The exabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information. In the International System of Units (SI), the prefix exa indicates multiplication by the sixth power of 1000 (1018). Therefore, one exabyte is one quintillion bytes (short scale). The unit symbol for the exabyte is EB.

1 EB = 10006bytes = 1018bytes = 1000000000000000000B = 1000 petabytes = 1millionterabytes = 1billiongigabytes.
1000 EB = 1 zettabyte (ZB)
Multiples of bytes
Value Metric
1000 kBkilobyte
10002 MBmegabyte
10003 GBgigabyte
10004 TBterabyte
10005 PBpetabyte
10006 EBexabyte
10007 ZBzettabyte
10008 YByottabyte
1024 KiBkibibyte KBkilobyte
10242 MiBmebibyte MBmegabyte
10243 GiBgibibyte GBgigabyte
10244 TiBtebibyte
10245 PiBpebibyte
10246 EiBexbibyte
10247 ZiBzebibyte
10248 YiByobibyte

A related unit, the exbibyte, using a binary prefix, is equal to 10246 (=260)bytes, about 15% larger.

Usage examples and size comparisons

  • A processor with a 64-bit address bus can address 16 exbibytes of memory,[1] which is over 18 exabytes.
  • The world's technological capacity to store information grew from 2.6 ("optimally compressed") exabytes in 1986 to 15.8 in 1993, over 54.5 in 2000, and to 295 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2007. This is equivalent to less than one CD (650 MB) per person in 1986 (539 MB per person), roughly four in 1993, 12 in 2000, and almost 61 in 2007. Piling up the imagined 404 billion CDs from 2007 would create a stack from the Earth to the Moon and a quarter of this distance beyond (with 1.2 mm thickness per CD).[2]
  • The world's technological capacity to receive information through one-way broadcast networks was 432 exabytes of information in 1986, 715 exabytes in 1993, 1,200 exabytes in 2000, and 1,900 in 2007 (and with all the preceding examples assuming that those figures represent "optimally compressed" data).[2]
  • The world's effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication networks was 0.281 exabytes of information in 1986, 0.471 in 1993, 2.2 in 2000, and 65 exabytes in 2007 (yet again, all such amounts listed are strictly working off the basis that the data was in an "optimally compressed" form).[2]
  • In 2004, the global monthly Internet traffic passed 1 exabyte for the first time. In January 2007, Bret Swanson of the Discovery Institute coined the term exaflood for a supposedly impending flood of exabytes that would cause the Internet's congestive collapse.[3][4] Nevertheless, the global Internet traffic has continued its exponential growth, undisturbed, and as of March 2010, it was estimated at 21 exabytes per month.[5]
  • The global data volume at the end of 2009 had reached 800 exabytes.
  • According to an International Data Corporation paper sponsored by EMC Corporation (now Dell EMC), 161 exabytes of data were created in 2006, "3 million times the amount of information contained in all the books ever written", with the number expected to hit 988 exabytes in 2010.[6][7][8]
  • A gram of DNA can theoretically hold 455 exabytes.[9]
  • In 2014, DARPA's ARGUS-IS surveillance system could stream 1 exabyte of high-definition video per day.[10]
  • According to the CSIRO, in the next decade, astronomers expect to be processing 10 petabytes of data every hour from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.[11] The array is thus expected to generate approximately one exabyte every four days of operation. According to IBM, the new SKA telescope initiative will generate over an exabyte of data every day. IBM is designing hardware to process this information.[12]
  • According to the Digital Britain Report, 494 exabytes of data was transferred across the globe on June 15, 2009.[13]
  • Several filesystems use disk formats that support theoretical volume sizes of several exabytes, including Btrfs, XFS, ZFS, exFAT, NTFS, HFS Plus, and ReFS.
  • The ext4 file system format supports volumes up to 1.1529215 exabytes in size, although the userspace tools cannot yet administer such filesystems.
  • Oracle Corporation claimed the first exabyte tape library with the SL8500 and the T10000C tape drive in January 2011.[14]

All words ever spoken

Allegedly, "all words ever spoken by human beings" could be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data.[15][16][17] This claim often cites a project at the UC Berkeley School of Information in support (although this project is now outdated and therefore not entirely accurate).[18] The 2003 University of California, Berkeley, report credits the estimate to the website of Caltech researcher Roy Williams, where the statement can be found as early as May 1999.[19] This statement has been criticized.[20][21] Mark Liberman calculated the storage requirements for all human speech at 42 zettabytes (42,000 exabytes, and 8,400 times the original estimate) if digitized as 16 kHz 16-bit audio, although he did freely confess that "maybe the authors [of the exabyte estimate] were thinking about text".[22]

