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Data Size Matters [Infographic]

Most people understand the relative size of their digital files. That report you just saved is 318 kilobytes (kB); those vacation photos tally 750 megabytes (MB); your new iPod holds 20 gigabytes (GB) of music. When data sets start to grow, however, their sizes become more difficult to explain. How much does a terabyte (TB) hold? How many DVDs would it take to reach a zettabyte? And what on earth is a yottabyte?

Hard drive capacity has increased 50-million-fold since 1956. It took 26 years to create a 1 GB hard drive, but between 2007 and 2011, hard drives quadrupled in size from 1 TB to 4 TB. Within the next ten years, 20 TB hard drives may even become commonplace.

In this infographic, datascience@berkeley has collected some real-life examples to help explain the scope of data. We’ve also provided a timeline of hard drive innovation and a glimpse at where the data storage industry is heading. Feel free to share, because after all…Data Size Matters.


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Update: we’ve updated the Data Size Matters infographic to reflect the proper notation for kilobytes (kB) as well as the standard size for a CD-ROM (700 MB). Thanks to all of our readers for your helpful comments.

  • tro

    your graphic is wrong. 1 Kilobyte = 1024 Bytes. 1 megabyte = 1024 kilobytes, and so on…

    • Rob Koper

      kilo = 1000, mega = million. always was, always will be.

      1 kB = 1,000 bytes
      1 kiB = 1024 bytes
      1 MB = 1,000,000 bytes
      1 MiB = 1024 x 1024 bytes

      You somehow missed the standardization back in the year 2000. Take a look at and see the table on the right and remember: think before you write.

      • jdutcher

        Thanks for pointing out the capitalization issue, Rob! We’ll make a note for future edits. And you are correct – while many people use kB and kiB interchangeably, we chose to go with the more commonly used decimal ‘kB,’ representing 1000 bytes, and to discuss the kiB issue if it came up. This difference between disc capacity vs memory has had a difficult time finding public acceptance — and I’m sure the very similar sounding “-bytes” and “-bibytes” suffixes don’t help!

        • Rob Koper

          I know, but I’m seeing this as an opportunity to teach people. I’m very persistent and accurate in using the right prefixes and wherever I feel the need to mention it, I will do so. The sooner people accept the “new” (= 13 year old) prefixes, the sooner all the “math problems” will be gone. The new generation of IT writers just need to get it right. It might take another generation to ban the old usage of 1 KB being 1024 bytes instead of 1 kiB being 1024 bytes.
          But we’re doing the best we can, right?

    • Rob Koper

      ok, there’s 1 mistake: kilobyte is with a small k since the upper K stands for Kelvin.

      • jdutcher

        Hi, Rob – we’ve corrected the infographic above to reflect this issue. Thanks so much for your help!

  • bossyman15

    CD is 700 MB not 500 MB.

    • Rob Koper

      can be 650 too. I depends on what specific medium is being used.

    • jdutcher

      We’ve updated the infographic to reflect this. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • djforge

    this is awesome, thanks!

    • jdutcher

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Puja Nanda

    Hi Jenna, this is one of the most “useful” infographics I have seen thus far! Congratulations!

    • jdutcher

      So glad you enjoyed! Thanks for letting us know.