Brute Force Algorithms Explained

No matter which area of software development you specialize in, you have likely heard the term ‘brute force algorithm’. However, most people fail to truly understand what this term means and why it is so important.

Brute Force Explained

A brute force algorithm is not one specific type of algorithm, but rather a way to describe an algorithm’s design. Brute force algorithms test every single scenario rather than relying on a more efficient or effective way to accomplish the same task. In most cases a brute force algorithm is only utilized when other options cannot be used to solve a problem. It should be noted that brute force algorithms rely on the raw computing power of a system, for this reason they have very slow runtimes and usually bog down the machine that is running them.

Brute Force Example

A simple example of brute force algorithms is imagining trying to find a word in a dictionary. The easiest approach would be to find the first letter of the word and start from that section. However, a brute force algorithm would iterate through each page of the entire dictionary until it found the word that it was looking for. This is clearly not the most efficient or effective approach to solving the problem however it still is able to accomplish the same task.

Why Use Brute Force?

In most cases a brute force algorithm is only used in place of other more effective algorithms, especially if they are not suitable for solving a given problem. Since brute force algorithms are very demanding of resources such as time and computing power, they are often avoided altogether. However, it is still important to understand their purpose and why they are sometimes used.

Conclusion

Brute force algorithms should only be used in the worst case scenario. In most cases there are more appropriate algorithms to solve the same problem more efficiently and effectively. It should be noted that the runtime of a brute force algorithm is largely dependent on the size of the input. Although brute force algorithms are not commonly used, they still play a fundamental role in the development of more efficient code.

One More Thing

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