Because floating-point numbers represent real numbers, it is often mistakenly assumed that they can represent any simple fraction exactly. Floating-point numbers are subject to representational limitations just as integers are, and binary floating-point numbers cannot represent all real numbers exactly, even if they can be represented in a small number of decimal digits.

In addition, because floating-point numbers can represent large values, it is often mistakenly assumed that they can represent all significant digits of those values. To gain a large dynamic range, floating-point numbers maintain a fixed number of precision bits (also called the significand) and an exponent, which limit the number of significant digits they can represent.

Different implementations have different precision limitations, and to keep code portable, floating-point variables must not be used as the loop induction variable. See Goldberg's work for an introduction to this topic [Goldberg 1991].

For the purpose of this rule, a loop counter is an induction variable that is used as an operand of a comparison expression that is used as the controlling expression of a do, while, or for loop. An induction variable is a variable that gets increased or decreased by a fixed amount on every iteration of a loop [Aho 1986]. Furthermore, the change to the variable must occur directly in the loop body (rather than inside a function executed within the loop).

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, a floating-point variable is used as a loop counter. The decimal number 0.1 is a repeating fraction in binary and cannot be exactly represented as a binary floating-point number. Depending on the implementation, the loop may iterate 9 or 10 times.

void func(void) {
  for (float x = 0.1f; x <= 1.0f; x += 0.1f) {
    /* Loop may iterate 9 or 10 times */
  }
}

For example, when compiled with GCC or Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 and executed on an x86 processor, the loop is evaluated only nine times.

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, the loop counter is an integer from which the floating-point value is derived:

#include <stddef.h>
 
void func(void) {
  for (size_t count = 1; count <= 10; ++count) {
    float x = count / 10.0f;
    /* Loop iterates exactly 10 times */
  }
}

Noncompliant Code Example

In this noncompliant code example, a floating-point loop counter is incremented by an amount that is too small to change its value given its precision:

void func(void) {
  for (float x = 100000001.0f; x <= 100000010.0f; x += 1.0f) {
    /* Loop may not terminate */
  }
}

On many implementations, this produces an infinite loop.

Compliant Solution

In this compliant solution, the loop counter is an integer from which the floating-point value is derived. The variable x is assigned a computed value to reduce compounded rounding errors that are present in the noncompliant code example.

void func(void) {
  for (size_t count = 1; count <= 10; ++count) {
    float x = 100000000.0f + (count * 1.0f);
    /* Loop iterates exactly 10 times */
  }
}

Risk Assessment

The use of floating-point variables as loop counters can result in  unexpected behavior .

Rule

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

FLP30-C

Low

Probable

Low

P6

L2

Automated Detection

Tool

Version

Checker

Description

Astrée
for-loop-floatFully checked
Axivion Bauhaus Suite

CertC-FLP30Fully implemented
Clang
cert-flp30-cChecked by clang-tidy
CodeSonar
LANG.STRUCT.LOOP.FPCFloat-typed loop counter
Compass/ROSE




Coverity

MISRA C 2004 Rule 13.4

MISRA C 2012 Rule 14.1

Implemented
ECLAIR
CC2.FLP30Fully implemented
Klocwork
MISRA.FOR.COND.FLT
MISRA.FOR.COUNTER.FLT

LDRA tool suite

39 S

Fully implemented

Parasoft C/C++test
CERT_C-FLP30-a
Do not use floating point variables as loop counters
Polyspace Bug Finder

CERT C: Rule FLP30-C

Checks for use of float variable as loop counter (rule fully covered)

PRQA QA-C
3339, 3340, 3342Partially implemented
PRQA QA-C++

4234 
RuleChecker
for-loop-floatFully checked
SonarQube C/C++ Plugin

S2193Fully implemented
TrustInSoft Analyzer

non-terminatingExhaustively detects non-terminating statements (see one compliant and one non-compliant example).

Related Vulnerabilities

Search for vulnerabilities resulting from the violation of this rule on the CERT website.

Related Guidelines

Key here (explains table format and definitions)

Taxonomy

Taxonomy item

Relationship

CERT CFLP30-CPP. Do not use floating-point variables as loop countersPrior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
CERT Oracle Secure Coding Standard for JavaNUM09-J. Do not use floating-point variables as loop countersPrior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
ISO/IEC TR 24772:2013Floating-Point Arithmetic [PLF]Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Directive 1.1 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship
MISRA C:2012Rule 14.1 (required)Prior to 2018-01-12: CERT: Unspecified Relationship

Bibliography

[Aho 1986]
[Goldberg 1991]
[Lockheed Martin 05]AV Rule 197