The Difference Between Download Speed & Transfer Rate

by Alex Kocic
downloading pictures from camera to laptop image by patrimonio designs from

Download speed refers to how fast a file can be copied from a remote computer, while transfer rate is the speed at which data is transferred between two devices, such as a hard drive and computer's memory.

Download Speed

Download speed depends on the speed of both your and the other computer's Internet connection. For Web pages, it also depends on how they are written. Web programmers can use various techniques to make their pages download faster.

Data Transfer Rate

DTR refers to the speed of transfer between any two devices; for example, a computer and a printer, or a CD-ROM drive and a hard drive. It depends on the technical characteristics of the devices and the way they are connected.

Download and Transfer Measure Units

Download rates are measured in megabits per second (Mbps) for broadband connections, or kilobits per second (Kbps) for dial-up, modem connections. Transfer rates are measured in bits per second (bps), or for devices such as DVD-drives in gigabytes per second (GB/sec).

Advertised vs. Real Rates

Advertised speeds are rarely, if ever, possible to achieve. For downloading, they vary hugely depending on how far you live from your service provider and other factors. For transfer rates, especially those involving hard disks, they depend on how big a file is and where it is on the disk.


Photo Credits

  • downloading pictures from camera to laptop image by patrimonio designs from

About the Author

Alex Kocic has been a journalist since 1985, starting at a local radio station in Pancevo, Serbia, before moving to BBC World Service in London. He has freelanced for BBC Radio 4 and 5Live, and a number of Serbian media outlets, including B92, "Vreme," "E-Magazin" and "Travel Magazine." Kocic has a Master of Arts in international relations from the University of Staffordshire.

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