I have a data stream of bytes and I'd like to get a little endian encoded int32 from four bytes. Is there a better way than to do this like the following code?

package main

func read_int32(data []byte) int32 {
    return int32(uint32(data[0]) + uint32(data[1])<<8 + uint32(data[2])<<16 + uint32(data[3])<<24)

func main() {
    println(read_int32([]byte{0xFE,0xFF,0xFF,0xFF})) // -2
    println(read_int32([]byte{0xFF,0x00,0x00,0x00})) // 255

The code above seems to work fine, but perhaps there is a built-in function in Go that I've missed or there is a super cool hack that does that in one instruction?


encoding/binary package may have what you need. Check this: http://golang.org/pkg/encoding/binary/#example_Read

Your code with modified read_int32 function could be:

package main
import (

func read_int32(data []byte) (ret int32) {
    buf := bytes.NewBuffer(data)
    binary.Read(buf, binary.LittleEndian, &ret)

func main() {
    fmt.Println(read_int32([]byte{0xFE, 0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFF})) // -2
    fmt.Println(read_int32([]byte{0xFF, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00})) // 255

Also you can interpret big endian by replacing binary.LittleEndian with binary.BigEndian

  • \$\begingroup\$ That looks fine, I'll try it out and report back. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – topskip
    Nov 3 '12 at 7:29

This is a really late answer, however there are 2 different ways to do it.

func readInt32(b []byte) int32 {
    // equivalnt of return int32(binary.LittleEndian.Uint32(b))
    return int32(uint32(b[0]) | uint32(b[1])<<8 | uint32(b[2])<<16 | uint32(b[3])<<24)

// this is much faster and more efficient, however it won't work on appengine 
// since it doesn't have the unsafe package.
// Also this would blow up silently if len(b) < 4.
func ReadInt32Unsafe(b []byte) int32 {
    return *(*int32)(unsafe.Pointer(&b[0]))
  • \$\begingroup\$ How to modify func readInt32 to return float32 value? I'd tried to just change return int32(...) to retrun float32(...) and get wrong data. \$\endgroup\$
    – Борис
    Apr 8 '15 at 14:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Борис, replace int32 with math.Float32frombits. See here. Internally, it uses the unsafe cast, but is safe because it operates on a uint32 instead of a slice. \$\endgroup\$
    – George
    Jan 3 '16 at 19:29

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