ARCHIVED: What are little-endian and big-endian?

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The terms little-endian and big-endian describe two formats of ordering that computers can use to store integers in a sequences of bytes:

  • Little-endian places increasing numeric significance as memory address increases (i.e., little end first).
  • Big-endian places the most significant byte first (i.e., big end first).

The x86 processor architecture uses the little-endian format. Motorola and PowerPC processors generally use big-endian. Some architectures, such as SPARC V9 and IA64, feature switchable endianness (i.e., they are bi-endian).

For more, see Understanding Big and Little Endian Byte Order on the BetterExplained blog.

This document was developed with support from National Science Foundation (NSF) grants 1053575 and 1548562. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

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Last modified on 2018-02-21 14:06:37.

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