I would like to understand why we seem to prefer to use the byte unit instead of octet unit (because I used more commonly the octet unit at work, at home, ...).

What are the reasons for describing sizes in bytes, or for describing them in octets? Are there good reasons to prefer one over the other when writing and editing posts?

Here you can find few original posts that I already edited, where OP explain data size / memory size using octet unit :

The most useful answers would describe, as best as possible, each reason to prefer bytes (if that is preferred). Solid sources would help very much, because this unit choice greatly affects how I edit new users' posts--and I don't think I'm alone in this. Often new users' posts contain incomplete or confusing units, and some decision has to be made about how to improve them.

Note that octet-based units are abbreviated as Mo, Go, while it's MB, GB, ... for byte-based unit.

(I asked it about this previously in the Ask Ubuntu General Room, but the question needs some research and is more suitable for meta.)

  • 4
    Are you asking why those units are preferred on AskUbuntu? If I say to someone on the main site "You need 16Go of ram" they will say "Do you mean 16GB", that is why. The byte unit is way more well known as a standard in public knowledge, to use anything else would be futile. I don't have a load of sources for this but it seems self evident.
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 14:56
  • 2
    I think this can be a better question for Super User or may be Retrocomputing
    – Kulfy
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 14:58
  • @MarkKirby if I asked the question, that's not because the answer seems as evident as that for me, there are some countries (as mine) where we don't use the byte unit due to confusion with "bit" (the way to say it is the same). I know that it's not a problem in English, which isn't in other languages
    – damadam
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 15:25
  • There's your answer then " I know that it's not a problem in English", the site is English language (American officially I guess) and that is the standard in English. am I missing something here?
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 15:30
  • @MarkKirby So we could debate a lot about English units vs AskUbuntu units used. for example, temperature (°F vs °C, where SI unit is K)
    – damadam
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 15:40
  • So I think, you want to know what the official stance on what units should be used and why? Am I understanding your question?
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 16:01
  • @MarkKirby yeah
    – damadam
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 16:11
  • 1
    I don't think this is off topic, the question asks why do we use the sets of units we do on Ask Ubuntu, to me, that seems to be a valid question.
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 15:45
  • Just to give you some extra feedback on this, I looked everywhere I know to find something on what units are preferred and why but came up with nothing. It seems just to be decided by the dominant culture and what units they use, as opposed to an actual policy written down somewhere.
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 14:19
  • "In France, French Canada and Romania, octet is used in common language instead of byte when the 8-bit sense is required, for example, a megabyte (MB) is termed a megaoctet (Mo)." it's not common in other languages at all. As this site is English, authors generally use the common English term which is byte
    – phuclv
    Commented Apr 5, 2020 at 3:50

1 Answer 1


All the large units of bits are spelled out as quantities of bytes, so byte is commonly used instead of octet too. This makes units of bits standardized and easy to understand. The abbreviation for byte is B.

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