Beginning with (Lucid) 10.10, Ubuntu began using base-10 to represent storage sizes. For me, working with Windows all day and then going to work on my Ubuntu notebook, it is very irritating to have to calculate values sometimes. I understand that it is the recommended policy to use base-10 (GB), but I am all too familiar with base-2 (GiB, or GB on Windows) and I blame Windows. So here is my question:

Is it possible to switch Ubuntu's Units policy to base-2 and if so, how?

  • 5
    I don't have an answer to your question, but wanted to point out that you've got GiB and GB backwards. Gi is the IEC standard prefix for 2^30. G is also sometimes used for 2^30, but Gi isn't used for 10^9.
    – pestilence
    Mar 8, 2012 at 2:54
  • GiB is always 1073741824 bytes, while GB can sometimes be 1000000000 bytes and sometimes 1073741824 bytes. I've edited the question to reflect that.
    – Flimm
    Jan 11, 2013 at 23:21
  • For more information about the difference between GB and GiB, and Ubuntu's unit policy, see this question.
    – Flimm
    Jan 11, 2013 at 23:22
  • 1
    If you use Nemo file manager, you can have it use binary sizes instead of decimal. Go to Edit -> Preferences -> Display -> File sizes. Also note that GParted uses binary units by default.
    – wjandrea
    Dec 16, 2016 at 21:21

4 Answers 4


The only way to do this, would be to patch (or in some cases, un-patch) all of the code which displays sizes to the user, and recompile your own fork of Ubuntu which has all of the sizes displayed using base 8 math (which is what you are asking for, and not base 2). It is a very invasive change to make, and is not an Ubuntu specific thing, as upstream applications were already doing this. The Ubuntu policy on size display is merely to clarify the matter, and to provide an official stance.

There is no setting which will switch between GiB and GB in all applications. If that's what you're looking for, the only way you're going to get it is to maintain patches to everything, which does so; unless you can convince all the upstreams to use such a setting, and provide patches, which they accept.

I'm sorry if you're looking for a simpler solution, but it doesn't exist, and isn't likely to anytime soon.


It is possible for KDE apps.

Just change it in your system settings.

First, install systemsettings clicking thisInstall System Settings

then, run it

Then, choose LocaleOtherByte Size Units

select the one you want.


I don't believe this is possible without switching to a previous version of Ubuntu.


Unless you want to compile it yourself in base-2 :) You might gain some fans


The first step would be to open bug reports for every affected package, and secondly send it upstream to be fixed.

Ubuntu does have a "Units Policy" so this is a very-long-term plan (I assume).


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