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 category is in need of an editor. If you are interested in taking it over then check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here.

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Comments

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 Anupam on 18. March 2010 - 14:24  (45757)

I was interested in a comparison between the free, and the commercial version of the product to see what is missing in the free version of the software. Some free versions of the software are really crippled. I was not able to find a comparison on the site. Would you be able to tell what are the differences?

by Anonymous on 21. April 2010 - 1:55  (48099)

As far as I know the free version is just a previous version of the shareware. I tried both and don't think there is great difference. You should be able to tell from change list.

by Anonymous on 28. December 2009 - 6:02  (39650)

Thank you for your article.You saved me you wrote this.
I'm looking for hex binary editor for Windows.

Thank you.

by Anonymous on 23. November 2009 - 8:25  (37160)

Hxd is a great tool. I use it for a long time.

by Anonymous on 14. November 2009 - 12:03  (36606)

Seeing forward to see Hex Editor Neo Free reviewed.

by Anonymous on 19. February 2009 - 21:47  (16381)

In Hexplorer, rather than changing the font size, you must change the font. Under [View][Options] select "Fixed Roman Large".

A powerful-yet-small hex editor that I've been enjoying lately is HexEdit from http://www.catch22.net.

by Anonymous on 24. December 2009 - 1:09  (39302)

crash immediately the first running,when opening a 6G file in my document fold.

by Anonymous on 4. August 2009 - 21:43  (26276)

I have had it for years. Never was able to check it out
Looking at this hexplorer was a sure turn away. I don't know why the default font is microscopic.

Thanks to you friend. For the first time now, I am able to see the face of hexplorer, using large Roman Font.

by Anonymous on 7. February 2009 - 16:38  (15564)

Thank you very much.

by Anonymous on 24. October 2008 - 17:11  (9591)

XVI has some serious shortcomings:

- no undo!!
- difficult to copy from (can't drag a selection, no ctrl+c)
- can't paste hex into the Insert dialog, have to type it
- can't paste hex into the Search dialog, have to type it
- when you maximize it, it doesn't go right to the right edge of the screen, so when you try to quickly close it using the X, you often accidentally close the maximized window that is BEHIND it.

I've been using it for a long time, but no more! It's time to move on!

The only good thing XVI has that others don't (that I use, anyway) is save-able bookmarks. The scripting sounds neat, but I've never used it.

by Anonymous on 2. October 2008 - 9:21  (8583)

thanks for this job.
I actually try HexEdit (Mitec Hexa Editor).
Seems to be ok about spyware but :
- the exe is packed with upx (so need to be unpack before launched to be sure it's really ok).
- it's not portable because it writes in the registry (HKCU\Soft\MiTeC)
=> so no install but need to be uninstalled.
On the usage :
- all I need !
- no drag 'n drop but the mouse wheel is supported !

Hope it helps

by Anonymous on 1. September 2008 - 23:54  (7182)

If you're running on Linux or another Unix, consider
bvi. bvi (Binary Visual Editor) is a simple, but usable
hex file editor for those of us comfortable with vi and vim.

http://bvi.sourceforge.net/

by Anonymous on 6. November 2009 - 18:31  (36093)

Or if yo like bvi try the much more featureful bviplus

http://bviplus.sourceforge.net

On major advantage bviplus has over bvi is opening large file quickly (even working with files over the 2gb (32bit) limit). Also it just does a lot more without feeling much more complex.

by Anonymous on 30. August 2008 - 22:55  (7110)

To all XVI32 suggesters. This program is terribly outdated (last version from August 2003), and can't handle huge files. The Website states 60 MB to be huge, which apparently really is huge since it takes over 10 seconds to load... other programs need 1 second for 5 GB!

Editing is a pain since it uses a grid instead of a real editor. You can't even select properly.
When you scroll it shows a "scrolling..." message until you stop scrolling, that's incredibly annoying. When scrolling using the keyboard only one pane updates, but the other one lags behind.

No, this really isn't a nice hex editor. It has some good features, but the program isn't well implemented.

by Anonymous on 21. August 2008 - 3:29  (6363)

Surely the best Hex Editor in the world is HHD Software Hex Editor Commercial version , but the free version is powerfull too, which I think if it is not the best free hex editor, at least is one of the bests :

Free Hex Editor Neo
http://www.hhdsoftware.com/Products/home/hex-editor-free.html

and then :

Tiny Hexer
http://www.softpedia.com/get/Others/Miscellaneous/tiny-hexer.shtml

HexEdit
http://www.hexedit.com/ ( download the free version and templates )

XVI32 whick is commented before :
http://www.chmaas.handshake.de/delphi/freeware/xvi32/xvi32.htm

HxD , exists on this page
http://mh-nexus.de/programs.htm

Catch 22 HexEdit
http://catch22.net/software/hexedit.asp

Hexplorer , exists on this page
https://sourceforge.net/projects/hexplorer/

Hadi

by Anonymous on 18. July 2008 - 6:50  (4434)

I have go to agree that XVI32 is better than all those listed here.

by Anonymous on 3. July 2008 - 22:14  (3519)

@commenter above: XVI32 doesn't handle large files well, since it loads them entirely into memory. This makes it *slow*.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2008 - 12:14  (24)

The Hex Editor at the top of my list is XVI32 by Christian Maas. Handles large files, has comprehensive search and replace options, even has a built-in scripting language that is easy to use.

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