Text files and Binary files are two types in which the computer stores the data. At the user level, the primary difference between binary and text files is text files store data in human-readable format, and binary files are stored in binary form, i.e., 0s and 1s.
If you open a text file, you can see data that an average human can understand. Similarly, if you open the binary files in the Text editor, generally an image or video file, you will see meaningless characters. Opening them in image or video viewing applications is essential to understand them. Computer algorithms understand these files and convert them for us into crucial data.
Sometimes text and binary files are a part of computer programs that work in coordination according to the applications to run the programs smoothly on computers. Almost all the applications on desktops and phones contain these files in their schedules to function the software. Understand briefly what these files are and their differences throughout this article.
Let us understand how data is stored in a binary file and processed on computers.
Binary files stores data in the form of a sequence of bytes. These sequences are a stream of eight or sixteen bits groups. These files are primarily used to store custom data for applications and sometimes files that keep multiple data types like images, audio, text, etc.
The developers who encode these custom file formats design the supporting applications to convert the binary information to some meaningful form. For example, a binary file has the data of 5 audio in text format. If you open the file in a text editor, you will see sequences of binary data, which is not understandable. However, if the developer designs an audio-playing application that understands and converts this binary data into audio and plays them, you can listen to it.
Binary files usually contain headers like .jpg and .png to indicate the type of information it has stored. The binary file data is encrypted using 1s and 0s, making it more secure since the information is not readable. They take up significantly less space as they get stored in the memory as per its bits size (same as the memory storage).
The disadvantages of binary files are a simple error in the data corrupts the whole file, and it is difficult to rectify such errors. However, you can prepare to know how to prevent data corruption ahead. The file must undergo many internal variations and representation forms to transfer binary files from one computer to another. Regular users should always have a convertible supporting system to look at the data in binary files.
Text files store data in the form of ASCII characters, i.e., alphabets or any human understanding form. The data in the text files are a stream of characters, digits, and other special symbols. Text files are simple and standard, making them easy to understand and edit by any user. Generally, the text files have the .txt, .c, etc extensions. Formats like JSON are also text files. They contain code that is meaningful to the people who understand coding languages.
Since they contain easily understandable data, they do not need supporting applications to view them. A simple text editor can view and edit. Even when an error occurs, it can be easily identified and eliminated.
Text files are usually less secure than binary files. Still, the data cannot be corrupted easily as we can spot the undesired changes in the information and remove them according to our convenience. You can also find some text files which support the apps on your devices processed along with the binary files by the system software. These are the day-to-day files like word documents, PDFs, etc.
The major disadvantage of the text files includes the consumption of space since text files save the information by converting them into ASCII format, which will take up more space as compared to the sequence of binary bits.
Text files and binary files majorly differ in the way they store information. In the table below, we will highlight some significant differences between the binary and text files.
|Binary File||Text File|
|The content is encrypted and is not human-understandable.||The data is not encrypted and is human-readable.|
|Used to store custom and compact data like images, audio, and text files in a single file.||User-friendly data is stored in text files mostly plain text.|
|Data in binary files are stored in binary format (1s and 0s) to represent custom data, occupying the same amount of memory as the number of bytes||The alphabet, digits, and special symbols are stored as characters per byte. For example, the number 88732 is an integer that occupies 4 bytes in the disk but will take up 6 bytes, 1 for each digit in text files.|
|In the binary file, the conversion of a newline to carriage return-line feed combination is not done.||Every newline character is first converted to a carriage return-line feed combination and vice versa before and after being written to the disk.|
|Need supporting custom applications or software to view the data.||Any simple text editor is enough to view the information in text files.|
|Files keep track of the end of the file from the number of characters present.||A unique symbol of ASCII value 26 is used to mark the end of the file in the text files.|
These are some significant differences between the binary and text files that help us understand them better.
The simple difference between binary and text files is that they are encoded differently. Text files can be considered a subset of the binary files that store understandable data. In contrast, the data in binary files seems to be encrypted. Using a text editor, you can still view the data in binary files, but the information appears meaningless.
This difference in the encoding of the data in both text and binary files leads to differences in how the data is stored, processed, and viewed on the devices.
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Updated by Larissa
Larissa has rich experience in writing technical articles. After joining EaseUS, she frantically learned about data recovery, disk partitioning, data backup, and other related knowledge. Now she is able to master the relevant content proficiently and write effective step-by-step guides on computer issues.
Daisy is the Senior editor of the writing team for EaseUS. She has been working in EaseUS for over ten years, starting from a technical writer to a team leader of the content group. As a professional author for over 10 years, she writes a lot to help people overcome their tech troubles.