If you have ever purchased a USB Drive and plugged it into your Mac or Windows PC, you might have noticed that the storage capacity your computer shows is less than the storage capacity you purchased.
For example the image above shows an 8GB USB Drive plugged into a Windows PC. As you can see, it shows 7.48GB as the total capacity.
This bring us to the question: why is there less space available than you bought?
The short answer is: there isn’t.
Sounds confusing I know. However let me explain what is going on here. The difference you see comes down to two reasons
- When your USB flash drive is formatted, some storage capacity is allocated for overhead, such as the boot data and file system. Therefore although this storage capacity is present on the USB Drive, it is not available for the user.
- The major reason comes down to differences in the way our operating systems (such as Windows and Mac OS) use storage devices, and how USB flash drive manufacturers (as well as hard drive manufacturers, and manufacturers of other storage devices) advertise the storage capacity.
The second point requires some more explanation. To a USB Flash drive manufacturer, 1KB = 1000 bytes
1MB = 1000KB
1GB = 1000MB
This means the 8GB USB Flash drive you see in the image above contains 8 * 1000 * 1000 * 1000 = 8,000,000,000 bytes of space. This USB drive is hence labelled as an 8GB USB drive, which is what you purchased.
Now the above situation arises because RAM manufacturers and operating systems do not use the same denominations of 1000. Instead, they choose to use denominations of 1024. To them,
1KB = 1024 bytes
1MB = 1024KB
1GB = 1024MB
and so on.
This means that the 8GB USB drive you purchased is treated by the RAM manufacturers as
8,000,000,000 / (1024*1024*1024) = ~ 7.45 GB
Hence the discrepancy!
The interesting thing to note here is it is actually the USB Drive manufacturers using the accurate denomination of 1000, given the terms used for storage capacity.
For example GB stands for gigabyte. Giga (which means 10^9) implies a power of 1000 is used. If a power of 1024 is to be used, the accurate term to use would be gigibyte. This is a term that is not used in the industry. Unfortunately, operating systems and RAM Manufacturers still use powers of 1024 to calculate USB drive storage, whereas USB Drive manufacturers consistently use powers of 1000.
Here is another example of what a 16GB USB drive shows up as when plugged into a Windows PC
So next time you notice the storage capacity showing up on your computer is less than what was displayed on the USB Flash Drive – do not worry, you are not actually missing any space.
If you are planning on ordering custom branded USB drives preloaded with your data, this may be useful to keep in mind if the size of the data is close to the storage capacity of the USB Drives you are ordering. Just ask us, and we will let you know whether your data will fit on the USB drives you are purchasing, or whether a capacity upgrade is required.
Ready to order your own preloaded USB Flash Drives? Click here to request a quote and get the process started.