June 24th, 2009

# Flipping Bits in C

**Bitwise programming techniques (manipulating the 1s and 0s of binary numbers) are simple, but hard to remember if you don't use them often.** Recently I've needed to perform a lot of bitwise operations. If I'm storing true/false (1-bit) information in variables, it's a waste of memory to assign a whole variable to the task (the smallest variable in C is a char, and it contains 8 bits). When cramming multiple values into individual variables, it's nice to know how to manipulate each bit of a variable.

```
// set the Nth bit of x to 0
x &= ~(1 << n);
// set the Nth bit of x to 1
x |= (1 << n);
// store the Nth bit of x in y (y becomes 0 or 1)
y = (x >> n) & 1;
// leave the lowest N bits of x alone and set higher bits to 0.
x &= (1 << (n + 1)) - 1;
// toggle the Nth bit of x
x ^= (1 << n);
// toggle every bit of x
x = ~x;
```

Markdown source code last modified on January 18th, 2021

--- title: Flipping Bits in C date: 2009-06-24 15:28:07 --- # Flipping Bits in C __Bitwise programming techniques (manipulating the 1s and 0s of binary numbers) are simple, but hard to remember if you don't use them often.__ Recently I've needed to perform a lot of bitwise operations. If I'm storing true/false (1-bit) information in variables, it's a waste of memory to assign a whole variable to the task (the smallest variable in C is a char, and it contains 8 bits). When cramming multiple values into individual variables, it's nice to know how to manipulate each bit of a variable. ```c // set the Nth bit of x to 0 x &= ~(1 << n); // set the Nth bit of x to 1 x |= (1 << n); // store the Nth bit of x in y (y becomes 0 or 1) y = (x >> n) & 1; // leave the lowest N bits of x alone and set higher bits to 0. x &= (1 << (n + 1)) - 1; // toggle the Nth bit of x x ^= (1 << n); // toggle every bit of x x = ~x; ```