rand, rand_r, srand — pseudo-random number generator


#include <stdlib.h>
int rand( void);  
int rand_r( unsigned int *seedp);
void srand( unsigned int seed);
[Note] Note
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
Since glibc 2.24:
_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 199506L Glibc 2.23 and earlier _POSIX_C_SOURCE


The rand() function returns a pseudo-random integer in the range 0 to RAND_MAX inclusive (i.e., the mathematical range [0, RAND_MAX]).

The srand() function sets its argument as the seed for a new sequence of pseudo-random integers to be returned by rand(). These sequences are repeatable by calling srand() with the same seed value.

If no seed value is provided, the rand() function is automatically seeded with a value of 1.

The function rand() is not reentrant, since it uses hidden state that is modified on each call. This might just be the seed value to be used by the next call, or it might be something more elaborate. In order to get reproducible behavior in a threaded application, this state must be made explicit; this can be done using the reentrant function rand_r().

Like rand(), rand_r() returns a pseudo-random integer in the range [0, RAND_MAX]. The seedp argument is a pointer to an unsigned int that is used to store state between calls. If rand_r() is called with the same initial value for the integer pointed to by seedp, and that value is not modified between calls, then the same pseudo-random sequence will result.

The value pointed to by the seedp argument of rand_r() provides only a very small amount of state, so this function will be a weak pseudo-random generator. Try drand48_r(3) instead.


The rand() and rand_r() functions return a value between 0 and RAND_MAX (inclusive). The srand() function returns no value.


For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

Interface Attribute Value
rand(), rand_r(), srand() Thread safety MT-Safe


The functions rand() and srand() conform to SVr4, 4.3BSD, C89, C99, POSIX.1-2001. The function rand_r() is from POSIX.1-2001. POSIX.1-2008 marks rand_r() as obsolete.


The versions of rand() and srand() in the Linux C Library use the same random number generator as random(3) and srandom(3), so the lower-order bits should be as random as the higher-order bits. However, on older rand() implementations, and on current implementations on different systems, the lower-order bits are much less random than the higher-order bits. Do not use this function in applications intended to be portable when good randomness is needed. (Use random(3) instead.)


POSIX.1-2001 gives the following example of an implementation of rand() and srand(), possibly useful when one needs the same sequence on two different machines.

static unsigned long next = 1;

/* RAND_MAX assumed to be 32767 */
int myrand(void) {
    next = next * 1103515245 + 12345;
    return((unsigned)(next/65536) % 32768);

void mysrand(unsigned int seed) {
    next = seed;

The following program can be used to display the pseudo-random sequence produced by rand() when given a particular seed.

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

main(int argc, char *argv[])
    int r, nloops;
    unsigned int seed;

    if (argc != 3) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Usage: %s <seed> <nloops>\n", argv[0]);

    seed = atoi(argv[1]);
    nloops = atoi(argv[2]);

    for (int j = 0; j < nloops; j++) {
        r =  rand();
        printf("%d\n", r);



drand48(3), random(3)


This page is part of release 5.11 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at−pages/.

  Copyright 1993 David Metcalfe (

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
manual provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
preserved on all copies.

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References consulted:
    Linux libc source code
    Lewine's _POSIX Programmer's Guide_ (O'Reilly & Associates, 1991)
    386BSD man pages

Modified 1993-03-29, David Metcalfe
Modified 1993-04-28, Lars Wirzenius
Modified 1993-07-24, Rik Faith (
Modified 1995-05-18, Rik Faith ( to add
         better discussion of problems with rand on other systems.
         (Thanks to Esa Hyyti{ (
Modified 1998-04-10, Nicolás Lichtmaier <>
         with contribution from Francesco Potorti <>
Modified 2003-11-15, aeb, added rand_r
2010-09-13, mtk, added example program