This article will help you to learn about the difference between bit, byte and words.

Difference between Bit, Byte and Words


The computer does not have a large number of symbols for representing data. It has only two, 0 and 1 (called binary digits or bits). These correspond to the two electronic ox magnetic states used in computer circuits and storage.

The smallest unit used for feeding data and program into computer is bit. Information is handled in the computer by electrical components such as transistors, integrated circuits, semiconductors and wires, all of which can only indicate two states or conditions.

Transistors are either conducting or non-conducting; magnetic materials are either magnetized or non-magnetized in one direction or in the opposite direction; a pulse or voltage is present or not present.


These two possible states can be expressed with the help of bits -0 and 1. For example, the presence of current pulse in a circuit in computer may be represented by the bit 1 and the absence of current pulse in a circuit may be represented by the bit 0.


A collection of some bits is called a byte. Byte is a group of adjacent bits (binary digits) operated upon as a unit. An 8 bit unit is commonly called a byte and has become the standard unit for storing a single character.

In many computers, it is 8-bit set encoding one alphanumeric character or two decimal digits. Alphanumeric is a contraction for alphabetic (A, B, C, etc.) and numeric, (0, 1, 2, etc.). A set of alphanumeric characters will usually include special characters too such as dollar sign, comma etc.


Some memory units are not made up of bytes but of words. A computer word consists of the data which is stored or retrieved when a memory location is specified Word is a collection of bits treated as a single unit. Word is an ordered set of characters handled as a unit by the computer. The word may be fixed or variable in length. The word length depends upon the number of bits or characters in a word.


The number of bits varies from 4, 8, 12, 16, 32 etc., up to 64 i.e., the word may be as long as 64 bits or as short as 8 bits. In a fixed word-length computer, the number of characters in a word does not vary, and an address will typically refer to one set of characters. In a variable word-length computer, each character or byte has an address and the word utilized by the computer can include a variable number of characters.

The length of the variable word is specified either by the instruction which calls for it or by a word- mark in storage. A byte is usually shorter than a word, typically consisting of 8 bits. In some computers the grouping of bits, bytes or words is flexible in design to meet the different storage requirements of numbers, alphanumeric characters and instructions.