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hexdump command in Linux with examples

The hexdump command is a powerful tool in Linux that allows you to examine and manipulate binary files. With its ability to display file contents in hexadecimal, decimal, octal, or ASCII formats, it provides a versatile way to analyze data structures and troubleshoot issues.

In this article, we will explore the various options and examples of using the hexdump command in Linux, enabling you to gain a deeper understanding of this essential utility.

Get ready to unlock the secrets hidden within your files!

Key Takeaways

  • Hexdump is a command-line utility in Linux for displaying file contents in hexadecimal and other formats.
  • It’s useful for developers and system administrators for examining binary files and debugging.
  • Hexdump can be paired with the diff command to compare binary files in a readable format.
  • For more advanced usage, users should refer to the hexdump manual page with man hexdump.

What is the hexdump command?

The hexdump command in Linux is a useful tool that allows you to examine binary files, hexadecimal data, and ASCII text. It provides a way to analyze and understand the contents of files at a low level. Whether you are working with system files or need to troubleshoot file issues, hexdump can be your go-to utility.

Here are some key points about the hexdump command:

  1. Displaying Hexadecimal Data: With hexdump, you can view data in hexadecimal format. Each byte of data is represented by two characters ranging from 00 to FF.
  2. ASCII Representation: In addition to showing hexadecimal values, hexdump also displays an ASCII representation on the right side of each line. This makes it easier for you to interpret the content not only as raw data but also as readable text.
  3. File Offset: The output from hexdump includes a column indicating the offset position of each line within the file being analyzed. This helps provide context when examining large files.
  4. Multiple Format Options: Depending on your needs, you can customize how hexdump displays information using various options such as -C-n-s, and more.
  5. Binary File Analysis: By default, hexdump treats all input files as binary files unless specified otherwise through additional options like -t. This allows for comprehensive analysis regardless of file type.
  6. Reading Standard Input: You can use redirection or pipes (|) with other commands to read standard input into hexdump. This enables easy integration with other tools and processes in your Linux environment.

In conclusion, the versatile hexdump command provides developers, sysadmins, and security analysts with valuable insights into binary files’ structure and content in Linux systems by displaying both hexadecimal and ASCII representations alongside file offsets.

How to use the hexdump command in Linux

The hexdump command is a powerful tool in Linux that allows you to view and manipulate binary files. It provides a hexadecimal and ASCII representation of the data, making it easier to analyze and understand file contents. Here’s how you can make the most out of this handy command:

Basic usage: To simply display the hexadecimal and ASCII dump of a file, use the following syntax:

hexdump [options] <file>
  1. Options: The hexdump command offers various options that enable you to customize its behavior according to your needs. Some commonly used options include:
    • -C: This option displays output in a traditional hex-ASCII format with both hexadecimal values and their corresponding ASCII characters.
    • -n <length>: Use this option if you only want to dump a specific number of bytes from the input file.
    • -s <offset>: If you wish to start dumping from an offset within the file, specify it using this option.
  2. Formatting output: You can further enhance your understanding of file contents by formatting the output generated by hexdump. For instance:
    • Grouping bytes: The -g option lets you group bytes together, making it easier for analysis.
    • Changing display length: Using -e, you can define custom formats for displaying data fields such as integers or floating-point numbers.
  3. Working with different types of files:
    • Text files: When working with text files, hexdump displays not only printable characters but also non-printable ones like tabs or newlines.
    • Binary files: For binary files containing non-textual data, hexdump helps identify patterns or anomalies.
  4. Piping through other commands: The versatile nature of Linux commands enables you to pipe the output of hexdump through other commands for further analysis or manipulation. For example:
    • Using grep, you can search for specific patterns within the hex dump.
    • By piping into awk or sed, you can perform advanced text processing on the ASCII portion of the output.

By mastering the usage of the hexdump command, you gain a deeper understanding of file contents and improve your ability to work with binary data in Linux. Experiment with different options and explore its full potential!

Examples of using the hexdump command

Here are some examples that demonstrate how to use the hexdump command in Linux:

  1. Displaying a file in hexadecimal format:
    • Command: hexdump -C filename
    • This will show the contents of the specified file in hexadecimal format, along with ASCII representation on the right side.
  2. Viewing only specific number of bytes:
    • Command: hexdump -C -n num_bytes filename
    • Replace num_bytes with the desired number of bytes you want to display.
  3. Suppressing duplicate lines and asterisks:
    • Command: hexdump -Cv filename
    • The -v option stands for “no asterisks” and -u stands for “no duplicates”. Together, they prevent duplicate lines from being displayed and remove asterisks at each line’s beginning.
  4. Displaying offsets in decimal instead of hexadecimal:
    • Command: hexdump --decimal filename
    • Instead of showing offsets in hexadecimal, this option will display them as decimal numbers.
  5. Outputting binary data without formatting:
hexdump -e '16/1 "%02x "'  filename

This command uses a custom format string (16/1 "%02x "), which tells hexdump to print 16 bytes per line without any additional formatting.

6. Outputting binary data without formatting:

hexdump filename > output.txt

This command saves the output into a text file named “output.txt”.

These examples should help you understand how versatile and powerful the hexdump command can be when working with binary files on Linux systems.

Experiment with different options and formats to suit your needs!


The hexdump command in Linux is an invaluable tool for analyzing and understanding binary files. By providing a hexadecimal representation of the data, along with its corresponding ASCII characters, hexdump allows users to explore the structure and content of files that may appear cryptic at first glance.

In this article, we have explored various examples of using the hexdump command to extract meaningful information from different types of files. We learned how to interpret file headers, analyze network packets, examine executable binaries, and even uncover hidden messages within images.

By mastering the hexdump command and understanding its output format, Linux users can gain deeper insights into their system’s inner workings and troubleshoot issues more effectively. Whether you are a developer examining compiled code or a security analyst investigating suspicious files, knowing how to use hexdump will enhance your ability to manipulate and understand binary data.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q1: How to interpret the output of hexdump?

The output consists of columns showing the offset, hexadecimal representation, and ASCII representation of the data. The offset is the position of the bytes in the file.

Q2: How to interpret the ASCII representation?

The ASCII representation is displayed to the right of the hexadecimal values. Printable characters are shown as-is, while non-printable characters are represented as dots (.).

Q3: How to create a hexdump of a binary stream from a command?

You can use a pipeline to send the output of a command to hexdump. For example:

some_command | hexdump -C

Q4: How to save the hexdump output to a file?

You can redirect the output to a file using the > operator:

hexdump -C filename > output.txt

Q5: How to reverse the hexdump to recreate the original file?

Use the xxd command to reverse the hexdump:

xxd -r hexdump.txt > original_file

Q6: How to display the decimal values instead of hexadecimal?

You can use the -d option to display decimal values:

hexdump -d filename

Q7: How to exclude the ASCII representation from the output?

Use the -e option to format the output. For example, to display only the hexadecimal values:

hexdump -e '"%08_ax " 16/1 "%02x " "\n"' filename

These are just a few examples to get you started with the hexdump command. You can explore more options and formatting features in the hexdump manual (man hexdump).

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by admin

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