MegaByte (MB)

What is Megabyte (MB)?

A megabyte, or MB, is a unit of measurement for binary data. It is usually used for digital computers or media storage. Mathematically, one MB is equal to 220 or 106 bytes or one million bytes.

According to the International System of Units (SI), the ‘mega’ prefix is used to denote the 10 multiplier and in the case of binary, this prefix is 1,048,576 bits or 1,024 KB. The differential between the binary and SI measure is about 4.86%.

Understanding Megabyte (MB)

What is Megabyte (MB)

The term ‘megabyte’ refers to the specific unit for measuring the digital data storage capacity of a device and also the speed at which data can be transferred from the device through an interface.

One megabyte is equal to 1,048,576 (220) bytes or 1,000,000 (106) bytes. Which one to follow is usually determined by the manufacturer of the particular storage device.

One megabyte is bigger than a kilobyte and therefore comes after it. And it is smaller than a gigabyte and therefore comes before it.

A megabyte is typically abbreviated in different ways such as:

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) incorporated the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 2000 to formally approve the SI metric prefixes.

Read Also:  What is PCIe SSD? Uses, Benefits & Challenges

Since then, kilo in KB has been used to represent one thousand bytes, mega in megabyte has been used to represent one million bytes, and so on.

You can get a rough idea about the amount of data one megabyte can contain from the following examples:

Typically, a human genome sequence consists of about 800 MB of data and the part of DNA that can be compressed to differentiate one person from another is 4 MB.


Here is the conversion list of different units with respect to 1,000,000 bytes. All of these units are, however, not used in day-to-day computing.

Read Also:  What is Scratch Space? (Explained)

What are Megabytes Used for?

Megabytes are typically used as a much larger unit of byte for measuring storage capacity of a drive. However, it is also used to measure the speed at which data transfers from the storage device.

Though it is used mainly for measuring data storage capacity and transfer speed, MB is used in a diverse range of measurement contexts as well. A few of these contexts are as follows:

It is also used sometimes for software programs, though it largely depends on the file format, drive capabilities and compression abilities.

Typically, a megabyte is a relatively smaller unit for measurement in this era where using gigabytes and terabytes of data is a common event.

However, it had a lot of significance when IBM launched the first computer system with data storage integrated into it in 1956.

This was a huge device, priced at $35,000, with a storage capacity of 5 MB.

With improvements in technology and storage system designs, floppy disks with a storage capacity of up to about 2 MB became common.

With further breakthroughs in the field of digital technologies, today you will hardly find a storage system with its capacity marked in megabytes.

Even the cheapest and most regular Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drive will not have less than 4 GB of storage space.

Still, there is no reason to consider that MB is obsolete now as a unit of measurement.

It may not be used commonly for measuring the storage space of the data carriers, but it is still used to measure different file sizes.

Read Also:  What is Direct Access Storage Device (DASD)? (Explained)

Megabytes are typically used to measure the following types of files:

Internet files are also measured in megabytes sometimes. You will often see that the data volumes consumed by you while surfing the internet or while performing other activities online, especially on mobile devices, are expressed in megabytes.

Typically, the mail providers limit sending each attachment along with a mail to 10 MB or 20 MB.

Megabyte is also a very common unit to measure the file sizes used in business or personal computing.


Megabyte is one of the units of measurement within the International System of Units and is typically used to measure the data storage capacity as well as the amount of data being transferred.

However, as it is pointed out in this article, this unit of measurement is also used for other applications and has a different value.