The Great Gig in the sky Rip-Off

It was while I was trying to explain to a client why the 160 gigabyte hard drive in his computer appeared to actually be a 149 gigabyte hard drive, that I realised that here is a level of ambiguity tolerated, that bodies such as the advertising standards authority would not allow in other products. Allow me to explain (math geeks can jump the next few paragraphs as they’ll only want to correct me and go on to talk about binary vs decimal vs octal vs hexadecimal).

A gigabyte is defined [in SI units] as 1,000,000,000 bytes for the purposes of describing storage media such as hard drives and is based on counting in the decimal system (i.e. the one we all know and love).

However, computers know nothing of this decimal system and count in binary and think a gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 bytes, so they show a 160 GB disk as 160,000,000,000/1,073,741,824 or 149.011 GB.

So the average consumer looks at it and says “Hey! Where has 11 GB gone?”. The answer is, that it was never there in the first place. Now if you extend that to the new Terabyte hard disks you end up an enormous 909 GB short!

So the manufacturers hide behind legal footnotes on their packaging. But let me put it this way, if your car fuel (gas) tank needs 9 gallons to fill it up, but at the garage you fill up the tank and the attendant tells you it took 10 gallons and charged you for 10 gallons, you’d be pretty hacked off.

This also applies to USB flash drives and other small format memory cards such as the ones you put in your camera, but NOT computer RAM chips.

~ by @mmonyte on June 23, 2008.

2 Responses to “The Great Gig in the sky Rip-Off”

  1. Yay – I dig geeky nerdy things like this!

  2. OK, Is no-one going to point out my “deliberate” mistake?

    A “1 TB” disk will show up in a computer as 931.322574 GB or 68.677426 GB short of the “advertised” capacity

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