Chris's coding blog

An extension method for converting a byte array to a string (reading its BOM)

July 19, 2010

Below is an extension method that adapts Rick Strahl’s code (and the comments too) to stop you having to guess or read the byte order mark of a byte array or text file each time you convert it to a string.

The commonest way of doing this is usually with

byte[] buffer = File.ReadAllBytes(@"C:\file.txt");

where xxx is Ascii, Unicode, or UTF8, or Default, but the extension method you to simply do

byte[] buffer = File.ReadAllBytes(@"C:\file.txt");
string content = buffer.GetString();

Here’s the method

public static class Extensions
/// <summary>
/// Converts a byte array to a string, using its byte order mark to convert it to the right encoding.
/// Original article:
/// </summary>
/// <param name="buffer">An array of bytes to convert</param>
/// <returns>The byte as a string.</returns>
public static string GetString(this byte[] buffer)
if (buffer == null || buffer.Length == 0)
return "";
// Ansi as default
Encoding encoding = Encoding.Default;
FF FE UTF-16 little endian
FE FF UTF-16 big endian
FF FE 00 00 UTF-32, little endian
00 00 FE FF UTF-32, big-endian
if (buffer[0] == 0xef && buffer[1] == 0xbb && buffer[2] == 0xbf)
encoding = Encoding.UTF8;
else if (buffer[0] == 0xfe && buffer[1] == 0xff)
encoding = Encoding.Unicode;
else if (buffer[0] == 0xfe && buffer[1] == 0xff)
encoding = Encoding.BigEndianUnicode; // utf-16be
else if (buffer[0] == 0 && buffer[1] == 0 && buffer[2] == 0xfe && buffer[3] == 0xff)
encoding = Encoding.UTF32;
else if (buffer[0] == 0x2b && buffer[1] == 0x2f && buffer[2] == 0x76)
encoding = Encoding.UTF7;
using (MemoryStream stream = new MemoryStream())
stream.Write(buffer, 0, buffer.Length);
stream.Seek(0, SeekOrigin.Begin);
using (StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(stream, encoding))
return reader.ReadToEnd();
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I'm Chris Small, a software engineer working in London. This is my tech blog. Find out more about me via GithubStackoverflowResume