How can I decode a base64 string from the command line?

  • I would like to write a bash script to decode a base64 string. For example I type decode QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ== and it prints Aladdin:open sesame and returns to the prompt.

    So far I have tried a simple bash file containing python -m base64 -d $1 but this command expects a filename not a string. Is there another non-interactive command (not necessarily in a Python module) that I can run from the command line to achieve this, without having to install any extra packages? (Or if I do, something super-minimal.)

  • January

    January Correct answer

    8 years ago

    Just use the base64 program from the coreutils package:

    echo QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ== | base64 --decode

    Or, to include the newline character

    echo `echo QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ== | base64 --decode`

    output (includes newline):

    Aladdin:open sesame

    Or: echo QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ== | base64 --decode && echo

    Or: `base64 -d <<< QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ==`

    `echo QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ== | "C:\Program Files\Git\usr\bin\base64" --decode 2> nul > example.txt` On Windows with git's base64.

    @January It is not `Just use`, because many people know about the `base64` program – but as one can't *just* insert a string as command line option, it is hard to get the syntax right for users who touch the CLI only once in a while.

    On Mac, copy the the encoded string into clipboard and run `pbpaste | base64 --decode`.

    There might be `\n` in the decoded string so you probably want to do `echo -e`. More info here

    If for some reason you do not wish to have new lines in the encoded string, use the option `-w 0` when encoding. I like this as it makes it easier to decode at the shell.

  • openssl can also encode and decode base64

    $ openssl enc -base64 <<< 'Hello, World!'
    $ openssl enc -base64 -d <<< SGVsbG8sIFdvcmxkIQo=
    Hello, World!

    EDIT: An example where the base64 encoded string ends up on multiple lines:

    $ openssl enc -base64 <<< 'And if the data is a bit longer, the base64 encoded data will span multiple lines.'
    $ openssl enc -base64 -d << EOF
    > QW5kIGlmIHRoZSBkYXRhIGlzIGEgYml0IGxvbmdlciwgdGhlIGJhc2U2NCBlbmNv
    > ZGVkIGRhdGEgd2lsbCBzcGFuIG11bHRpcGxlIGxpbmVzLgo=
    > EOF
    And if the data is a bit longer, the base64 encoded data will span multiple lines.

    Thanks to Philippe's answer, you need to add -A for long base64 strings otherwise openssl will return nothing, see

    @morloch or just avoid removing the newlines from the base64 encoded data, and it works as expected...

    I would not consider `coreutils` an "additional" package containing programs like `ls`, `mkdir`, `cp`, `mv`, and `chmod`. I doubt you can do anything useful with your machine without it.

    @vidstige, that's true. I don't know why I was under the impression that base64 was not installed by default; that is totally not the case.

    While this is the ubuntu stack exchange, using `openssl` has the advantage over standard `base64` of working in Git Bash on Windows, at least the older 1.8.1 Git Bash version I have installed.

  • Here you go!

    Add the following to the bottom of your ~/.bashrc file:

    decode () {
      echo "$1" | base64 -d ; echo

    Now, open a new Terminal and run the command.

    decode QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ==

    This will do exactly what you asked for in your question.

  • With your original dependencies it is possible to do this with a minor modification to your original script:

    echo $1 | python -m base64 -d

    If you don't pass a file name, that python module reads from the standard input. To pipe the first parameter into it you can use echo $1 |.

    Also: python -m base32 filename

    this does not work :) but use .b32* methods

  • I did comment base64 command line in So I issue a Warning when using openssl base64 decoding :

     openssl base64 -e <<< 'Welcome to openssl wiki'
    openssl base64 -d <<< 'V2VsY29tZSB0byBvcGVuc3NsIHdpa2kK'
    Welcome to openssl wiki

    warning base64 line length is limited to 64 characters by default in openssl :

     openssl base64 -e <<< 'Welcome to openssl wiki with a very long line
     that splits...'
    openssl base64 -d <<< 'V2VsY29tZSB0byBvcGVuc3NsIHdpa2kgd2l0aCBhIHZlcnkgbG9uZyBsaW5lIHRoYXQgc3BsaXRzLi4uCg=='

    => NOTHING !

    to be able to decode a base64 line without line feed that exceed 64 characters use -A option :

    openssl base64 -d -A <<<
    Welcome to openssl wiki with a very long line that splits...

    This is anyway better to actualy split base64 result in 64 characters lines since -A option is BUGGY ( limit with long files ).

  • Using perl

    perl -MMIME::Base64 -ne 'printf "%s\n",decode_base64($_)' <<< "QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ=="

    Or the same with python

    python -m base64 -d <<< "QWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuIHNlc2FtZQ=="
  • Just to add another way to do it:

    emacs -Q --batch  -eval '(princ (base64-encode-string (read-string ": ")))'

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM