Data Transfer Rate

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What Does Data Transfer Rate Mean?

A data transfer rate (DTR) refers to the speed at which a device or network component can send and receive data. This can also be referred to as throughput, although data transfer rate applies specifically to digital data streams. Data transfer is often measured in megabytes per second, although other measurements can also be used.


DTR is important in assessing various devices and technologies. In general, the data transfer rate reflects changes and improvements in digital technologies, where newer systems like solid-state electronics have resulted in much higher data transfer rates within only a few decades.

Techopedia Explains Data Transfer Rate

Although data transfer rate can be measured in different units depending on the situation, DTR can be calculated with the formula:

DTR = D ÷ T


DTR = Data Transfer Rate
D = Amount of Data
T = Time

It is important to distinguish a data transfer rate from a data storage capacity, where similar measurements can apply. It is also important to view the data transfer rate for a given device or technology in context. Certain factors can cause bottlenecks in data transfer speeds, including the data source, load on processors, or results of multi-use systems allocating a certain amount of capacity to any given process. That means that a device might not have a practical data transfer rate as advertised without certain key conditions being implemented.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

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.