How to Convert Hex to Binary and Binary to Hexadecimal

Updated on September 18, 2018
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Eugene is a qualified control/instrumentation engineer Bsc (Eng) and has worked as a developer of electronics & software for SCADA systems.

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The Hexadecimal Numbering System

The base 16, hexadecimal (abbreviated to hex) numbering system is regularly used in computer coding for conveniently representing a byte or word of data. This guide shows you how to convert from hex to binary and binary to hexadecimal.

Decimal, the Base 10 Numbering System

Before we learn how to convert hex to binary, let's try and understand how the base 10 system works.

The decimal, denary or base 10 numbering system that we use in everyday life makes use of ten symbols or numerals: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

So to count you start with 0, then continue 1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9

What happens when you get to ten? There's no numeral for ten, so it's represented as

10

Which means 1 ten and no units

Similarly when you get to 99, there's no numeral for one hundred, so you write one hundred as 100.

So writing a number in the base 10 system involves using numerals in a "units", "tens", "hundreds", "thousands" place and so on

So 145 really means "one hundred, 4 tens and 5 units" although we just think of it as one hundred and forty five.

Hexadecimal, the Base 16 Numbering System

Hexadecimal or "hex" is a numbering system which uses 16 different numerals. We saw that decimal used ten numerals from 0 to 9. Hex expands on this by adding six more, the capital letters A, B, C, D, E and F.

So to count from 0 to 15 you go 0...1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9

But what happens next?

Simply continue with A...B...C...D...E...F which represents 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 decimal.

In the decimal system, we saw that when we got to nine, there was no numeral for ten so it was represented as 10 or "one ten and no units".

In the hex system when we get to F which is 15 decimal, we have to represent the next number sixteen as 10 or "one 16 and no units".

Hex to Decimal Table

Hex
Decimal
0
0
1
1
2
2
3
3
4
4
5
5
6
6
7
7
8
8
9
9
A
10
B
11
C
12
D
13
E
14
F
15
10
16
11
17
12
18
13
19
14
20
15
21
16
22
17
23
18
24
19
25
1A
26
1B
27
1C
28
1D
29
1E
30
1F
31
20
32
21
33
22
34

Binary, the Base 2 Numbering System

The binary system used by computers is based on 2 numerals; 0 and 1. So you count 0, 1, there is no numeral for 2, so 2 is represented by 10 or "one 2 and no units". In the same way that there is a units, tens, hundreds, thousands place in the decimal system, in the binary system there is a units, twos, fours, eights, sixteens place etc. in the binary system.
For more information on why binary is used by computers and electronic devices, checkout these guides:

Why is Binary Used in Electronics and Computers?

How to Convert Decimal to Binary and Binary to Decimal

Binary, Decimal and Hex Equivalents

Binary
Decimal
Hex
0
0
0
1
1
1
10
2
2
11
3
3
100
4
4
101
5
5
110
6
6
111
7
7
1000
8
8
1001
9
9
1010
10
A
1011
11
B
1100
12
C
1101
13
D
1110
14
E
1111
15
F
10000
16
10
10001
17
11

Indicating the Base of a Number

If a number isn't decimal (base 10), the base can be explicitly indicated by a subscript to avoid confusion. Sometimes the subscript is omitted to avoid excessive detail if the base has been specified earlier in a discussion or if numbers are listed in a table (e.g. numbers may be indicated as hex in the title of the table).

So for instance 1F hex (31 decimal) can be written 1F16

Steps to Convert Hex to Binary

Hex is very easy to convert to binary.

  1. Write down the hex number and represent each hex digit by its binary equivalent number from the table above.
  2. Use 4 digits and add insignificant leading zeros if the binary number has less than 4 digits. E.g. Write 102 (2 decimal) as 00102.
  3. Then concatenate or string all the digits together.
  4. Discard any leading zeros at the left of the binary number.

Converting hex to binary
Converting hex to binary | Source

Steps to Convert Binary to Hex

Binary is also easy to convert to hex.

  1. Start from the least significant bit (LSB) at the right of the binary number and divide it up into groups of 4 digits. (4 digital bits is called a "nibble").
  2. Convert each group of 4 binary digits to its equivalent hex value (see table above).
  3. Concatenate the results together, giving the total hex number.

Converting binary to hex
Converting binary to hex | Source

What is Hex Used For?

Because of the ease of converting from hex to binary and vice versa, it's a convenient shorthand for representing byte values i.e. numbers from 0 to 255. Also it's compact requiring only 2 digits for a byte and 4 digits for a word.

  • Hex dumps are used to display the values of bytes in files. Each byte value is displayed as hex
  • Assembly language is written as a series of mnemonic processor instructions. The operand is commonly specified as a hex value. It's also used to indicate the storage location of data

Example of assembly language instruction

Mov is the opcode and 61 hex is the operand

MOV AL, 61h ; Load AL with 97 decimal (61 hex)

An assembly language listing for a Motorola 6800 8-bit microprocessor
An assembly language listing for a Motorola 6800 8-bit microprocessor | Source
A hex dump of a JPG file as viewed in a file editor. On the left, each byte is displayed as hex. On the right, alphanumeric characters corresponding to ASCII values are displayed.
A hex dump of a JPG file as viewed in a file editor. On the left, each byte is displayed as hex. On the right, alphanumeric characters corresponding to ASCII values are displayed. | Source

© 2018 Eugene Brennan

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      Steve 

      11 hours ago

      Thanks, was really helpful

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      Emmaculate 

      2 days ago

      this was really helpful to me thanks to you

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      Adil 

      10 days ago

      Thanks sir

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      Sunil 

      4 weeks ago

      Awesome

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      Raj 

      4 weeks ago

      This is just Awesome explanation. Everything makes sense now. Thank You very much, Sir!

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      Rgfegr 

      2 months ago

      Good

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