What Is a Binary File

Binary File is a file on the computer that stores information. But the information stored in these files is stored in a certain code on the computer. The data on these files is stored in the form of binary data i.e. only 0s and 1s. Binary File is also sometimes referred as a file which is not directly readable by the human as most of the characters in the file do not translate to viewable text characters.

It shows special format to represent the data except showing the letters, numbers or punctuations. The user only sees miscellaneous characters that resembles like English (or any other language) characters but are not. The information contained by these files is formatted that is understood by only certain applications or processors.

These files are executable files. It means that it will do something or perform any action is the user executes it. These file must be running on the appropriate software or processor before humans can read them. For e.g. – Only the word processing programs can handle the formatting information in a word document.

Some of the examples of binary files include spreadsheets, compiled programs, image files, executable files and many more. For e.g. – In case of compiling Java programs, the compiled java program which the user gets is a binary file while the source code is a text file.

Binary files typically contain bytes that are intended to be interpreted as something other than text characters. Some binary files contain headers, blocks of metadata used by a computer program to interpret the data in the file. For e.g. – A JPG file can contain multiple images, and headers are used to identify and describe each block of image data. If a binary file does not contain any headers, it may be called a flat binary file.

To send binary files through e-mail or any other system that do not allow all data values, they are translated into a plain text representation. Two files that are binary compatible will have the same pattern of zeros and ones in the data portion of the file. The file header in both the cases may differ.

Some software companies produce applications for Windows or the Macintosh that are binary compatible, which means that a file produced in a Windows environment is interchangeable with a file produced on a Macintosh. This avoids many of the conversion problems caused by importing and exporting data.