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Diego Riccioly
Diego Riccioly

Download MNIST: A Simple and Effective Way to Learn Image Processing

How to Download MNIST Dataset and Use It for Machine Learning

The MNIST dataset is a large database of handwritten digits that is commonly used for training various image processing systems and machine learning models. It contains 60,000 training images and 10,000 testing images of digits from 0 to 9, each with a size of 28x28 pixels. The dataset is widely used as a benchmark for evaluating the performance of different algorithms and techniques in computer vision and deep learning.

In this article, we will show you how to download the MNIST dataset in different formats, how to load and plot the dataset in Python, and how to train a simple neural network on the dataset using Keras. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the MNIST dataset and how to use it for your own machine learning projects.

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What is MNIST Dataset and Why is it Useful?

MNIST Dataset Overview

The MNIST dataset was created in 1994 by Yann LeCun, Corinna Cortes, and Christopher J.C. Burges as a combination of two of NIST's databases: Special Database 1 and Special Database 3. Special Database 1 and Special Database 3 consist of digits written by high school students and employees of the United States Census Bureau, respectively. The creators felt that since NIST's training dataset was taken from American Census Bureau employees, while the testing dataset was taken from American high school students, it was not well-suited for machine learning experiments. Furthermore, the black and white images from NIST were normalized to fit into a 28x28 pixel bounding box and anti-aliased, which introduced grayscale levels.

The MNIST dataset has become one of the most popular datasets in the field of machine learning, especially for beginners who want to learn the basics of image processing and neural networks. The dataset is easy to use, has a simple format, and has a relatively small size. The dataset also provides a good balance between complexity and simplicity, as the digits are easy to recognize but still have some variations and noise. The dataset has been used for testing various methods and techniques, such as support vector machines, convolutional neural networks, generative adversarial networks, and more.

MNIST Dataset Applications

The MNIST dataset has many applications in different domains and industries. Some examples are:

  • Handwriting recognition: The MNIST dataset can be used to train models that can recognize handwritten digits or characters on paper documents, forms, checks, etc.

  • Optical character recognition (OCR): The MNIST dataset can be used to train models that can convert scanned images or PDF files into editable text.

  • Computer vision: The MNIST dataset can be used to train models that can perform tasks such as image segmentation, object detection, face recognition, etc.

  • Deep learning: The MNIST dataset can be used to train models that can generate realistic images, enhance image quality, perform style transfer, etc.

How to Download MNIST Dataset in Different Formats?

Download MNIST Dataset in Binary Format

The original source of the MNIST dataset is [here]( The dataset is stored in a proprietary binary format that consists of four files:

  • train-labels-idx1-ubyte.gz: training set labels (9,991 bytes)

  • t10k-images-idx3-ubyte.gz: test set images (1,625,281 bytes)

  • t10k-labels-idx1-ubyte.gz: test set labels (4,454 bytes)

To download the MNIST dataset in binary format, you can use the following commands in a terminal:

mkdir mnist cd mnist wget wget wget wget gunzip *.gz

This will create a folder named mnist and download and unzip the four files in it. Each file has a header that describes the number of images, the number of rows, and the number of columns. The rest of the file contains the pixel values of each image, stored as unsigned bytes. Each pixel has a value between 0 and 255, where 0 is black and 255 is white.

Download MNIST Dataset in CSV Format

If you prefer to work with the MNIST dataset in a more human-readable format, you can download it in CSV format from [here]( The dataset is stored in two files:

  • mnist_train.csv: training set (53 MB)

  • mnist_test.csv: test set (9 MB)

To download the MNIST dataset in CSV format, you can use the following commands in a terminal:

download mnist dataset for tensorflow

download mnist handwritten digits database

download mnist train and test images

download mnist data in csv format

download mnist dataset for python