Given a file myfile with the following contents:

$ cat myfile

A hexdump of the file gives us the contents:

$ hexdump myfile
6f66 736f 000a

Currently, I can create the file by specifying the contents in ascii like this:

$ echo foos > myfile

Is it possible to create the file by giving it the exact bytes in hexadecimal rather than ascii?

$ # How can I make this work?
$ echo --fake-hex-option "6f66 736f 000a" > myfile
$ cat myfile

Update: For clarity's sake, I worded the question to ask how to write a small number of bytes to a file. In reality, I need a way to pipe a large amount of hexadecimal numbers directly into a file rather than just 3 bytes:

$ cat hexfile
6f66 736f 6f66 736f ...
$ some_utility hexfile > myfile
$ cat myfile
  • 1
    I think you might like the -C flag for hexdump. hexdump -C displays a byte by byte output instead of 16 bit words obfuscated up by endianess.
    – jippie
    Nov 15, 2012 at 7:46

6 Answers 6


You can use echo -e:

echo -e "\x66\x6f\x6f"

Do note that hexdump -C is what you want to dump the contents of the file in byte order instead of being interpreted as 4-byte words in network byte order.

  • Although this does answer my question, it doesn't help in my situation. I have a very large input of hexadecimal numbers that I would like to pipe into a file. I will update the question with this.
    – Cory Klein
    Nov 14, 2012 at 23:40

This is the hexundump script from my personal collection:

#!/usr/bin/env perl
$^W = 1;
$c = undef;
while (<>) {
    if (defined $c) { warn "Consuming $c"; $_ = $c . $_; $c = undef; }
    if (length($_) & 1) { s/(.)$//; $c = $1; }
    print pack "H*", $_;
if (!eof) { die "$!"; }
if (defined $c) { warn "Odd number of hexadecimal digits"; }

Simulate a byte train:

echo 41 42 43 44 | 

Change spaces into newlines so the while/read can easily parse them on by one

tr ' ' '\n' | 

Parse byte by byte

while read hex; do

Convert hex to ascii:

  printf \\x$hex

until end of input


If the files to parse are seriously big, you probably don't want to use bash because it is slow. PERL for example would be a better choice.


The *some_utility* you're finding is dd (manual). You can copy any valid bytes from any valid position of a file to another file by specify bs(block size), count, and skip options.


Copy the first 1024 bytes of a file to another file.

$ dd if=liveusb-creator-3.11.7-setup.exe of=test.ex_ bs=1 count=1024
1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1024 bytes (1.0 kB) copied, 0.03922 s, 26.1 kB/s

To write arbitrary hex data to binary file:

echo -n 666f6f | xxd -r -p - file.bin

For hex (input) data stored in some file to be written to binary file:

xxd -r -p file.hex file.bin

To read binary data:
hd file.bin or xxd file.bin

To read data only (without offsets):

xxd -p file.bin

Here's an example of how you can use dc to Print the (UCHAR_MAX+1) value of a byte:

printf %dP 104 101 121 32 116 104 101 114 101 10 |dc

...which prints...

hey there

The default input radix is 10 - decimal - but you can set it with $val i where $val is any number between 2 and 16 (note that if the current input radix is not 10 you'll have to use the current base's value for 10 to get it back - else you can always do Ai).

Here is a more complicated example:

LC_ALL=C man man 2>/dev/null | 
od -v -An -t x1 |
tr -s '[:space:]' P | {
    echo 16i0
    tr '[:lower:]' '[:upper:]'
} | dc | head

...which translates man man's output into hexadecimal and back again in-stream and prints:

MAN(1)              Manual pager utils              MAN(1)

       man - an interface to the on-line reference manuals

       man [-C file] [-d] [-D] [--warnings[=warnings]] [-R
       encoding] [-L locale] [-m system[,...]]  [-M  path]

Just ensure that all of your alphabetic [:hexdigit:]s are uppercase and sandwich a P between every pair then pipe it at dc.

  • That's a pretty impressive 3-liner. I'd be interested if you cared to elaborate on that regex!
    – Cory Klein
    Mar 12, 2015 at 21:33
  • @CoryKlein - the regex isn't really what matters - sed just inserts a P after every two not-space chars and appends the string []p to every line. It is dc that is interesting. First echo sets its input radix to 16 (so it will interpret the hex char pairs as numbers) then for every byte it reads in it Prints its (UCHAR_MAX+1) value to stdout and pops it off the stack. Try echo 8i141P12PAi97P10P16i61P0AP |dc and see what you get.
    – mikeserv
    Mar 12, 2015 at 22:04
  • With that, I get a\na\na, is that supposed to be what I see?
    – Cory Klein
    Mar 12, 2015 at 23:22
  • @CoryKlein - yeah. It sets the input radix to octal then prints the ascii char for the octal bytes 141 and 12 - then sets it to A (10 - decimal) and prints the ascii chars for 97 and 10, then sets it to hex and prints the ascii chars for 61 and 0A. All of those char pairs are a\n.
    – mikeserv
    Mar 12, 2015 at 23:27

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