Digital storage units are the official measurements assigned to data. You may not know why they’re so important to know. In fact, you might not even know how they work or what they are. Don’t worry – this comprehensive guide will give you a base understanding of how it all works and why it’s so important.

What Are Digital Storage Units?

Digital storage units are the ways computer data is expressed. They are typically articulated using bytes and usually abbreviated in expression. Common digital storage units include bits (b), bytes (B), kilobytes (KB) and megabytes (MB). These pieces of data essentially measure digital systems and provide a base language for different digital communication and measurements.

A real world example of digital storage units is the way we measure the size of items. If someone asked how far your morning run was, you would answer using a unit of measurement, such as feet, yards or meters. Like digital units, these units give us the chance to express larger lengths and sizes without excessively large numbers (1 mile instead of 5,280 feet).

A picture of a speedometer.
A digital storage unit is just like any other way we measure things.

How Does a Computer Store Data?

You’ve probably heard of binary before, the numerical system that uses only two symbols, 0 or 1. This is how a computer stores information and it stores it into the indicated storage device such as a hard drive. This is just one example of data storage in action. Let’s take a further look at how bits are stored, based on the understanding that they’re binary.

A bit is binary so it is the baseline unit in which a computer stores data. It’s also the most common unit of digital data storage. To increase the size of information stored, bits are grouped into a pack of eight, which equals a byte. This measurement process continues exponentially (1 bit = 8 bytes, 1 kilobyte = 1,024 bytes, etc.).

A picture of chalk creating binary code.
A computer stores data in binary.

Why Is It Valuable to Understand Digital Storage Units?

It’s important to be well-versed in digital storage units, just as it is to understand the alphabet, spoken languages and numbers. At one point in time, it was vital to have a firm understanding of Roman Numerals. Eventually, different number systems out-evolved Roman Numerals, making it important to learn these new systems instead. The same thing has happened with digital storage units. The new language of value is digital language. We use computers for almost everything and with that comes new understandings we must undertake.

The benefits of understanding this type of language and measurement are continually growing. It gives us a chance to effectively communicate to others and understand what they’re saying to us concerning digital data and information. The more fluent we are in this language system, the better we operate in the digital realm. This then extends to things like career success, social accessibility and digital expertise.

A laptop showing bits of digital code.
There’s great value in data measurement knowledge.

Visualizing the Digital Storage Unit Measurement System

Having a chart of the unit measurement system helps users grasp the storage process of computers. Here’s a basic table to illustrate how the units increase exponentially.

Bit (b) .125 bytes
Byte (B) 1 byte
Kilobyte (KB) 1024 bytes
Megabyte (MB) 1024 KB
Gigabyte (GB) 1024 MB
Terabyte (TB) 1024 GB
Petabyte (PB) 1024 TB
Exabyte (EB) 1024 PB
Zettabyte (ZB) 1024 EB
Yottabyte (YB) 1024 ZB

As you can see, the conversions stray from a standard system such as the metric system. 1 kilobyte doesn’t convert to 1,000 but instead 1,024 bytes. Further, the process simplifies and allows for quick calculations due to the pattern of growth (1024KB to 1024MB to 1024GB etc.).

If you’re struggling manually converting one unit to another, there are plenty of digital unit converters to streamline the process for you. This is especially helpful for users in need of extensive conversions.

A strong understanding of the digital unit conversion measurements helps you interpret sizes of hard drive storage optimally and efficiently. Familiarize yourself with the basic language of digital units to better recognize your storage limits.

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert | Canto

Casey is a content management and branding expert who enjoys taking complex subjects and making them easy to understand for readers.