Kibibyte Explained

A kibibyte (a contraction of kilo binary byte) is a unit of information or computer storage, established by the International Electrotechnical Commission in 2000. Its symbol is KiB.[1] It was designed to replace the "kilobyte" in computer science, when used to mean 1024 bytes, which conflicts with the SI definition of the prefix "kilo".

1 kibibyte = 210 bytes = 1,024 bytes

The kibibyte is closely related to the kilobyte, which can be used either as a synonym for kibibyte or to refer to 103 bytes = 1,000 bytes (see binary prefix).

Usage of these terms is intended to avoid the confusion, common in describing storage media, as to the ambiguous meaning of "kilobyte". Thus the term kibibyte has been defined to refer exclusively to 1,024 bytes.

The confusion if kilobyte is used to refer to both 1,000 and 1,024 bytes became more substantial when hard drives grew to gigabyte and larger units. If one expects power-of-two values to refer to capacity, and manufacturers use power-of-ten values, the difference could be substantial. With a kilobyte (1,024 versus 1,000), the difference is 2.4%. With the megabyte (1,024² or 1,048,576, versus 1,000,000) the percentage difference becomes 4.9%. With "gigabytes", if one uses 1024³, the size of a drive would be expected to be 1,073,741,824 bytes per gigabyte versus a mere 1,000,000,000 — a difference of 7.4%.

Confusion can be compounded by the use of both 1,024 and 1,000 in a single definition. The quoted capacity of 3½ inch HD floppy disks is 1.44 MB, where MB stands for 1000 times 1024 bytes. The total capacity is thus 1,474,560 bytes, or approximately 1.41 MiB.


Adoption of this term has been limited. In most cases the "kilo" prefix is used even if the meaning is a power of two.[2] [3] [4] [5]

See also

Notes and References

  1. Web site: International Electrotechnical Commission. Prefixes for binary multiples. 2007. 2007-05-06.
  2. Web site: Safier vs WDC complaint. 2007-11-15.
  3. Web site: Rowlett. Prof. Russ. Metric Prefixes. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. April 16, 2005. 2007-11-15.
  4. Web site: Simpson. Rick. Prefixes for binary multiples. Rice University. 2007-11-15.
  5. Web site: Grainger. Brian. ,I've got a bigger gigabyte than you!. Independent Computer Products Users Group (ICPUG). 7 August, 2005. 2007-11-15.