Earlier studies from the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that by the end of 1999, the sum of human-produced information (including all audio, video recordings, and text/books) was about 12 exabytes of data.[23] The 2003 Berkeley report stated that in 2002 alone, "telephone calls worldwide on both landlines and mobile phones contained 17.3 exabytes of new information if stored in digital form" and that "it would take 9.25 exabytes of storage to hold all U.S. [telephone] calls each year".[18] International Data Corporation estimates that approximately 160 exabytes of digital information were created, captured, and replicated worldwide in 2006.[24] Research from the University of Southern California estimates that the amount of data stored in the world by 2007 was 295 exabytes and the amount of information shared on two-way communications technology, such as cell phones, in 2007 as 65 exabytes.[25][26]

Library of Congress

The content of the Library of Congress is commonly estimated to hold 10 terabytes of data in all printed material. Recent estimates of the size including audio, video, and digital materials start at 3 petabytes[27] to 20 petabytes. Therefore, one exabyte could hold a hundred thousand times the printed material or 50 to 300 times all the content of the Library of Congress.


In 2013, Randall Munroe compiled published assertions about Google's data centers, and estimated that the company has about 10 exabytes stored on disk, and additionally approximately 5 exabytes on tape backup.[28] The company has not commented on Munroe's estimate.[29]

See also


  1. "A brief history of virtual storage and 64-bit addressability". IBM. Retrieved 17 February 2007.
  2. Hilbert, Martin; López, Priscila (April 2011). "The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information". Science. 332 (6025): 60–65. doi:10.1126/science.1200970. See also: video animation
  3. Swanson, Bret (20 January 2007). "The Coming Exaflood". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 February 2007.
  4. Gross, Grant (24 November 2007). "Internet Could Max Out in 2 Years, Study Says". PC World. Archived from the original on 26 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  5. Miller, Michael J. (25 March 2010). "Cisco: Internet Moves 21 Exabytes per Month". PCMag.
  6. Gantz, John (March 2008). "An Updated Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth Through 2011". IDC. Archived from the original on 2009-04-28. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  7. Nordenson, Bree (1 April 2009). "Overload! Journalism's battle for relevance in an age of too much information". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  8. Parker, Kathleen (December 2008). "Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  9. Aron, Jacob (11 February 2015). "Glassed-in DNA makes the ultimate time capsule". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  10. Pseudonym: Ms. Smith (29 Jan 2013). "DARPA's unblinking, all-seeing 1.8-gigapixel camera stare on PBS Rise of the Drones". CSO Online. IDG.
  11. "From Molecules to the Milky Way: Dealing with the Data Deluge". CSIRO. 7 November 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
  12. Tim, Lohman (18 September 2009). "SKA telescope to provide a billion PCs' worth of processing (updated)". Computerworld. Archived from the original on 6 September 2018.
  13. Carter, Stephen (June 2009). "Digital Britain Final Report" (PDF). Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-06-30 via The National Archives.
  14. "Oracle Introduces StorageTek T10000C Tape Drive". Oracle Corporation. 31 January 2011.
  15. Klinkenborg, Verlyn (12 November 2003). "Trying to Measure the Amount of Information That Humans Create". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  16. Rouse, Margaret. "How many bytes for..." techtarget.com. Retrieved 2006-07-19.
  17. Christiansen, Amy Page (6 December 2005). "'Robbie the Robot' making data easier to mine". Purdue University. Retrieved 17 February 2007.
  18. Lyman, Peter; Varian, Hal R.; et al. (30 October 2003). "How Much Information 2003?". University of California, Berkeley: 2. Retrieved 19 July 2006. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. Williams, Roy David. "Data Powers of Ten". Caltech. Archived from the original on 8 May 1999. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  20. Liberman, Mark (12 November 2003). "More on the 5 exabyte mistake". University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  21. Carnell, Brian (31 December 2003). "How Much Storage Is Required to Store Every Word Ever Spoken by Human Beings?". Brian.Carnell.Com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2006. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  22. Liberman, Mark (5 November 2003). "Zettascale Linguistics". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 17 February 2007.
  23. Enriquez, Juan (Fall–Winter 2003). "The Data That Defines Us". CIO Magazine. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  24. Bergstein, Brian (5 March 2007). "So much data, relatively little space". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 5 March 2007.
  25. Stewart, Jon (11 February 2011). "Global data storage calculated at 295 exabytes". BBC News.
  26. Wu, Suzanne (10 February 2011). "How Much Information Is There in the World?". USC. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012.
  27. Johnston, Leslie (25 April 2012). "A "Library of Congress" Worth of Data: It's All In How You Define It". Library of Congress.
  28. Munroe, Randall (14 October 2013). "Google's Data Centers on Punched Cards". xkcd. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
  29. Munroe, Randall (March 2014). "Randall Munroe: Comics that ask "what if?"". TED. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
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