Manuel Aráoz Manuel Aráoz - 2 months ago 10
Python Question

Reading integers from binary file in Python

I'm trying to read a BMP file in Python. I know the first two bytes
indicate the BMP firm. The next 4 bytes are the file size. When I excecute:

fin = open("hi.bmp", "rb")
firm =
file_size = int(

I get

ValueError: invalid literal for int() with base 10: 'F#\x13'

What I want to do is reading those four bytes as an integer... It seems Python is reading them as characters and returning a string, which cannot be converted to an integer. How can I do this correctly?


The read method returns a sequence of bytes as a string. To convert from a string byte-sequence to binary data, use the built-in struct module:

import struct


Note that unpack always returns a tuple, so struct.unpack('i',[0] gives the integer value that you are after.

You should probably use the format string '<i' (< is a modifier that indicates little-endian byte-order and standard size and alignment - the default is to use the platform's byte ordering, size and alignment). According to the BMP format spec, the bytes should be written in Intel/little-endian byte order.