Keyword Analysis & Research: size_t c vs int

Keyword Analysis

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between size_t and unsigned int?

On a typical 64-bit system, the size_t will be 64-bit, but unsigned int will be 32 bit. So we cannot use them interchangeably. One standard recommendation is that the size_t be at most as big as an unsigned long.

What is size_t and why should we use it?

Using size_t appropriately makes your source code a little more self-documenting. When you see an object declared as a size_t, you immediately know it represents a size in bytes or an index, rather than an error code or a general arithmetic value. Expect to see me using size_t in other examples in upcoming columns.

When to use size_t?

size_t is commonly used for array indexing and loop counting. Programs that use other types, such as unsigned int, for array indexing may fail on, e.g. 64-bit systems when the index exceeds UINT_MAX or if it relies on 32-bit modular arithmetic.

Where is size_t defined?

size_t is an unsigned data type defined by several C/C++ standards, e.g. the C99 ISO/IEC 9899 standard, that is defined in stddef.h. 1 It can be further imported by inclusion of stdlib.h as this file internally sub includes stddef.h. This type is used to represent the size of an object.

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