What Is A Hex Dump

by on May 1, 2007

Q: What is a hex dump useful for? What exactly do you do with it and how do you turn the code into English (so to speak)?

A: A Hex Dump is a display of the contents of a digital file in Hexadecimal code. Traditionally programmers could use the Hex code to determine where a computer program was failing. The most commonly recognizable use of Hexadecimal code is in web design. Hex Triplets are used to determine the colors of a web site when prefaced with a “#” in HTML and CSS code. Hex has also been used by spammers to obscure a URL so the person who has clicked on it does not know that they are going to a site they may not want to visit.

Since computers communicate in Binary, if you were to attempt to convert Hex to English, it may need to be converted to Binary first. There are several Hex to Binary converters available on the internet, some of which are free. Since the Hex Dump is the contents of a digital file, once translated the contents of a Hex Dump may not translate directly to English words, but may translate into commands that would only be recognizable to the application created to read that file.

This article has a good explanation of the use of Hex Dumps and Hexadecimal in computing. Answers.com also has an extensive definition of Hexadecimal and explanation of its uses.