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What's bigger than a terabyte, and how many gigabytes are in a TB?

A terabyte comprises more than a trillion bytes. Discover how the storage measurement scale was created and how much a TB of storage will set you back.

Questions: What is a terabyte? What are terabytes? What are terabyte drives? What comes after a terabyte? What's...

bigger than a terabyte? Please don't just say that 2 terabytes is bigger than 1 terabyte.

A terabyte is equal to 1,024 gigabytes (GB), which itself is equal to 1,024 megabytes (MB), while a megabyte is equivalent to 1,024 bytes. All storage measuring units -- kilobyte, megabyte, terabyte, gigabyte, petabyte, exabyte and so on -- are multiples of a byte.

How the size scale was created

Bytes hold a string of bits, typically eight for most computer systems. A bit, short for binary digit, has a single binary value of either 0 or 1 and is the smallest unit of data in a computer system. Memory or storage devices typically store the value of a bit above or below a designated level of electrical charge in a single capacitor. A byte holds its string of bits so they can be used in a larger unit for application or OS purposes.

Werner Buchholz is credited by Fred Brooks -- author of the classic software engineering tome The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering and an early hardware IBM architect and IBM System/360 OS project manager -- as the originator of the term byte. According to Brooks, Buchholz came up with byte while helping to design IBM's first transistorized supercomputer, the 7030 STRETCH, in 1956.

How much data is in a terabyte

The prefix terra means to the fourth power of 1,000. That means a terabyte is equal to 1,02412 bytes. That's a storage drive capacity of a trillion bytes or, more specifically, 1,099,511,627,776 bytes, 1,073,741,824 kilobytes or 1,048,576 megabytes.

Here are some examples of terabyte equivalences with other storage media and objects:

  • 728,177 floppy disks;
  • 1,498 CD-ROM discs;
  • 212 DVDs;
  • 40 single-layer Blu-ray discs;
  • 85,899,345 pages of Word documents;
  • 132,150 650-page books;
  • 500 hours of movies;
  • 1,000 hours of video;
  • 310,000 photos; and
  • 17,000 hours of music.

Terabyte vs. other byte measures

Measurements that are smaller than a terabyte include the following:

  • A kilobyte or 1,024 bytes;
  • A megabyte or 1,024 kilobytes; and
  • A gigabyte or 1,024 megabytes.

To find out what's bigger than a terabyte, you can explore these storage measurements:

  • A petabyte (PB) is equal to 1,024 TB or 1,125,899,906,842,624 (1,02415) bytes.
  • An exabyte (EB) is equal to 1,048,576 TB or 1,152,921,504,606,846,976 (1,02418) bytes.
  • A zettabyte (ZB) is equal to 1,073,741,824 TB or 1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 (1,02421) bytes.
  • A yottabyte (YB) is equal to 1,099,511,627,776 TB or 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 (1,02424) bytes.

A brontobyte and a geopbyte are also larger than a terabyte.

storage capacity measurements

How much does a terabyte of storage cost

As storage costs have dropped and required capacities have increased in recent years, a terabyte has slowly taken over from a gigabyte as the most common unit of measurement for capacity in storage products, especially for hard disks.

While cloud providers and hardware vendors still often talk of storage capacity costs in terms of pennies per gigabyte, when it comes time to purchase new internal or external hard disks or cloud storage, it is usually done in increments of terabytes today.

While solid-state flash drives in the hundreds of gigabytes are still common, especially for laptops, there are also many SSDs available now in the terabyte and multiterabyte capacity ranges.

You still pay a premium for solid-state over hard disk storage, but the gap between the two technologies has narrowed in recent years. As of mid-2018, a 2.5-inch 1 TB HDD costs approximately $45. The same form factor and capacity SSD costs about $250.

This was last published in June 2018

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Do you have a terabyte or more of data stored? If so, what storage medium do you use (HDD, SSD, etc.), and what kind of files do you have stored on it?
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