A petabyte is 1015 bytes of digital information. The unit symbol for the petabyte is PB.

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

The name is composed of the SI prefix peta- (P) composed with the non-SI unit of a byte.

1 PB = 1000000000000000B = 1015bytes = 1000terabytes
1000 PB = 1 exabyte (EB)

A related unit, the pebibyte (PiB), using a binary prefix, is equal to 10245 bytes, which is more than 12% greater (250 bytes = 1125899906842624bytes).

Usage examples

Examples of the use of the petabyte to describe data sizes in different fields are:

  • Telecommunications (capacity): The world's effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication networks was 281 petabytes of information in 1986, 471 petabytes in 1993, 2,200 petabytes in 2000, and 65,000 petabytes in 2007 (this is the informational equivalent to every person exchanging 6 newspapers per day).[1]
  • Telecommunications (usage): In 2008, AT&T transferred about 30 petabytes of data through its networks each day.[2] That number grew to 197 petabytes daily by March 2018.[3]
  • Internet: Google processed about 24 petabytes of data per day in 2009.[4] The BBC's iPlayer is reported to have transferred up to 7 petabytes each month in 2010.[5] In 2012, Imgur transferred about 4 petabytes of data per month.[6]
  • Supercomputers: In January 2012, Cray began construction of the Blue Waters, which has "up to 500 petabytes of [digital] tape storage".[7]
  • Data storage system: In August 2011, IBM was reported to have built the largest storage array ever, with a capacity of 120 petabytes.[8]
  • Digital archives: The Internet Archive surpassed 15 petabytes, as of May 2014.[9]
  • Email: In May 2013, Microsoft announces that as part of their migration of Hotmail accounts to the new email service, they migrated over 150 petabytes of user data in six weeks.[10]
  • File sharing (centralized): At its 2012 closure of file storage services, Megaupload held ~28 petabytes of user uploaded data.[11]
  • File sharing (peer-to-peer): 2013 - BitTorrent Sync has transferred over 30 petabytes of data since its pre-alpha release in January 2013.[12]
  • National Library: The American Memory digital archive of public domain resources hosted by the United States Library of Congress contained 15 million digital objects in 2016, comprising over 7 petabytes of digital data.[13]
  • Film: The 2009 film Avatar is reported to have taken over 1 petabyte of local storage at Weta Digital for the rendering of the 3D CGI effects.[14][15]
  • Video streaming: As of May 2013, Netflix had 3.14 petabytes of video "master copies", which it compresses and converts into 100 different formats for streaming.[16]
  • Photos: As of January 2013, Facebook users had uploaded over 240 billion photos,[17] with 350 million new photos every day. For each uploaded photo, Facebook generates and stores four images of different sizes, which translated to a total of 960 billion images and an estimated 357 petabytes of storage.[18]
  • Music: One petabyte of average MP3-encoded songs (for mobile, roughly one megabyte per minute), would require 2000 years to play.[19]
  • Steam, a digital distribution service, delivers over 16 petabytes of content to American users weekly.[20]
  • Physics: The experiments in the Large Hadron Collider produce about 15 petabytes of data per year, which are distributed over the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid.[21] In July 2012 it was revealed that CERN amassed about 200 petabytes of data from the more than 800 trillion collisions looking for the Higgs boson.[22] The Large Hadron Collider is also able to produce 1 petabyte of data per second, but most of it is filtered out.[23]
  • Neurology: It is estimated that the human brain's ability to store memories is equivalent to about 2.5 petabytes of binary data.[24][25]
  • Climate science: The German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ) has a storage capacity of 60 petabytes of climate data.[26]
  • Sports: If you lined up a petabyte of data on 1 GB flash drives that were an inch long and stretched them end to end, they would stretch over 92 football fields.[27]


  1. "The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information", Martin Hilbert and Priscila López (2011), Science, 332(6025), 60-65; see also "free access to the study" and "video animation".
  2. "AT&T- News Room". 23 October 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  3. Gallagher, Ryan; Moltke, Henrik (25 June 2018). "The NSA's Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight U.S. Cities". The Intercept. As of March 2018, some 197 petabytes of data – the equivalent of more than 49 trillion pages of text, or 60 billion average-sized mp3 files – traveled across its networks every business day.
  4. "MapReduce". Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  5. "Article". CNET UK. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  6. "I created Imgur. AMA". Alan Schaaf. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  7. "About Blue Waters".
  8. Simonite, Tom (25 August 2011). "IBM Builds Biggest Data Drive Ever". Technology Review. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  9. Brownell, Brett (22 May 2014). "Meet the People Behind the Wayback Machine, One of Our Favorite Things About the Internet". Mother Jones. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  10. " 400 million active accounts, Hotmail upgrade complete and more features on the way".
  11. "Być może odzyskasz swoje pliki z Megaupload - Tech - WP.PL". Tech. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  12. "Version 1.2 of BitTorrent Sync Now Available as Free File Syncing Tool Reaches 1 Million Users". 6 November 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  13. Chayka, Kyle (14 July 2016). "The Library of Last Resort". n+1 Magazine. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  14. Kane, Zee (1 January 2010). "Believe it or not: Avatar takes 1 petabyte of storage space". Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  15. Ericson, Jim (21 December 2009). "Processing AVATAR". Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  16. Vance, Ashlee (9 May 2013). "Netflix, Reed Hastings Survive Missteps to Join Silicon Valley's Elite". Businessweek. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  17. Miller, Rich. "Facebook Builds Exabyte Data Centers for Cold Storage". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  18. Leung, Leo. "How much data does x store?". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  19. "What does a petabyte look like?". Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  20. "Steam ISP stats lay Australia's dire internet connectivity bare". PC Gamer.
  21. "3 October 2008 - CERN: Let the number-crunching begin: the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid celebrates first data". Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  22. "Big Data Software Problem Behind CERN's Higgs Boson Hunt".
  23. "CERN Data Centre passes the 200-petabyte milestone". CERN. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  24. Reber, Paul (2 April 2013). "What Is the Memory Capacity of the Human Brain?". Scientific American. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  25. Wickman, Forrest (24 April 2012). "Your Brain's Technical Specs". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  26. "Meet the World's Most Powerful Weather Supercomputer". Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  27. Spurlock, Richard. "Petabyte - How Much Information Could it Actually Hold?". Retrieved 4 November 2019.
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