Just Make It Work: Understanding File Sizes

by Meg on November 1, 2010

Just make it work is a series of articles aimed at helping women embrace technology to make their life easier!  Tech for non-tech girls by girls.

Just Make It Work!

File sizes! What is big or small?

Sometimes it can be hard transporting files when you are not quite sure what makes a “big” file size or “small” file size.

What you should understand: Files are measured in bytes with a prefix.  Bytes are the basic unit and the prefixes are multiples of the basic unit.
The exact numbers are not important, but understanding the relative size is good to know.

  • (smaller)
  • KiloBytes (KB) or 1,024 bytes.
  • MegaByes (MB) or 1,048,576 bytes.
  • GigaBytes (GB) or 1,073,741,824 bytes.
  • TeraBytes (TB) or 1,099,511,627,776 bytes
  • (larger)

As you can see, 1GB takes up over a million bytes where as 1KB only takes up around one thousand.
The geek explanation: If you want the math behind all of this, check out Wikipedia

Typical File sizes:

Another good way to associate the different file sizes are with files you use everyday!  Let’s look at the list again:

  • (smaller)
  • KBs
  • 1-10KB A very simple text document.
  • 2-15KB Text only emails.
  • 20-80KB Graphic emails.
  • 50-100KBs A lower resolution photo.
  • MBs
  • 1-3MBs High Resolution Photo (one that takes up the whole screen when you open it).
  • 3-8MBs MP3’s
  • 10MB Standard email file size attachment limit.
  • 20-150MB A low resolution video file.
  • 25MB Gmail file size attachment limit.
  • 700MB Size of CD-R
  • GBs
  • 1-3GB A higher resolution video file.
  • 2GB YouTube upload limit.
  • 4GB Size of DVD-R
  • 8-32GB Typical smart phone sizes
  • 80-150GB Typical hard drive sizes
  • TBs
  • 1TB A very large backup drive (for most people)
  • (larger)

There is much more when it comes to compressing (making files smaller) and handling the transport of different file sizes, but understanding what makes for a big or smaller file is the best first step!

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