¿Cómo generar un int aleatorio en C?

4 minutos de lectura

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¿Existe una función para generar un número int aleatorio en C? ¿O tendré que usar una biblioteca de terceros?

  • Ver también srand: por qué llamarlo sólo una vez.

    –Jonathan Leffler

    19 de febrero de 2015 a las 0:22

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Laurence Gonsalves

Él rand() función en <stdlib.h> devuelve un entero pseudoaleatorio entre 0 y RAND_MAX. Puedes usar srand(unsigned int seed) para establecer una semilla.

Es una práctica común utilizar el % operador junto con rand() para obtener un rango diferente (aunque tenga en cuenta que esto altera un poco la uniformidad). Por ejemplo:

/* random int between 0 and 19 */
int r = rand() % 20;

Si tu De Verdad Si te preocupas por la uniformidad, puedes hacer algo como esto:

/* Devuelve un entero en el rango [0, n).
 * Uses rand(), and so is affected-by/affects the same seed.
int randint(int n) {
  if ((n - 1) == RAND_MAX) {
    return rand();
  } else {
    // Supporting larger values for n would requires an even more
    // elaborate implementation that combines multiple calls to rand()
    assert (n <= RAND_MAX)

    // Chop off all of the values that would cause skew...
    int end = RAND_MAX / n; // truncate skew
    assert (end > 0);
    end *= n;

    // ... and ignore results from rand() that fall above that limit.
    // (Worst case the loop condition should succeed 50% of the time,
    // so we can expect to bail out of this loop pretty quickly.)
    int r;
    while ((r = rand()) >= end);

    return r % n;

  • It is a common practice alright, but not the correct one. See this and this.

    – Lazer

    Aug 1, 2010 at 7:33

  • @Lazer: That’s why I said “though bear in mind that this throws off the uniformity somewhat”.

    – Laurence Gonsalves

    Aug 2, 2010 at 7:00

  • @AbhimanyuAryan The % is the modulus operator. It gives you the remainder of an integer division, so x % n will always give you a number between 0 and n - 1 (as long as x and n are both positive). If you still find that confusing, try writing a program that has i count from 0 to 100, and prints out i % n for some n of your choosing smaller than 100.

    – Laurence Gonsalves

    Aug 14, 2014 at 23:52

  • @necromancer I went ahead and added a perfectly uniform solution.

    – Laurence Gonsalves

    Aug 15, 2014 at 3:03

  • @Lazer the second link you posted is actually still not perfectly uniform. Casting to a double and back doesn’t help. The first link you posted has a perfectly uniform solution, though it will loop a lot for small upper bounds. I’ve added a perfectly uniform solution to this answer that shouldn’t loop as much even for small upper bounds.

    – Laurence Gonsalves

    Aug 15, 2014 at 3:31

  • should libsodium RNG be seeded before calling randombytes_buf?

    – user2199593

    Aug 29, 2017 at 10:32

  • Just call sodium_init() at some point. Don’t worry about the RNG, it uses the kernel’s.

    – Scott Arciszewski

    Aug 29, 2017 at 18:06

  • Note: I approved the recent edit for sodium_init() even though it’s not necessarily part of my example because it’s an important detail.

    – Scott Arciszewski

    Jul 18, 2018 at 14:28

  • Why is the use of OpenSSL and other userland PRNGs discouraged? The documentation for OpenSSL’s RAND_bytes() says it’s a cryptographically secure PRNG.

    – gsingh2011

    Jan 12, 2021 at 1:30

  • @gsingh2011 Read sockpuppet.org/blog/2014/02/25/safely-generate-random-numbers

    – Scott Arciszewski

    Apr 19, 2021 at 3:18

Well, STL is C++, not C, so I don’t know what you want. If you want C, however, there is the rand() and srand() functions:

int rand(void);

void srand(unsigned seed);

These are both part of ANSI C. There is also the random() function:

long random(void);

But as far as I can tell, random() is not standard ANSI C. A third-party library may not be a bad idea, but it all depends on how random of a number you really need to generate.

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If you need better quality pseudo random numbers than what stdlib provides, check out Mersenne Twister. It’s faster, too. Sample implementations are plentiful, for example here.

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I had a serious issue with pseudo random number generator in my recent application: I repeatedly called my C program via a Python script and I was using as seed the following code:


However, since:

  • rand will generate the same pseudo random sequence give the same seed in srand (see man srand);
  • As already stated, time function changes only second from second: if your application is run multiple times within the same second, time will return the same value each time.

My program generated the same sequence of numbers.
You can do 3 things to solve this problem:

  1. mix time output with some other information changing on runs (in my application, the output name):

    srand(time(NULL) | getHashOfString(outputName))

    I used djb2 as my hash function.

  2. Increase time resolution. On my platform, clock_gettime was available, so I use it:

    struct timespec nanos;
    clock_gettime(CLOCK_MONOTONIC, &nanos)
  3. Use both methods together:

    struct timespec nanos;
    clock_gettime(CLOCK_MONOTONIC, &nanos)
    srand(nanos.tv_nsec | getHashOfString(outputName));

Option 3 ensures you (as far as I know) the best seed randomness, but it may create a difference only on very fast application.
In my opinion option 2 is a safe bet.

  • Even with these heuristics, don’t rely on rand() for cryptographic data.

    – domenukk

    Jul 26, 2019 at 16:03

  • rand() should not be used for cryptographic data, I agree. At least for me, my application didn’t involve cryptographic data, so for me it was ok the given method.

    – Koldar

    Jul 26, 2019 at 19:12

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