What is the difference between little endian and big endian data formats?

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The difference between little endian and big endian formats, also sometimes called "endian-ness," is the difference between how computing systems order multiple bytes of information. These different formats are machine-specific, which means they are programmed on machines on a case-by-case basis. It’s important to preserve consistent endian-ness across various machines when data is transferred or migrated between them, or alternately, to interpret data so that the receiving computer tabulates the right result.

When a piece of data is put into a multi-byte format, it can be represented in either big endian or little endian format. It’s important to note that when bit order does become important in systems, big endian and little endian formats can also apply to this as well, and some experts suggest that bit ordering on machines generally mirrors the byte ordering format.

The big endian format means that data is stored big end first. In multiple bytes, the first byte is the biggest, or represents the primary value. In the little endian format, data is stored little end first. In this case, with multi-byte pieces, it is the last bite that is biggest or that has the primary value to which subsequent values are added or concatenated.

Developers can use various fixes to resolve big endian and little endian data issues. There are various administrative options to fix this problem, but there is also the use of something called a byte order mark (BOM). This hexadecimal representation can ensure that data is stored in the right format. In addition, professionals might discuss whether endian-ness is "transparent" across a system, for example, where constructed format tags or other resources could help in planning or design.

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