*SUMMARY: This tip defines the computer memory term 'byte' and explains how 8 bits can hold one of 256 values.*

In computer memory terms, the definition of a byte is a collection of eight bits. Unlike a bit that can hold the value of zero or one, a byte of memory can hold a value from 0-255.

Think of the below number as eight individual bits making up a byte, all turned off. The value is 0.**00000000**

If we turn on the right-most bit in the byte, the 0th bit (computer scientists love to count starting from the number 0), the value is now one.**00000001**

What if we want to add 1 to the value? Remember that a bit can only hold values of 0 or 1. So how is the number 2 represented? We turn on the bit to the left, the 1st bit, like so:**00000010**

If the first bit is a 1 and the 0th bit is 0, the total value of all bits is 2. Now what if we want to add 1 to create a byte value of 3? Turn that 1st bit on again.**00000011**

What happens if we want to create a value of 4? Remember how the 1st bit represented the number 2? The 2nd bit represents the number 4. Turn it on and turn the other two bits off.**00000100**

And so forth. Here is a table:**Bit 7** - Value of 128**Bit 6** - Value of 64**Bit 5** - Value of 32**Bit 4** - Value of 16**Bit 3** - Value of 8**Bit 2** - Value of 4**Bit 1** - Value of 2**Bit 0** - Value of 1*An aside - If you know what exponentiation means, think of each bit taking on the value of two to the power of the bit number. 2 to the power of 0 is 1, 2 to the power of 1 is 2, etc.*

So to get a byte value of 255, let's turn all of the bits on.**11111111**

Several bytes can be strung together to form kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes.

Return to the Computer Memory Definitions page.

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The MalekTips website was created in 1998 by Andrew Malek of Envision Programming. The page's goal is to freely disperse computer-related tips, hints, and informative articles. Tips are organized to be easy to find, and are presented clearly, in easy-to-understand language.