|Orders of magnitude of data|
Historically, the term has also been used in some fields of computer science and information technology to denote the gibibyte, or 1073741824 (10243 or 230) bytes. For instance, the memory standards of JEDEC, a semiconductor trade and engineering society, define memory sizes in this way.
The use of the unit gigabyte continues to depend on the context. When referring to disk capacities, it usually means 109 bytes, often stated explicitly on the manufacturer's product labels. This also applies to data transmission over telecommunication circuits, as the telecommunications and computer networking industries have always used the SI prefixes with their standards-based meaning. When referring to RAM sizes it most often has a binary interpretation of 10243 bytes, i.e. as an alias for gibibyte. File systems and software often list file sizes or free space in some mixture of SI units and binary units; they sometimes use SI prefixes to refer to binary interpretation – that is using a label of gigabyte or GB for a number computed in terms of gibibytes (GiB).
In order to eliminate the ambiguity, the International Electrotechnical Commission has implemented standard multiplier prefixes for quantities expressed in binary multiples. The standard is endorsed by all standards organizations, including the IEEE, the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), but the binary prefixes have seen limited usage. The JEDEC industry consortium continues to permit the IEEE 100 nomenclature of using the metric prefixes kilo, mega and giga in their binary interpretation for memory manufacturing designations, but have endorsed the binary prefixes.
The term gigabyte is commonly used to mean either 10003 bytes or 10243 bytes. This originated as compromise technical jargon for the byte multiples that needed to be expressed by the powers of 2 but lacked a convenient name. As 1024 (210) approximates 1000 (103), roughly corresponding SI multiples, it was used for binary multiples as well. In 1998 the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) proposed standards for binary prefixes and requiring the use of gigabyte to strictly denote 10003 bytes and gibibyte to denote 10243 bytes. By the end of 2007, the IEC Standard had been adopted by the IEEE, EU, and NIST. Nevertheless, the term gigabyte continues to be widely used with the following two different meanings:
Base 10 definition
- 1 GB = 1000000000 bytes (= 10003 B = 109 B) is the definition recommended by the International System of Units (SI) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This definition is used in networking contexts and most storage media, particularly hard drives, Flash-based storage, and DVDs, and is also consistent with the other uses of the SI prefix in computing, such as CPU clock speeds or measures of performance. The Mac OS X file manager from version 10.6 and higher is a notable example of this usage in software. Since Snow Leopard, file sizes are reported in decimal units.
Base 2 definition
- 1 GiB = 1073741824 bytes (= 10243 B = 230 B) is the definition used by Microsoft Windows in reference to computer memory (e.g., RAM). This definition is synonymous with the unambiguous IEC standard name gibibyte.
Since the early 2000s disk drive manufacturer's based most consumer hard drive capacities in certain size classes measured in decimal gigabytes. The exact capacity of a given drive model is close to the class designation. Most manufacturers of hard disk drives and flash-memory disk devices define one gigabyte as 1000000000bytes, which is displayed on the packaging. Some operating system providers have adopted decimal multipliers (integer powers of 1000) for capacities or sizes, while some operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, still reports size in gigabytes by dividing the total capacity in bytes by 1073741824 (230 = 1 gibibyte), while still reporting the result with the symbol GB. This discrepancy causes confusion, as a disk with an advertised capacity of, for example, 400 GB (meaning 400000000000bytes) might be reported by the operating system as 372 GB, meaning 372 GiB. Other software, like Mac OS X 10.6 and some components of the Linux kernel measure in decimal units. The JEDEC memory standards use the IEEE 100 nomenclatures which define a gigabyte as 1073741824bytes (or 230 bytes).
The difference between units based on decimal and binary prefixes increases as a semi-logarithmic (linear-log) function—for example, the decimal kilobyte value is nearly 98% of the kibibyte, a megabyte is under 96% of a mebibyte, and a gigabyte is just over 93% of a gibibyte value. This means that a 300 GB (279 GiB) hard disk might be indicated variously as 300 GB, 279 GB or 279 GiB, depending on the operating system. As storage sizes increase and larger units are used, these differences become even more pronounced. Some legal challenges have been waged over this confusion such as a suit against Western Digital. Western Digital settled the challenge and added explicit disclaimers to products that the usable capacity may differ from the advertised capacity.
Because of its physical design, the capacity of modern computer random access memory devices, such as DIMM modules, is always a multiple of a power of 1024. It is thus convenient to use prefixes denoting powers of 1024, known as binary prefixes, in describing them. For example, a memory capacity of 1073741824bytes is conveniently expressed as 1 GiB rather than as 1.074 GB. The former specification is, however, almost always quoted as 1 GB when applied to random access memory.
Software allocates memory in varying degrees of granularity as needed to fulfill data structure requirements and binary multiples are usually not required. Other computer measurements, like storage hardware size, data transfer rates, clock speeds, operations per second, etc., do not depend on an inherent base, and are usually presented in decimal units. For example, the manufacturer of a "300 GB" hard drive is claiming a capacity of 300000000000bytes, not 300x10243 (which would be 322122547200).
Examples of gigabyte-sized storage
- One hour of SDTV video at 2.2 Mbit/s is approximately 1 GB.
- Seven minutes of HDTV video at 19.39 Mbit/s is approximately 1 GB.
- 114 minutes of uncompressed CD-quality audio at 1.4 Mbit/s is approximately 1 GB.
- A DVD-R can hold about 4.7 GB.
- A dual-layered Blu-ray disc can hold about 50 GB.
- The prefix giga may be pronounced two ways. Gigabyte - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/binary.html Prefixes for binary multiples
- SanDisk USB Flash Drive "Note: 1 megabyte (MB) = 1 million bytes; 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes."
- Storage Chart "Megabyte (MB) = 1,000,000 bytes; 1 Gigabyte (GB) = 1,000,000,000 bytes; 1TB = 1,000,000,000,000 bytes"
- "How Mac OS X reports drive capacity". Apple Inc. 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- units(7) - Linux manual page
- JEDEC Solid State Technology Association (December 2002). "Terms, Definitions, and Letter Symbols for Microcomputers, Microprocessors, and Memory Integrated Circuits". Jesd 100B.01.
- Baskin, Scott D. (2006-02-01). "Defendant Western Digital Corporation's Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval". Orin Safier v. Western Digital Corporation. Western Digital Corporation. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Mook, Nate (2006-06-28). "Western Digital Settles Capacity Suit". betanews. Retrieved 2009-03-30.