Xxd Command in Linux with Examples

Xxd Command in Linux

In the intricate realm of Linux command-line tools, there exist hidden gems that can significantly enhance your ability to work with data. One such gem is the “xxd” command, a versatile tool designed for handling binary and hexadecimal data. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of xxd, unlocking its capabilities and revealing how it can be harnessed for various real-world applications.

Understanding xxd

Basic Syntax

Let’s begin with the fundamental syntax of the xxd command. Understanding this is the first step towards harnessing its potential.

To create a hex dump of a file:

xxd [options] filename

To convert a hex dump back to binary:

xxd -r [options] filename

This simplicity in structure makes xxd accessible, even to those new to the Linux command line.

Main Functions and Capabilities

  1. Hex Dumping: The primary function of xxd is to create a hexadecimal representation of binary data. This feature is incredibly valuable for understanding and analyzing binary files.
  2. Binary File Creation: Beyond creating hex dumps, xxd can reverse the process and generate binary files from existing hex dumps. This capability offers a unique approach to data manipulation.
  3. Customized Output Formatting: xxd provides the flexibility to customize the format of the output. You can specify the number of columns, adjust the grouping of data, and more, tailoring the presentation of your data to your specific requirements.
  4. ASCII Representation: Alongside the hex dump, xxd can display ASCII characters, making it easier to identify text data within binary files. This feature is particularly useful when working with files that contain mixed data types.

Supported Input/Output Formats

xxd supports various input and output formats, including binary, octal, and more. This versatility ensures that it can be employed in diverse scenarios, making it an invaluable tool for those who need to work with different data representations.

Key Features and Functionality

Hex Dumping and Binary File Analysis

A fundamental use case of xxd is to create a human-readable hex dump of a binary file. This is an essential step in tasks such as debugging, data forensics, and reverse engineering.


xxd file.bin

The output provides a clear representation of the binary data, with the left column indicating the offset and the right column displaying the hexadecimal values. This format is highly conducive to in-depth analysis of binary files.

Creating Binary Files from Hex Dumps

xxd can reverse the process, converting a hex dump back into a binary file. This capability allows you to recreate the original data, an invaluable feature for data recovery and manipulation.


xxd -r hexdump.txt > output.bin

This feature is particularly useful when you have a hex dump, and you need to convert it back into a binary file, effectively reconstructing the original data.

Customizing Output Formatting

Tailoring the output format to meet your specific needs is one of xxd’s strengths. With options like -c, -g, and -s, you can adjust how the data is presented.


xxd -g 1 -c 8 -s 16 file.bin

In this example, we’ve specified that each group of data should be one byte (-g 1), there should be eight columns per line (-c 8), and the offset should start at 16 (-s 16). This degree of customization empowers you to extract the information you need in a format that is most convenient for your analysis.

ASCII Representation

In many binary files, ASCII characters are interspersed with non-text data. xxd can display these ASCII characters alongside the hex dump, providing valuable insight into the content of the file.


xxd -c 16 -g 1 -s 64 -ps file.bin

The -ps option is used here to display the ASCII representation of the data. This is especially useful when you are dealing with files that contain both text and binary data, such as executable files or configuration files.

Practical Examples

Hex Dump of a File

Let’s explore a practical example to create a hex dump of a file and interpret the output.


xxd file.bin

The output will resemble something like this:

00000000: 4d5a 9000 0300 0000 0400 0000 ffff 0000 MZ..............
00000010: b800 0000 0000 0000 4000 0000 0000 0000 ........@.......

The output provides a clear representation of the binary data, with the left column showing the offset and the right column displaying the hexadecimal values.

The output is structured as follows:

  • Offset (00000000): This is the location within the file where the data is found. It starts from 0 and increments in hexadecimal values.
  • Hexadecimal Values: These are the actual data in hexadecimal format. Each pair of hexadecimal digits corresponds to one byte of data.

The hex dump provides an excellent way to visually inspect the content of binary files. It can help you identify patterns, locate specific data, and understand the structure of the file.

Creating a Binary File from a Hex Dump

xxd can also reverse the process and convert a hex dump back into a binary file, allowing you to recreate the original data. This can be particularly useful in scenarios where you have a hex dump of a file and you need to recover the binary data.


xxd -r hexdump.txt > output.bin

In this command, hexdump.txt is the name of the file containing the hex dump, and output.bin is the name of the binary file that will be created.

Customized Output Format

xxd allows you to customize the format of the output to suit your specific needs. This level of flexibility is particularly valuable when you have specific requirements for how the data should be presented.


xxd -g 1 -c 8 -s 16 file.bin

In this command, we’ve specified several options:

  • -g 1: This option sets the group size to one byte. Each group of data will consist of one byte.
  • -c 8: This option sets the number of columns to eight per line.
  • -s 16: This option specifies that the offset should start at 16.

