Megabits vs Megabytes: What’s the Difference?

Ever wondered what the difference is between megabits versus megabytes? In this article, we explain these similar-sounding measurements and how they apply to your internet speeds.
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It’s quite easy to confuse megabits (Mb) and megabytes (MB) — after all, the abbreviations are only one lowercase letter different from each other. But both terms are distinct in computing and represent different measurements. Megabits are simply 1s and 0s, and megabytes are just larger groups of megabits.

In relevance to your internet speed, you’ll see both of these terms commonly used in the phrases “megabits per second” or “megabytes per second” and abbreviated as “Mbps” and “MBps,” respectively. Both indicate the number of bits or bytes of data transferred over a single second. Internet service providers (ISPs) will advertise broadband connection speeds in Mbps — or even gigabits per second (Gbps).

In this article, we’ll dive into the definitions of both, walk through some calculations to understand how bits get to bytes (and gigabytes and terabytes!), and explain why these terms are important for understanding internet speeds (as well as the best ad blockers for improving those speeds).

In this article
Megabits vs. megabytes: what are they?
How to convert bytes to bits
Why megabits vs. megabytes matters
Common internet speeds in Mbps and MBps
Megabits vs. megabytes FAQs
Bottom line

Megabits vs. megabytes: what are they?

Let’s start with the definitions of bits and bytes — before they become “mega”:

  • Bit: A bit is short for “binary digit” and is the smallest unit of digital information. When you see 1s and 0s, those are bits.
  • Byte: A byte is a group of eight bits, and it is used as a unit of measurement for the transfer of computer information.

Both terms measure data in binary form — a language used by computers to process information. A megabit is the term used to indicate 1 million bits, and megabyte is the term used to indicate 1 million bytes. Because there are eight bits in every byte, it follows that there are eight megabits in every megabyte.

As mentioned, you’ll most often see megabits and megabytes used in their abbreviated forms in relation to seconds and internet speeds. Megabytes are applied to computer data storage, file size, and memory, so megabytes per second (MBps) refers to the rate at which a file uploads or downloads. Megabits per second (Mbps) is the common way ISPs refer to bandwidth capacity.

For example, a service provider might recommend a certain Mbps for streaming Netflix so you can decide what Mbps you want to pay for to get decently fast internet. But when you are downloading a video or a game, your data transfer upload speeds are denoted in MBps.

These days, you’ll also see higher denominations of bits and bytes, such as gigabits, gigabytes, terabits, terabytes, and so on. These units are just incrementally larger groupings of the smaller units, but as bandwidth capacities have to handle more and more data — and files become larger and more complex — these bigger units become more widely used.

How to convert bytes to bits

Below is a conversion table to reference how many bits are in a byte:

Bytes Bits
1 kilobyte (KB) 8 kilobits (Kb)
1 megabyte (MB) 8 megabits (Mb)
1 gigabyte (GB) 8 gigabits (Gb)
1 terabyte (TB) 8 terabits (Tb)
1 petabyte (PB) 8 petabits (Pb)

Need help converting Mbps and MBps? There are plenty of helpful conversion calculators on the internet if you’re trying to convert Mbps to MBps and vice versa. Use a Google search to select a calculator. The right one should also allow you to convert different permutations of measurement units, such as gigabytes to kilobits.

How to calculate gigabytes, terabytes, and gigabits

  • 1,000 megabytes equals one gigabyte.
  • 1,000,000 megabytes equals one terabyte.
  • 1,000 megabits equals one gigabit.

Why megabits vs. megabytes matters

The core of the confusion around megabits versus megabytes is justified: While technically both terms measure the same thing — the transfer of data — they are used to refer to different things.

It’s important to take note of when Mbps is being used by an ISP and when MBps is being used to show you a file’s download time. Understanding these numbers will help you make smart decisions about your internet speeds and your download speeds.

For example, knowing what Mbps is best for your household internet usage can help you know which ISP service tier to subscribe to.

