Position of least significant bit that is set


I am looking for an efficient way to determine the position of the least significant bit that is set in an integer, e.g. for 0x0FF0 it would be 4.

A trivial implementation is this:

unsigned GetLowestBitPos(unsigned value)
   assert(value != 0); // handled separately

   unsigned pos = 0;
   while (!(value & 1))
      value >>= 1;
   return pos;

Any ideas how to squeeze some cycles out of it?

(Note: this question is for people that enjoy such things, not for people to tell me xyzoptimization is evil.)

[edit] Thanks everyone for the ideas! I've learnt a few other things, too. Cool!

4/20/2009 8:00:17 AM

Accepted Answer

Bit Twiddling Hacks offers an excellent collection of, er, bit twiddling hacks, with performance/optimisation discussion attached. My favourite solution for your problem (from that site) is «multiply and lookup»:

unsigned int v;  // find the number of trailing zeros in 32-bit v 
int r;           // result goes here
static const int MultiplyDeBruijnBitPosition[32] = 
  0, 1, 28, 2, 29, 14, 24, 3, 30, 22, 20, 15, 25, 17, 4, 8, 
  31, 27, 13, 23, 21, 19, 16, 7, 26, 12, 18, 6, 11, 5, 10, 9
r = MultiplyDeBruijnBitPosition[((uint32_t)((v & -v) * 0x077CB531U)) >> 27];

Helpful references:

4/28/2019 11:01:50 PM

Why not use the built-in ffs? (I grabbed a man page from Linux, but it's more widely available than that.)

ffs(3) - Linux man page


ffs - find first bit set in a word


#include <strings.h>
int ffs(int i);
#define _GNU_SOURCE
#include <string.h>
int ffsl(long int i);
int ffsll(long long int i);


The ffs() function returns the position of the first (least significant) bit set in the word i. The least significant bit is position 1 and the most significant position e.g. 32 or 64. The functions ffsll() and ffsl() do the same but take arguments of possibly different size.

Return Value

These functions return the position of the first bit set, or 0 if no bits are set in i.

Conforming to

4.3BSD, POSIX.1-2001.


BSD systems have a prototype in <string.h>.

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