base64 - Linux


The base64 command in Linux is used for encoding and decoding data using the Base64 encoding scheme. This encoding helps to encode binary data into ASCII characters, commonly used in email transmission and web data. It’s particularly useful in handling data that might not be safely transferred in environments that are not 8-bit clean, such as mail bodies.


The basic syntax of the base64 command is:

base64 [OPTION]... [FILE]

If no FILE is specified, or when FILE is -, it reads standard input.


The base64 command provides several options:

  • -d, --decode: Decode data from Base64 encoding.
  • -i, --ignore-garbage: When decoding, ignore non-alphabet characters.
  • -w, --wrap=COLS: Wrap encoded lines after COLS character (default is 76). Use 0 to disable line wrapping.

Typical use cases:

  • Encoding standard input and wrapping lines after a specific number of characters.
  • Decoding base64 content while ignoring non-alphabet characters which can be useful to sanitize from data corrupted or with embedded newlines and spacing.


Encoding a string directly:

echo 'Linux Base64 Encoded' | base64

Output: TGludXggQmFzZTY0IEVuY29kZWQK

Decoding the Base64-encoded string:

echo 'TGludXggQmFzZTY0IEVuY29kZWQK' | base64 --decode

Output: Linux Base64 Encoded

Encoding a file:

base64 file.txt > file.txt.b64

Decoding a file:

base64 -d file.txt.b64 > file.txt

Common Issues

  • Incorrect padding: Sometimes, base64 encoding can result in errors about incorrect padding. Ensure that the input size is correct as base64 requires a length that is a multiple of 3.
  • Data corruption: Corruptions can occur if the data contains special characters or control characters. Consider using -i or --ignore-garbage during decoding.


The base64 command can be integrated with other tools for more complex pipeline operations. For example, encoding a file before transferring it via tools that do not handle binary data:

tar czf - folder/ | base64 | ssh user@server 'base64 --decode | tar xzvf -'

Here, a folder is compressed, encoded to base64, transmitted over SSH, then decoded and uncompressed on the server side.

  • openssl base64: An alternative to base64, providing similar functionality but as part of the OpenSSL toolkit.
  • uuencode and uudecode: Utilities for encoding and decoding files into a printable format, something similar to what base64 does but using a different encoding scheme.

For more detailed information, visit the Base64 Wikipedia page or the Linux man pages by typing man base64 in the terminal.