How Big is a Terabyte?

Those who have found that they require a lot more space for videos and pictures will be happy to find that they are not limited by gigabyte sized hard storage amounts alone. With the introduction of terabyte drives consumers are given the advantage of larger space for the ever growing demand for more storage. One question that comes up is how big it is and how much storage space can it give.

Defining a Terabyte

A terabyte is an international standard multiple that is given the prefix ‘tera’ and is shortened to the symbol ‘TB’. The word byte, of course, refers to one of the most basic units of storage space in computer technology. A byte is composed of eight bits and a bit is a binary digit that represents one or zero. Basically it can be expressed as 1,000 raised to the fourth power or 1,000,000,000,000 bytes. However, this definition causes some confusion as to the actual capacity of hard drives of this capacity.

Calculating the Capacity

To the ordinary consumer, a kilobyte is understood to mean 1,000 bytes while a megabyte is understood to mean 1,000 kilobytes or a million bytes. A gigabyte is understood to basically mean 1,000 megabytes or billion bytes. A terabyte therefore, according to the understanding of consumers, would mean a trillion bytes or 1,000 gigabytes.

However simple this calculation may be it is only a simplistic representation to accommodate the understanding of consumers. Those who are curious about details will find that these calculations are not exactly accurate. Each unit of storage space used by computers is actually a multiple of the previous one. Each higher unit is specifically 1,024 units of the former.

To be accurate, a kilobyte is 1,024 bytes. A megabyte should be 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte is accurately calculated to mean 1,024 megabyte. And finally a terabyte should be 1,024 gigabytes. Representing this amount of storage space in binary interpretation, you would come up with 1,099,511,627,776 bytes.

Understanding the Capacity

When you purchase a new hard drive in TB capacity you’ll be told that a hard drive will have one or several terabytes of storage space. The first generation of hard drives of this capacity was released in 2007. Sometimes it takes a bit of a concrete example to help people understand just how much space a TB sized drive has.

It is said that a TB drive can contain all the x-ray films of a large technologically advanced hospital. A two TB drive can contain all the information contained in an average academic research library. It is also claimed that the U.S. Library of Congress contains about 10 TB worth of information.