Tag Archives: Hare

Computer Algorithms: Detecting and Breaking a Loop in a Linked List

Introduction

Linked lists are one very common and handy data structure that can be used in many cases of the practical programming. In this post we’ll assume that we’re talking about singly linked list. This means that each item is pointed by it’s previous item and it points to it’s next item. In this scenario the first item of the list, its head, doesn’t have an ancestor and the last item doesn’t have a successor.

Singly Linked List
 

Sometimes, due to bugs or bad architecture or complexity of the applications we can have problems with lists. One very typical problem is having a loop, which in breve means that some of the items of the list is pointed twice, as shown on the image below.

Loop in a Singly Linked List
 

So in first place we need to be sure that there is a loop and then: how can we break it!

There are several algorithms on finding a loop, but here’s one very basic. It’s known as the Floyd’s algorithm or the algorithm of the tortoise and hare. Continue reading Computer Algorithms: Detecting and Breaking a Loop in a Linked List