HxD is a freeware editor supporting disk, memory, and file hex editing, as well as a secure file deletion tool (called a "file shredder" by HxD). HxD's webpage states the app works on every Windows OS from Windows 95 up to Windows Vista, but I found it also works fine on Windows 8. Editing is a breeze -- blocks of hex data can be selected with either the mouse or keyboard. Editing features include copy, cut, insert, overwrite and deletion.
HxD includes a powerful search tool for finding hex or text data, a file comparison utility, file concatenation and splitting, and a handy tool to generate checksums.
HxD can be download from the application homepage.
Visual Studio's Binary Editor
Many are unaware Microsoft included a hex editor in the professional versions of Visual Studio. To use Visual Studio'sbuilt-in hex editor, click Open File… from the File menu. Next, inside the Open File dialog, choose a file to edit and click the Open With… option from the dropdown found next to the Open button.
Select Binary Editor from the list of programs…
…then a tab will open with the file contents displayed in hexadecimal. Although the Visual Studio Binary Editor doesn't support the "file shredding" or other advanced features of HxD, but for common hex editing tasks such as copy, paste, overwrite and delete, Studio performs admirably.
Selection and editing operations are accomplished with the mouse or standard Microsoft keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-V, etc.).
XVI32 is a freeware hex editor which sports excellent block editing features such as Delete, Copy, Overwrite and Move. But perhaps the biggest strength of XVI32 lies in its portability: XVI32 doesn't use an installer -- the application is extracted from a zip file -- therefore XVI32 can be ran directly from its extraction folder.
So if you need a portable hex editor that can be ran from a USB stick or SD card, XVI32 is a perfect choice.
However, I did find one tiny portability issue other users of Windows 8 may experience: Before I was able to view XVI32's help file, I needed to install WinHlp32 from Microsoft's Download Center. But since the help file isn't an absolute necessity, XVI32 can still run even if the WinHlp32 viewer isn't installed on a Windows 8 host machine.
Also, before you start editing with XVI32, I highly recommend limiting the number of rows and columns displayed by the editor to sixteen bytes (or multiple) for readability purposes. These settings are found in XVI32's Options menu.
Although XVI32 is powerful, block selection cannot be made using a mouse, a feature supported by HxD and Visual Studio. Selections in XVI32 are made using the Shift and arrow keys for short selections or using Shift in concert with PgUp/PgDn for larger blocks of data.
To make up for its block selection deficiency, XVI32 includes bookmarking features and better yet, a scripting engine for automation of editing tasks:
XVI32 can downloaded from the XVI32 homepage.
So, depending on your needs, one of these editors should "fill the gap": HxD with its comprehensive feature-set, the convenience of Visual Studio's built-in Binary Editor, or the portability and scripting tools of XVI32.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?