Megabit vs Megabyte: Full Comparison

If you’re not conversant with binary, it’s easy to assume that Mb and MB are interchangeable. However, when comparing megabit vs megabyte, they have important distinctions that could cause serious miscalculations. While they both refer to binary data, one is used to measure internet speed, and the other refers to file size. Continue reading to learn about these two computing terms and when to use them.

Megabit vs Megabyte: Side by Side Comparison

different digital storage devices on a desk
File size and storage capacity of USB disks, SD cards, micro SDs and other data storage devices are usually in megabytes.
MegabitMegabyte
AbbreviationMb, Mbps, Mb/sMB
Metric FamilyBitByte
Also Measured AsKilobit (Kb), gigabit (Gb), terabit (Tb)Kilobyte (KB), gigabyte (GB), Terabyte (TB)
What It IsThe smallest unit of binary data times 1,000,000A group of 8 megabits
Common UseMeasuring internet download speedMeasuring digital storage space and file size

Megabit vs Megabyte: What’s the Difference?

Megabits

A megabit is a numerical measurement representing 1,000,000 bits, a small unit of binary data (think the 1s and 0s from The Matrix). While this seems like a lot of data, a million bits make up about the size of a small digital photo.

Megabits abbreviate as Mb. An easier way to remember is to think of the bit as the smallest measurement, so the “b” in Mb is also small. You might also see similar metric measures of bits, such as kilobits (Kb), gigabits (Gb), and terabits (Tb). 

While megabits and megabytes both refer to the same data, the former is commonly used to measure the speed of an internet connection. Internet providers generally use megabits per second (Mbps or Mb/s) to make their services seem faster. But you could technically measure internet speed in Megabytes as well.

Megabytes

Megabytes measure the same binary data as megabits, but as a larger unit. A megabyte represents 1,000,000 bytes, which are groups of 8 bits. So if we scaled them up, a megabyte would consist of 8 megabits.

Trivia Question: What is half of a byte? A nibble!

Many people mix up megabits vs megabytes in the abbreviation. While megabits are abbreviated as Mb, Megabytes abbreviate as MB (emphasis on the capital B). When comparing the two, you can remember that megabytes are larger than megabits, so the abbreviation is uppercase. Just as you’ll see MB in measuring data size, you might also recognize kilobytes (KB), gigabytes (GB), and terabytes (TB).

Although they measure the same data, megabytes are typically used to reference CPU storage and file size. You’ll often see hard drives and flash drives marked with related units. For example, your camera might have a 32GB SD card. In this case, your SD card stores 32,000 megabytes.

Megabit vs Megabyte: Must-know Facts

internet speed meter showing download speed
Megabits per second, or Mbps, is a unit for measuring the upload and download speed of internet.

Megabits

  • A megabit is 1,000,000 bits.
  • Megabits abbreviate as Mb.
  • Megabits measure download speed.

Megabytes

  • A megabyte is 8 megabits.
  • Megabytes abbreviate as MB.
  • Megabytes measure file size and storage.

How Does Download Speed Correlate With File Size?

Let’s say you want to download a 100MB file. If your internet provider advertises download speeds of up to 100mbps, you might believe that your file will download in one second. However, this isn’t exactly true.

Remember that an MB is equal to 8Mb. In the above scenario, your file will take 8 seconds to download instead of one. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it certainly would if you were downloading 10GB at speeds of 20Mbps (it would take over an hour).

Megabit vs Megabyte: Which One Should You Use?

It’s important to know that while megabit vs megabyte is technically interchangeable, their general uses make them different. When deciding which measurement is best, you should consider the context why you’re using them.

An easy way to remember these is that megabits measure internet speed and megabytes measure file size and storage. So if you want to know how quickly your movie will download, you’ll use Mb (or Mbps). But if you’re looking for the right hard drive to store all of your photos, you’ll use MB (or more likely, GB).

Megabit vs Megabyte: What’s The Difference? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How many MB is 1Mbps?

1Mbps will download an MB of data in eight seconds.

Which is faster Mbps or MB?

You can download more Mb per second than MB. For reference, you will download 8Mb for every MB.

How many megabits in a gigabyte?

There are 8 megabits in a megabyte and 1,000 megabytes in a gigabyte. Therefore, there are 8,000 megabits in a gigabyte.

Are megabits and megabytes different?

Megabits and megabytes refer to the same binary data. However, megabits measure internet download speed and megabytes measure storage space and file size.

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