Zettabyte (ZB) vs Kilobyte (KB): Size And Difference Explained

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Zettabyte (ZB) vs Kilobyte (KB): Size And Difference Explained

Just about anyone who’s ever worked on a computer or owned a smartphone has likely heard the term “gigabyte.” From the amount of storage on your device to the size of photos or videos you’ve sent or received to the amount of space on a USB drive, most of us are no strangers to the gigabyte.

But what about the other units? Can you tell the difference between a zettabyte (ZB) vs a kilobyte (KB)? Do you know which one’s smaller and which one’s bigger? Let’s break down the zettabyte (ZB) vs kilobyte (KB) below in an effort to better understand these units of information.

Zettabyte (ZB) vs Kilobyte (KB): Side-by-Side Comparison

Bytes1,180,591,620,717,400,000,00 bytes1,024 bytes
Gigabytes1,099,511,627,776 gigabytes0.00000095367432 gigabytes
SymbolsZB, ZiBKB, KiB
Followed ByYottabyteMegabyte

Zettabyte (ZB) vs Kilobyte (KB): What’s the Difference?

There’s more to this zettabyte (ZB) vs kilobyte (KB) debate than the basic differences in the specs above. The two serve as equally important units of information on complete and total opposite ends of the spectrum. Let’s dive deeper into the zettabyte and the kilobyte below.

Zettabyte Explained

As we know, the zettabyte is a unit of information used in the digital world. From computers to smartphones to tablets, the zettabyte represents a certain amount of digital information. In the case of the zettabyte, the sheer amount of that digital information is quite enormous.

In fact, just a single zettabyte is equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. (That’s a sextillion, or 2 to the 70th power!) This really puts things into perspective. The zettabyte is the second-largest unit of information after the yottabyte.

Granted, the byte is the smallest unit of information. Even so, the zettabyte is still gargantuan by other, larger standards. When converting to gigabytes, one zettabyte is still worth about a trillion gigabytes. You can keep converting like this, but the zettabyte doesn’t get any smaller.

IDC forecasts that the amount of data generated each year will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025.

©Yurchanka Siarhei/Shutterstock.com

It’s equivalent to around a billion terabytes, or one thousand exabytes. (The exact number will differ marginally depending on if you’re calculating in binary or decimal notation. Binary works with units of 2, whereas decimal works in units of 10.)

The International Electrotechnical Commission — i.e. the IEC — is the institution that determines these binary units of information. The International System of Units — i.e. the SI — is the institution that determines the decimal units of information.

No matter the institution, however, the zettabyte remains the second-largest unit of information. Regardless of binary or decimal, experts estimate that the world’s internet traffic first surpassed one zettabyte back in 2016. In addition to this, the total amount of digital data in the world surpassed one zettabyte in 2012.

Kilobyte Explained

A kilobyte (KB) is yet another unit of information. Now, taking what you know about the word “kilo,” you might be thinking that the kilobyte would be equivalent to a thousand bytes. However, one kilobyte is actually equivalent to 1,024 bytes. (At least, as far as the binary notation is concerned.)

Only a kilobyte in decimal notation is equivalent to a thousand bytes. Given this much smaller size, you won’t see the kilobyte used in the same context as the zettabyte. Truthfully, it exists on the total opposite end of the scale.

You’re typically only going to see the kilobyte used in reference to smaller amounts of memory and storage. Today’s computers and digital devices need far more digital storage than they once needed in the early days of computing.

In other words, the kilobyte was a lot more prevalent in the early days of computing than it is today. In decades past, the kilobyte was used to define the amount of storage on a floppy disk or memory card. It’s only one step up from the byte, which remains the smallest unit of information in the digital world.

A kilobyte is not to be confused with a kilobit, however. Think of it this way: a kilobyte is no different than counting out around 8,000 bits. (That’s 8,000 in decimal notation and 8,096 in binary notation, to be exact.)

Kilobits, on the other hand, are worth just 1,000 bits. The kilobit is abbreviated with a capital “K” and lowercase “b,” or “Kb.” Compare this to the kilobyte, which, as we know, is abbreviated to “KB.” By this definition, eight kilobits are equivalent to one single kilobyte. To frame it another way, a kilobit is an eighth of a kilobyte.

Zettabyte: Real-World Examples

To further illustrate the size and scope of a zettabyte, let’s examine some real-world examples of the zettabyte in action. This will help us get a better grasp on the sheer size of the zettabyte in the context of our modern technology.

The Zettabyte Era

We are currently living in what’s known as the “Zettabyte Era.” Global IP traffic — a.k.a the digital data that passes over an IP network — is largely driven by video and streaming traffic. It’s estimated that the total amount of global IP traffic and the corresponding data created will surpass 100 zettabytes by the end of 2023 (if it hasn’t already).

That number is expected to nearly double to 175 zettabytes by the year 2025. What’s more, it’s predicted that 22 zettabytes of digital storage devices will be shipped out between 2018 and 2025. More than half of these 22 zettabytes will be in the form of hard drives.

Grains of Rice

Think of one byte as one grain of rice. (It might sound silly, but bear with us for the sake of this illustration.) One megabyte, then, would be eight bags of rice. Increasing in size from there, one terabyte would be equivalent to two container ships of rice.

Taking a step up from there, a single petabyte would equal all of Manhattan covered in grains of rice. Increasing in size, a zettabyte is equivalent to filling the entire Pacific Ocean with grains of rice. That’s 63,800,000 square miles, or 46% of the planet’s surface water! It’s practically unfathomable just how big a zettabyte is.

Kilobyte: Real-World Examples

A page of ordinary Roman alphabetic text takes about 2 kilobytes to store.


Now, let’s do the same with the kilobyte. Taking a look at these real-world examples will help us better understand the drastic difference in sizing between the zettabyte (ZB) vs kilobyte (KB). The divide between the two is truly remarkable.

Small Files

We know that all the digital data in the world passed one zettabyte in size back in 2012. Compare this to a kilobyte, which is equivalent to one single small file. The common adage is that one single letter on a computer is equivalent to one single byte.

A few paragraphs typed on a Word document might then equate to one kilobyte. Furthermore, a five-page paper might come out to be around 100 kilobytes. Images and videos tend to be too large to be stored in kilobytes. Anything beyond basic text will enter into megabyte or gigabyte territory.


Another good, practical example of the kilobyte is to think of the unit in terms of email. A short, snappy email will size in at about one kilobyte. A lengthier email will shake out to be a few kilobytes or more. This is only true of emails with text alone.

Once you start adding attachments, images, and emojis into the mix, you’re once again going to enter into megabyte territory. Looking at both of these examples, it’s pretty clear that kilobytes are best used to describe text and text alone. Anything more will exceed the capacity of a kilobyte.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a zettabyte?

A zettabyte is one of the largest units of information in today’s digital world. In terms of bytes in decimal notation, the zettabyte is equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. That’s a trillion gigabytes.

What is a kilobyte?

The kilobyte is one of the smallest units of information in the digital world today. It’s just one step up from the very smallest unit, the byte. With this in mind, the kilobyte is equivalent to 1,000 bytes in decimal notation.

What is binary notation vs decimal notation?

In digital units of information, the binary system of notation deals with just two numbers repeated over and over: Zero (0) and one (1). The decimal system of notation, on the other hand, deals with numbers zero through nine.

What's the smallest unit of information in computing?

The bit is the smallest unit of information, worth just one single binary digit (either 0 or 1). One byte is equivalent to eight bits.

What is the largest unit of information in computing?

The yottabyte is the largest unit of information in computing currently recognized, worth the equivalent of one septillion bytes. (That’s 24 zeroes.)

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