Image sourced from: Wikipedia
An example of a download page offering the hash for verification.
Quite often on the internet when downloading files from trusted portals and websites you will receive a randomized string of text called a hash along with the file you are downloading.
If you have ever stopped and wondered what exactly this text is or why you would even need it then this post will be for you.
Enter hashes, in computing every single file on your hard drive has a unique identifier attached to it. If the file is changed then the hash code associated with it also changes. There are a large variety of different hashing algorithms which can be used such as MD5, SHA, SHA-1 and many more with each offering different benefits such as better verification and security.
Therefore when downloading files it is recommended to check the hashes of what you received with what the website provides you to ensure your copy isn’t corrupt/damaged or worse modified to include potential adware or other unwanted content.
This guide will cover a program called Hashtoolbox which is a free and opensource program designed to make the process of checking hashes quick and easy.
In order to get started head over to the official Hashtoolbox page and select the download button, at the time of writing this program supports Windows XP and higher.
Once downloaded you will have a ZIP file, go ahead and extract the folder to a suitable location like a USB or even your Desktop. The program itself is a portable .exe file so it can easily be run from a flash drive or stored in a folder without requiring installation.
Calculating your hash codes
Once you open up the program you will have a interface like this, simply go ahead and click on “select file” and find the file you want to check.
Once you choose the file on your computer click ok and Hashtoolbox will display the hashes for the file in all the different hashing algorithms as shown in the image here.
Once you have the strings you can then check those against the ones provided by the website you are downloading files from such as Linux distributions or large software packages to get some extra peace of mind before installing.
Hope you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful if so you can leave feedback for the program here and check out other work by agrtechnology.