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Brute-force Algorithm in Data Structures

Amit Kumar Ghosh  9 min read
19 Jun 2023


Do you ever find yourself wishing there was an easier way to solve complex problems? Have you heard of a brute force algorithm? Brute force algorithms are designed to attack problems with the simplest possible strategy try all available options until you find a solution! This article will explore and discuss what exactly these powerful techniques have to offer, how they can be used, and why they shouldn't be overlooked. We'll take a look at their many advantages as well as some potential drawbacks that need to be considered when utilizing them. So join us on this journey and discover the power of brute force algorithms today!

What is the Brute-force Algorithm

The Brute force Algorithm is a powerful tool used to solve complex problems that may seem impossible to decipher. It's a method of solving a problem by iterating through all possible solutions, which can be an incredibly time-consuming process. However, the Brute force Algorithm is also highly effective in finding solutions that other algorithms might miss. In essence, the Brute force Algorithm is all about trial and error, letting a computer work systematically through a range of possibilities until it arrives at the correct solution. Although this process may take longer than other algorithms, it can be very rewarding once you see the results.

Here's a general outline of the brute force algorithm:

  1. Define the problem: Clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and the constraints involved.
  2. Enumerate all possible solutions: Generate or iterate through all possible candidates for the solution. The number of candidates typically depends on the size of the problem and the constraints involved.
  3. Test each candidate: For each candidate solution, apply the problem constraints and evaluate whether it satisfies the required conditions.
  4. Select the correct solution: If a candidate solution satisfies all the required conditions, it is considered the correct solution. If multiple solutions are possible, you can choose the best one based on specific criteria.
  5. Analyze the time complexity: Brute force algorithms often have a high time complexity, especially when dealing with large problem spaces. It is important to analyze the efficiency of the algorithm and consider optimization techniques if necessary.

Visual Illustration of Brute force Algorithm

Let's consider a simple example: finding the maximum value in an array of numbers.

Start with an array of numbers:

  • [3, 7, 2, 9, 5]

Initialize a variable, let's call it max_value, to store the maximum value. Set max_value to the first element of the array:

  • max_value = 3

Iterate through the remaining elements of the array and compare each element with the current max_value. If a greater value is found, update max_value to the new maximum:

  • Compare 7 with 3: Since 7 is greater, update max_value to 7.
  • Compare 2 with 7: 7 is still greater, so no update is made.
  • Compare 9 with 7: Since 9 is greater, update max_value to 9.
  • Compare 5 with 9: 9 is still greater, so no update is made.

After iterating through all elements, max_value will contain the maximum value in the array:

  • max_value = 9

Here's a visualization of the steps described above:

  • Initial array: [3, 7, 2, 9, 5]

      3 7 2 9 5
       \ | | | /
        \ | | | /
         \ | | | /
          \| | | /
           v v v
       +---+ | | | |
       | 3 | | | | |
       +---+ v | | |
       | 7 | ---> | |
       +---+ | v | |
       | 2 | | ---> |
       +---+ v | v |
       | 9 | ---> | |
       +---+ v |
       | 5 | ----> |

  • Final maximum value: 9

This visualization demonstrates the brute force approach of comparing each element with the current maximum and updating it if a greater value is found. However, keep in mind that brute force algorithms are not always the most efficient solution for complex problems, as they can be computationally expensive.

Advantages of Brute-force Algorithm

  • Simplicity: Brute force algorithms are usually easy to understand and implement. They involve basic looping and iteration constructs, making them accessible even to novice programmers. This simplicity can be particularly useful when dealing with small problem sizes or when prototyping solutions.
  • Correctness: By systematically considering all possible solutions, a brute force algorithm guarantees finding the optimal solution, if one exists. It exhaustively checks all possibilities, leaving no room for overlooking potential solutions. This property is particularly important in situations where correctness is paramount, such as in security-related applications or mathematical proofs.
  • Reliability: Brute force algorithms are highly reliable due to their exhaustive nature. They are not influenced by specific data distributions or assumptions, as they evaluate every possible solution. This reliability can be advantageous in scenarios where data characteristics are unknown or unpredictable.
  • Scalability: Although brute force algorithms are often associated with high time and resource complexity, they can be suitable for problems with small input sizes. When the problem space is relatively limited, the brute force approach may provide acceptable performance. Additionally, with advancements in computational power, some problems that were previously considered infeasible for brute force methods have become tractable.
  • Versatility: Brute force algorithms can be applied to a wide range of problem domains. They do not require any specific problem-specific knowledge or heuristics, making them applicable in various contexts. Additionally, they can be used as a benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness of more sophisticated algorithms, providing a baseline for comparison

