Glossary definition of Byte

Also known as: B

Byte (B) is the name given to a group of 8 bits of digital data that are read as a single unit or word. Each byte can represent information that is used in a system, such as a single character from the ASCII code.

The number of bytes is also commonly used as a measure to indicate information capacity, and the storage of data in digital systems is normally quoted in megabytes or gigabytes. In computer systems bytes are always used to refer to the memory and disk space, as computers deal easily with binary numbers (i.e. powers of 2). The size of text and image files is also normally given in bytes (e.g. in kilobytes or megabytes). In contrast, communication systems tend to use bits when referring to data transmission speeds.

Although there are usually eight bits in a byte, longer sequences such as 16 and 32 bits are also possible.