If you're trying to optimize your program or measure its efficiency, it's very useful to know how much processor time it uses. For that, calendar time and elapsed times are useless because a process may spend time waiting for I/O or for other processes to use the CPU. However, you can get the information with the functions in this section.
CPU time (see Time Basics) is represented by the data type
clock_t, which is a number of clock ticks. It gives the
total amount of time a process has actively used a CPU since some
arbitrary event. On the GNU system, that event is the creation of the
process. While arbitrary in general, the event is always the same event
for any particular process, so you can always measure how much time on
the CPU a particular computation takes by examining the process' CPU
time before and after the computation.
In the GNU system,
clock_t is equivalent to
long int and
CLOCKS_PER_SEC is an integer value. But in other systems, both
clock_t and the macro
CLOCKS_PER_SEC can be either integer
or floating-point types. Casting CPU time values to
in the example above, makes sure that operations such as arithmetic and
printing work properly and consistently no matter what the underlying
Note that the clock can wrap around. On a 32bit system with
CLOCKS_PER_SEC set to one million this function will return the
same value approximately every 72 minutes.
For additional functions to examine a process' use of processor time, and to control it, See Resource Usage And Limitation.