Disadvantages of Brute-force Algorithm

  • Time Complexity: Brute-force algorithms typically have a high time complexity, especially for large problem sizes. They explore all possible solutions exhaustively, which can result in an exponential number of iterations. As a result, the execution time can quickly become unmanageable or even infeasible for complex problems.
  • Inefficiency: Brute-force algorithms often evaluate many irrelevant or redundant solutions before finding the correct one. This inefficiency can be especially pronounced when the search space is large or when there are many constraints involved. Consequently, brute-force algorithms may waste computational resources on unnecessary calculations.
  • Memory Usage: Some brute-force algorithms require storing a large amount of data in memory, which can be problematic for memory-constrained systems or when dealing with massive data sets. As the problem size increases, the memory requirements of brute-force algorithms can become prohibitive.
  • Lack of Scalability: Brute-force algorithms are generally not scalable, meaning that they struggle to handle larger problem instances. As the input size grows, the exponential growth in computation time makes brute-force approaches impractical or impossible to apply.
  • Suboptimal Solutions: Brute-force algorithms explore all possible solutions, including those that are clearly suboptimal. This exhaustive search approach may not be necessary in many cases, as there may be more efficient algorithms or techniques available to solve the problem. Consequently, brute-force algorithms may not provide the most optimal solution within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Dependency on Problem Structure: The effectiveness of brute-force algorithms heavily relies on the structure of the problem. If the problem has inherent patterns or symmetries that can be exploited, more efficient algorithms specifically designed for that problem may exist. Brute-force approaches often overlook these structural properties, leading to unnecessarily long computation times.
  • Lack of Adaptability: Brute-force algorithms are typically rigid and inflexible. They follow a fixed pattern of exploring all possible solutions without adapting to the characteristics of the problem or leveraging any problem-specific knowledge. This lack of adaptability can result in inefficiency when there are opportunities for more intelligent search strategies

How to make a Brute Force Algorithm?

A brute force algorithm is a straightforward approach to solving a problem by exhaustively trying all possible solutions. It is not always the most efficient method, especially for large problem spaces, but it can be useful in certain situations. Here's a general outline of how you can create a brute force algorithm:

  • Understand the problem: Clearly define the problem you want to solve and determine the space of possible solutions. Identify the constraints and limitations.
  • Enumerate the search space: Determine all possible combinations or permutations of the problem's variables or parameters. This step requires careful consideration of the problem and its constraints.
  • Implement a loop: Create a loop structure to iterate through all possible solutions. The number of iterations will depend on the size of the search space and the complexity of the problem.
  • Generate and test solutions: Within each iteration of the loop, generate a specific solution and test its validity or evaluate its effectiveness against the problem's criteria. This step will vary depending on the nature of the problem you are solving.
  • Track the best solution: If the problem requires finding the best solution among all possible solutions, maintain a record of the best solution encountered so far. Update this record whenever a better solution is found.
  • Continue until all solutions are tested: Allow the loop to continue until all possible solutions have been evaluated. At the end of the loop, you will have either found the desired solution or identified the best solution based on the problem's criteria.

It's important to note that brute force algorithms can be computationally expensive, especially for large problem spaces. In many cases, there are more efficient algorithms available that can solve the problem more quickly. Consider the problem's characteristics and explore alternative algorithms if performance is a concern


In conclusion, the Brute Force Algorithm is an efficient strategy for solving many of today’s complex computing challenges. It has applications in a wide range of disciplines ranging from software engineering to cryptography. The Brute Force Algorithm works by trying every possible combination of solutions until it finds one that works. This can be time-consuming but it is effective in finding short-term solutions to difficult problems. So if you're looking for an efficient way to approach impenetrable computing problems, then why not try implementing the Brute Force Algorithm!

About Author
Amit Kumar Ghosh (SDE and Mentor)

A passionate professional with over 6 years of experience in development and training. He is passionate about learning new technologies and sharing his experience with professionals. He is an expert in C/C++, Java, Python and DSA.
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