What Does Byte Mean?

A byte is a storage unit capable of representing a single character, such as a letter, number or symbol. Technically speaking, a byte is a sequence of binary bits in a serialized data stream in data transmission systems. In most computers, one byte is equated to eight smaller units called bits, although the size of a byte has always been dependent on hardware.


As specified in IEC80000-13 and IEEE 1541, the symbol for byte is an upper-case “B”.

Techopedia Explains Byte

A byte is capable of holding a string that is needed in larger application processing. For large amounts of memory, prefixes are added to bytes. For example:

  • Kilobyte = 1024 bytes
  • Megabyte = 1048576 bytes
  • Gigabyte = 1073741824 bytes.

Most computer applications compare size and transfer rates in larger multiples of bytes like kilobytes and megabytes.

Some programming languages also make use of bytes as a data type. For example, C and C++ makes use of bytes as a data type and define bytes as the addressable unit for data storage capable of holding a single character.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.