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Best Free Hex Editor

 
Introduction

If you ever accidentally open an exe program file in a text editor such as Notepad, you will be confronted with a mass of unintelligible garbage on your screen. Worse still if you write the exe file back to disk, the program file would almost certainly be corrupted and would not work.

That's because text editors are designed only to work with text files which are files with extensions such as .txt, .bat, .prg and .html. To view and safely change binary files such as .exe, .com and .dll files you need a hex editor, sometimes called a binary editor. Most average PC users have no need for such a program but techies and gamers find them indispensable.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

There are some excellent free hex editors available that range from the small and simple editors to advanced products that are comparable to any commercial product. Hex editors are a software category where personal needs and preferences are so important that it is meaningless to pick a "best product". That of course doesn't stop me stating my own preferences.

For my needs, HxD is a clear winner. Its first virtue is that it doesn't need installing. Second, it has a great interface. Third, it handles huge files without slowing down. Then add in unlimited undo, great searching and search/replace capabilities, binary file comparison, full support for ANSI, DOS/IBM-ASCII and EBCDIC character plus a dozen other features and you can see why I like it. But it doesn't stop there. Hxd also works as a RAW disk editor and a full read/write RAM editor. This power also makes it a dangerous tool in the hands of beginners. It may also give your security software an apoplexy, but users skilled enough to use this product will understand that this is not a concern.

Hexplorer has some unique features which make it a powerful editor for images. If you want to open images in a hex editor you should try this out. However, I was unable to increase the font size which made reading difficult.

 
Related Products and Links

There are a few more hex editors like frhed, hex editor neo, etc. which I will review shortly. Stay tuned in for updates.

 

 
Quick Selection Guide

HxD
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Multiple languages; built in RAM and disk editor, loads only part of file to memory and has a low memory footprint, files are opened instantaneously irrespective of their size, added capability to generate checksums and compare files using them. Hex and Octal modes, features to concatenate, split and shred files.
Changes to file are immediately saved to disk. Therefore, backup your files when editing.
http://mh-nexus.de/en/hxd/
1.7.7.0
789 KB - 855 KB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 95 - Vista
Hexplorer
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Built-in RAM and disk editor; extra features such as Fourier transform and pixel viewer to facilitate image editing. Can understand common headers like NTFS/FAT headers, BMP headers, etc. Supports macros to perform repetitive tasks.
Stores entire opened file in memory. The opening of large files is difficult. Font size is extremely small on higher resolution systems making it nearly impossible to read certain parts.
2.6
1.61 MB
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 95 - Vista

v2.6src released 23-04-2013

XVI32
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Does not require an installation. Downloaded file runs standalone. Supports scripting to automate repetitive tasks. Supports wildcards in searches.
Stores entire file opened in memory. So opening large files is difficult. No undo feature.
2.55
558 KB ZIP
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/Vista/7
HexEdit
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Does not require installation. Built-in basic RAM, disk editor and calculator.
Stores entire opened file in memory. The opening of large files is difficult.
http://www.mitec.cz/hex.html
6.0.0.0
2.37 MB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 95 - Windows 7

version number not verfied.
Link/size verfied 22/06/13

Cygnus Free
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Stores entire file opened in memory. So, opening large files is difficult. Viewing help in Windows Vista requires a Vista update. However, the software homepage has all the details.
http://www.softcircuits.com/
1.00
285 KB
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows NT-Vista

The free version is simply an old version of the paid version. There are no restrictions on available features.

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

by Wololo (not verified) on 2. March 2011 - 14:40  (67310)

I would like to see HHD Software Free Hex Editor Neo being tested. It is great for a freeware.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) on 10. April 2011 - 4:14  (69876)

OK... I just tried a bunch of free hex editors, including HexEdit 3.0F. The specific feature I am looking for is a compare feature. I can tell you HexEdit has one of the worst implementations of that feature. The best compare feature I found was in Tiny Hexer, so I'm going with that one.

by McSpocky (not verified) on 30. April 2011 - 13:51  (71167)

I just tried Hexplorer and loved it, in fact I' removing my old Hex editor.

Concerning the one problem you found with it, " 2. Font size is extremely small on higher resolution systems making it nearly impossible to read certain parts. Can be the best software in this category otherwise.", I found it very easy to change it to a readable font.

The default font when I first started the program, was too small and difficult to read, as you said. I went to "View" and then "options". I chose "Oem Fixed Font", which is very easy to read on my computer. I also changed to the white background. If you want even larger text than that, choose "Fixed Roman Large".

by ipsita (not verified) on 19. July 2011 - 10:23  (75823)

but, it's so slow...:-(

by EUA (not verified) on 30. July 2011 - 19:36  (76557)

wxHexEditor is in Beta stage with version of 0.11.

by MidnightCowboy on 31. July 2011 - 6:54  (76588)

Thanks for the update :)

by Anonymous1 (not verified) on 9. August 2011 - 13:28  (77300)

I use the compare feature and I find it simple but effective. I especially like when you turn on the highlighter that all differences are highlighted as you find them.

by anononon (not verified) on 5. December 2011 - 12:19  (84418)

HHD Software Free Hex Editor Neo -- stay away from it.
It's a worthless trial of their commercial product.
To "TRY" any useful feature you have to enter 14-days
trial.

Don't waste your time.

by anononon (not verified) on 5. December 2011 - 12:21  (84420)

also, 20 MB for hex editor ???

give me a break...

by AlienG (not verified) on 3. January 2012 - 1:26  (86442)

Hexplorer is easy download from developer site.I test ALL sites and test ALL downloads with Spybot(updated every week). All A-ok.Easy, very fast install(select your options). I have many editers but this one is fast,fun and easy !

by aphillips801 (not verified) on 4. January 2012 - 12:13  (86528)

Go to http://www.hexedit.com and download the free version.

It is much better than the free version of HXD - I can't believe you did not mention it.

by Anupam on 4. January 2012 - 12:47  (86530)

What are the differences in the commercial and free version?

by EUA (not verified) on 9. March 2012 - 3:13  (90112)

wxHexEditor v0.20 Beta released.
*lots of feature added and bug fixed in this version*
I wish someone will add my editor too into this list soon.
Thanks.

by MidnightCowboy on 9. March 2012 - 4:04  (90113)

This category does not have an editor currently, so it is unlikely there will be any changes to the content until someone volunteers to take it over.

by xawari (not verified) on 10. May 2012 - 17:50  (93323)

If you're searching for open-source editors, I would recommend wxHexEditor and MadEdit (both available @sourceforge). They are written in C++, use wxWidgets, are small, free and usable.

by hossen (not verified) on 1. October 2012 - 15:02  (100039)

oh!
ty xawari

wxHexEditor really is very good.

by Datababe on 9. October 2012 - 0:05  (100511)

I haven't played with it lately, but Hex Fiend looked promising back when I did some minor testing.

by Anupam on 9. October 2012 - 7:27  (100525)

It works only on Mac though.

by Bitdigester on 2. March 2013 - 6:53  (105877)

HexEdit from mizec.cz and HxD from mh-nexus.de are both useless as forensic or counter-forensic tools since they
do not accumulate multiple search hits into lists of bookmarks and both also have no capability of telling you
what NTFS file a search hit occurred in. Like most free hex editors they are just toys. Download the demo version of
[edited] to see what a hex editor is supposed to do the non-disabled version of which costs $70 per year. The only free ware to match [edited] in capability is HexEdit from www.hexedit.com.

[Moderator's note: Mention of commercial software edited out. Not allowed]