The customized format will result in an output that aligns with the options you specified. In this case, each line will display eight columns of data, and the offset will begin at 16. Customizing the output in this way allows you to extract and present the data in a manner that best suits your analysis.

Converting Binary to Hex

In addition to creating hex dumps, xxd can also be used to convert binary data to a hexadecimal representation. This can be useful in scenarios where you need to transform binary data into a human-readable format.


echo -n "Hello, World!" | xxd

In this command, we use echo to provide the text “Hello, World!” as input, and the xxd command converts this text into its hexadecimal representation.

Analyzing Binary Data Using xxd

xxd is an invaluable tool for analyzing binary data, and it can be applied in various real-world scenarios. Let’s explore some advanced usage cases of xxd that go beyond the basics.

Advanced Usage

Using xxd with Pipelines

One of the powerful features of xxd is its compatibility with Linux pipelines. You can integrate xxd into pipelines to process data on the fly and perform complex data manipulations.


xxd -g 1 -c 8 -s 16 file.bin | grep "55 aa"

In this command, xxd generates a hex dump of the file with specified options, and the output is piped to grep to search for the pattern “55 aa.”

Scripting with xxd

Automation is at the heart of the Linux command line and xxd is no exception. You can incorporate xxd into your scripts and workflows to automate tasks and data transformations.



for file in *.bin; do
  xxd "$file" > "${file}.hexdump"

This script uses a for loop to iterate through all files with the .bin extension in the current directory. It then uses xxd to create a hex dump for each file and save it with a .hexdump extension.

Make the script executable:

chmod +x

Run the script:


The script will create hex dump files for each binary file in the directory, following the naming convention you specified.

Integrating xxd with Other Linux Commands

The power of Linux lies in the seamless integration of various commands. xxd can be combined with other Linux commands to perform intricate data operations and analysis.


xxd -p -s 10 -l 20 file.bin | xxd -r -p > extracted_data.bin

In this command, the first part (xxd -p -s 10 -l 20 file.bin) extracts 20 bytes starting from the 10th byte in hexadecimal format. The output is then piped through xxd -r -p to convert it back into binary format and saved as extracted_data.bin.

Real-World Use Cases

xxd finds its place in various real-world scenarios due to its versatility. Here are some practical applications where xxd can be a valuable tool:

Data Recovery and Forensics

In data recovery and forensic analysis, xxd plays a crucial role. It allows you to understand the binary structure of files, which is essential for data recovery and forensic investigations.

Debugging and Reverse Engineering

Developers and reverse engineers often use xxd to debug binary files, dissect proprietary formats, and uncover vulnerabilities. Its ability to display data in a clear and organized manner is particularly beneficial in these fields.

Network Packet Analysis

Security professionals use xxd for network packet analysis. It enables them to inspect raw data packets, making it an essential tool for analyzing network traffic and identifying potential threats.

Security Audits

Security audits often involve examining binary files for vulnerabilities or hidden data. xxd can assist in these audits by providing a clear view of the file’s contents.

Tips and Best Practices

As you become more proficient with xxd, consider the following tips and best practices to enhance your experience:

Efficiency and Speed Considerations

When working with large files, be mindful of efficiency and speed. Generating hex dumps and converting binary data can be resource-intensive, especially on large datasets. It’s important to consider the performance implications when working with xxd.

Error Handling and Troubleshooting

Like any command-line tool, xxd may encounter errors or unexpected behavior in certain scenarios. It’s valuable to understand how to handle errors and troubleshoot issues that may arise during xxd operations. Reviewing the man page for xxd (man xxd) can provide insights into error messages and their meanings.

Cross-Platform Compatibility

xxd is available on various Unix-like systems, ensuring cross-platform compatibility. Whether you’re using Linux, macOS, or other Unix-based operating systems, you can rely on the availability of xxd. Keep in mind that while the basic functionality is consistent across platforms, there may be minor differences in command options and behaviors.

Security Considerations

When working with sensitive data, exercise caution to avoid unintentional exposure. Be mindful of what you share and where you store hex dumps or binary files. Consider encrypting sensitive data before generating hex dumps. Additionally, avoid using xxd in a way that might introduce vulnerabilities or expose confidential information.


Mastering the xxd command in Linux is a valuable skill that opens up a world of possibilities for data analysis, debugging, and data manipulation. With its extensive capabilities and customization options, xxd empowers users to work with binary and hexadecimal data efficiently. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced Linux user, understanding xxd will undoubtedly enhance your command-line expertise.

Explore, experiment, and leverage xxd to its full potential in your Linux journey. As you continue to delve into the rich world of Linux, you’ll find that xxd is a tool that can serve as a reliable companion in various situations, from the simplest data analysis to the most complex forensic investigations.

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