^ IEEE Standard Definitions for Power Switchgear, IEEE Std C37.100-1992, E-ISBN 0-7381-1047-7, 1992
  2. ^
  3. ^ "How Mac OS X reports drive capacity". Apple Inc. 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  4. ^ JEDEC Solid State Technology Association (December 2002), "Terms, Definitions, and Letter Symbols for Microcomputers, Microprocessors, and Memory Integrated Circuits", JESD 100B.01,  
  5. ^ Baskin, Scott D. (2006-02-01). ""Defendant Western Digital Corporation's Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval"". Orin Safier v. Western Digital Corporation. Western Digital Corporation. Retrieved 2009-03-30.  
  6. ^ a b Mook, Nate (2006-06-28). "Western Digital Settles Capacity Suit". betanews. Retrieved 2009-03-30.  

External links


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!

A gigabyte (GB) is a unit of measurement in computers of one billion bytes, or 1,073,741,824 bytes, whichever the manufacturer of the given device cares for.

See also

This article uses material from the "Gigabyte" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

A gigabyte (GB or gig) is a unit of measurement in computers and similar electronic devices. At first it meant exactly 1 billion bytes, usually referring to the number of bytes in a computer hard drive. Its meaning gradually changed over time, so that today it is often used to mean 1,073,741,824 (230) bytes, especially when referring to the random access memory (RAM) of a modern computer. Now some people say a gigabyte should only be used to mean exactly 1 billion bytes, and that gibibyte is a better name for 1,073,741,824 bytes. In everyday use, most people still use gigabyte to mean 1,073,741,824 bytes when talking about computer memory.


This measurement is often used when measuring the capacity of computer memory, hard drives, or other storage devices.

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