What Is a Gigabyte in Computing, and What Does it Equal?


What Is a Gigabyte in Computing, and What Does it Equal?

Learning to understand computer-based lingo isn’t nearly as challenging as learning to speak computing languages. If you’re familiar with other units of measure (cups, grams, etc.), you’re already off to a great start. A Gigabyte is a measurement unit, just like any other. But what does a Gigabyte equal, and what does it mean?

Well, we’ll explain Gigabytes in simple terms, and then we’ll teach you a few more in-depth facts about Gigabytes in computing. So, let’s take a crash course in Gigabytes!

How Is Data Measured in Computing?

Data in computing is measured in a unit called “Bytes.” One Byte is a single measurement of memory size. This unit describes eight binary digits. If you had sixteen binary digits (1s and 0s), that would be two bytes, and so forth.

Today, we still measure data in bytes. However, there are different terms we use to make it easier to identify the number of bytes in computing. For example, the Gigabyte.

A Gigabyte (often seen as GB) is one billion Bytes. In essence, that’s a lot of data! But it can also fill up quickly because some files need millions of bits.

Gigabytes Simplified

Gigabytes measure two things: how much information travels over the internet (this is your cellular data plan, internet service speeds, etc.) and how much data gets stored in a device’s memory. The Gigabyte in computing refers to how much information your device can store.

Think of your computer or smartphone’s memory as a storage trunk. The items you put in that storage trunk, although virtual, are measured in Bits, Kilobytes, Megabytes, and so forth. Smaller virtual items take up less space than larger virtual items.

Here’s a table to make it easier to digest.

MeasurementAbbreviationEstimated Size
BitbA single 1 or 0 in computing
ByteB8 bits
KilobyteKB1,024 Bytes
MegabyteMB1,024 KB
GigabyteGB1,024 MB
TerabyteTB1,024 GB

As you can see, a Gigabyte is 1,024 MB. It’s more than a Kb or Mb, but it’s less than a Terabyte. Essentially, the more lines of code in a file, the more Bytes there will be. To make that easier to understand, your MP4 files will have more bytes than your MP3 files because the former adds lines of code for video to an audio file.

Of course, you don’t have to memorize this chart. There are helpful digital storage calculators online, like this one from Calculator Soup. If you need to figure out how many Megabytes are in a Gigabyte, use an online calculator to make things easier. Or, just play around with a calculator to get a better understanding of file sizes.

What Is in a Gigabyte?

DVDs can hold 4.7 GB of data and 8.5 GB if they’re double-layer discs.

So, what’s in a Gigabyte? We know it’s approximately one billion bytes, but what does that matter to you? Well, if you have a smartphone, tablet, gaming console, computer, or any other device with memory, you’ll need to understand how much information you can store on that device.

Simplifying What’s in a Gigabyte

Before we dive further into the file types and Gigabyte comparisons, we’d like to take a minute to give novice users an analogy. Going back to our previous analogy, your device’s memory is a storage chest, essentially. You’re filling your storage chest up with books. The more words in a book, the more pages are needed, and therefore, the larger the size.

While a Word Doc would be a very small addition to your trunk, a movie would be a very large book. Especially considering you have to write the words, record the actions, and add an audio file. Most videos take up several Gigabytes of space in computing, while your documents may take a few Megabytes.

How Much Is a Gigabyte?

So, what can you do with a Gigabyte? Most smartphones come with at least 64 GB storage, and most computers have somewhere around 8 GB-16 GB. Here are some common data files that take up 1 GB of memory:

  • 250 standard-quality audio files,
  • 250 photos (10 megapixels each),
  • 50,000 emails (without attachments),
  • One ten-minute video (depending on quality).

A Gigabyte is plenty of storage if you’re saving photos, emails, and documents. However, larger files like videos, games, and anything with graphics and audio take up many Gigabytes.

Save Your Gigabytes

The price per GB of storage capacity has been dropping over the years.

If you’re running out of storage, or you’re concerned you may get too close for comfort, there are plenty of things you can do to save on storage. Cloud services are a phenomenal option because you can offload your photos, videos, files, and music from your device and onto external servers.

Of course, we’ve met plenty of people who don’t trust or want to pay for Cloud services. Here are some other tips to save on storage:

  • Zip Files – Every PC and Mac has the ability to compress files. However, the memory saved depends greatly on the original file. If you compress a one-hour HD video, typically 25 GB, the zipped size will be about 2 GB, per estimates. Zip files can save a lot of space on computers.
  • External Memory – Another viable option for freeing up more GBs on a computer or gaming console is an external hard drive. You can get more Terabytes of space by purchasing an external hard drive and saving games, videos, photos, and other large files.
  • SD Cards – While SD Cards seem to be on their way out, SD cards act like external hard drives. If your device has an SD Card reader, you can store apps, photos, videos, etc., on the card, freeing up Gigabytes on your device.
  • Be Mindful of Your Downloads – Especially in terms of video, reducing the quality of a download can save valuable bytes in your device’s memory.

Giga Giga Gigabyte!

Gigabytes in computing are easy to understand once you’ve grasped the concept of storage and bits. To recap, a single 1 or 0 in a line of code is a bit. Eight bits is a byte. Giga is a factor of 10 to the 9th power. So, a Gigabyte is one million bits (or single 1s and 0s in a line of code).

The more 1s or 0s in a code string, the more storage a file uses. So, an audio file won’t take up much as a video file with audio because you don’t need as many 1s and 0s to compute.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Gigabytes do I need on a smartphone?

Back in 2007, Apple released the first iPhone with 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB storage options. Those of us who remember that first iPhone thought 4 GB was sufficient for most smartphone users.

Fast forward to 2023, and the 16 GB options are off the market, replaced with the 64 GB models at the low end, and now 128 GB models.

These days, it’s best to go with a mid-tier option like the 256 GB for an iPhone. As new updates get released, apps increase in size and functionality, and image quality increases, you’ll need more memory than you did two or three years ago.

However, Android users with an SD Card reader can go a little lower because there are external storage options.

What's the difference between a Gigabyte of storage and a Gigabyte of internet?

As stated above, a Gigabyte in computing refers to the storage, and a Gigabyte in terms of the internet is how much information is being transferred.

Think of a Gigabyte in computing as a storage chest. Think of Gigabytes of data as your water faucet. The more water you need, the higher the pressure, and the more you open the tap.

Sending small documents is like letting the tap drip; streaming videos is like turning the tap all the way up and letting the water flow.

What does Giga mean?

The prefix, Giga, is Greek for “Giant.” It’s also represented by the mathematical statement “Ten to the 9th power.” Hence, Giant Byte for Gigabyte.

Can I get more Gigabytes of storage on a smartphone?

Technically speaking, no. Unless you have an SD Card reader, the number of Gigabytes you start with will be the number you end with.

Can I get more Gigabytes of storage on a computer?

Yes. You can use an External Hard Drive or upgrade your current Hard Drive to get more GBs of storage.

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