The higher the Mbps, the faster your internet connection should be — and the greater bandwidth you’ll have for uploads/downloads in MBps — but there are many factors that go into how fast your internet actually is.

For example, your router affects internet speed in that your distance from it or its age might adversely impact those speeds.

Your internet speed could also be impacted by your physical location on your ISP’s network, whether or not you are sharing a connection with others, peak times of internet usage, and more.

What’s more, ISPs are notorious for not actually providing the speeds they say they do. Research over the years has found that ISPs will advertise maximum speeds, yet subscribers to their services rarely get those maximum speeds. They get away with this by using “up to [X]Mbps” language — meaning, if you’re getting lower than [X]Mbps, they didn't technically lie. 

One way to improve page load speeds is by using an ad blocker. Ad blockers can make your browsing smoother by cleaning ads off webpages and consuming less bandwidth. Here are some ad blocker recommendations:

  • Total Adblock: Made by the creators of TotalAV antivirus, Total Adblock is an easy-to-use ad blocker with free and paid versions. Our testing proved that Total Adblock could block contextual advertising, analytical tools, banner advertising, and even YouTube ads.

    Get Total Adblock | Read Our Total Adblock Review

  • NordVPN: When you think of ad blockers, chances are you don't think of NordVPN. But with its Threat Protection feature, you can block ads, trackers, and malicious sites for a smooth and secure browsing experience.

    Get NordVPN | Read Our NordVPN Review

  • AdGuard: Another ad blocker with free and premium plans, AdGuard has compatibility with many browsers and devices. It also keeps track of data saved, as well as ads and trackers blocked, so you can see how it's improving your web browsing experience.

    Get AdGuard | Read Our AdGuard Review

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Common internet speeds in Mbps and MBps

There are conversion calculators available on the internet to show you what your advertised speed in Mbps means in terms of your actual bandwidth in MBps.

Advertised internet speed in Mbps Bandwidth in MBps
25 Mbps 3.125 MBps
50 Mbps 6.25 MBps
100 Mbps 12.5 MBps
300 Mbps 37.5 MBps
500 Mbps 62.5 MBps
1 Gbps 125 MBps

How many megabits per second is my internet? It’s always a good idea to test your internet so you can be sure you’re getting what you pay for or if you need to take steps to improve your internet speeds. Online speed tests are an easy way to see how many Mbps your internet is truly clocking, and they should be free. Try https://fast.com/ or simply Google search “free internet speed test.”

Megabits vs. megabytes FAQs


+

Are megabits faster than megabytes?

No, megabits are not faster than megabytes because megabits are a unit of measurement that comprise megabytes. There are eight megabits in every megabyte.


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How many MBs is 1 Mbps?

There are zero MBs in 1 Mbps because those abbreviations stand for two different things, so they are not comparable. You can compare megabytes per second (MBps) to megabits per second (Mbps), or compare megabytes (MB) to megabits (Mb).

There are 0.125 MBps in one Mbps, and there are 0.125 MBs in one Mb.


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Is 100 MB the same as 100 Mbps?

No, 100 megabytes (MB) is not the same as 100 megabits per second (Mbps). These two abbreviations stand for two different forms of measurement, so you can’t directly compare them.

If you convert Mbps to MBps, then 100 Mbps is equal to 12.5 MBps. If you convert Mb to MB, then 800 Mb is the same as 100 MB.

Bottom line

The differences between megabits versus megabytes are nuanced but important for understanding your true internet speeds, whether you’re getting your money’s worth from your ISP, and what types of files may take forever to upload or download on your devices. Megabits make up megabytes. When referenced as units “per second,” they indicate bandwidth capacity and the rate at which data uploads or downloads, respectively.

If you’re curious about products to help improve your internet speeds, explore our guide on the best ad blockers.

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Author Details
Juliana Kenny is a seasoned writer with over 14 years of experience writing for cybersecurity topics. Holding a B.A. in both English and French, her work explores the convergence of security and technology. She specializes in endpoint security, cloud security, and networking technologies like secure access service edge (SASE).