I see very often people using term binaries in different context. What are binaries? Collection on binary files, installation files, .dll files or what? Or is it just an general term for some collection of files on disk?

  • 2
    it's generally any file that is not a text file Nov 23, 2011 at 7:27
  • 4
    It's a really badly chosen term to distinguish human and computer readable files. It's confusing since all files are technically stored in binary.
    – JohnFx
    Nov 23, 2011 at 14:16

3 Answers 3


Binary means composed of two pieces or two parts and may refer to different things in different worlds of Mathematical, Computing, Science and Others.

But, in Computing, Binary refers to :-

  • Binary file, composed of something other than human-readable text
  • Executable, a type of binary file that contains machine code for the computer to execute
  • Binary code, the digital representation of text and data
  • Nice distinctions. Nov 23, 2011 at 7:19
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    I would add that when referring to executable type binary files, developers normally (well, me, anyway) include dynamic libraries, as these also "contains machine code for the computer to execute". (That is, if I say "binaries", and mean "executable", then I mean all files that contain machine code for execution, not just "real" executables.)
    – Martin Ba
    Nov 23, 2011 at 9:30
  • This answer is not correct - the question was specifically about 'binaries'.
    – fabspro
    Aug 3, 2022 at 8:38

The word binaries is used as a set of files which are produced after compiling essentially the object code that runs on machines. (and virtual machines/runtimes in case of Java/.NET)

While there are other things like JPEG photo, MPEG video, Zip files etc. are also binary in the sense they are not text or ascii files, but word binaries (used in context of software development) doesn't include them.


In the linux/unix world, developers and geeks prefer source code to executable binaries so they can compile and tweak them themselves.

When an app is free that is awesome. If it is distributed as binary, that is still awesome. When it is distributed as source that is really awesome.


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