Python Program to Find HCF or GCD

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The concept of finding the Highest Common Factor (HCF), also known as the Greatest Common Divisor (GCD), is one of the fundamental operations in number theory. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to implementing a Python program for finding the HCF or GCD of two or more numbers. It will cover various algorithms, optimization techniques, and Pythonic best practices to help you understand and write effective code for this task.

What is HCF/GCD?

The Highest Common Factor (HCF) or Greatest Common Divisor (GCD) of two or more integers is the largest positive integer that divides each of the integers without leaving a remainder. For example, the GCD of 8 and 12 is 4.

Importance of Finding HCF/GCD

Finding the HCF/GCD is important for various reasons, such as:

  • Simplifying fractions
  • Solving Diophantine equations
  • Cryptographic algorithms
  • Polynomials and computational geometry

Python Built-In Functions

Python provides a built-in function math.gcd() to find the GCD of two numbers. Before diving into custom implementations, it’s worth mentioning this built-in solution for completeness.

import math

print(math.gcd(60, 48))  # Output: 12

Implementing Euclidean Algorithm

The Euclidean algorithm is the most common method for computing the GCD. It’s efficient and works for any two integers, whether they are positive, negative, or zero.

Here is a basic Python implementation:

def gcd(a, b):
    while b:
        a, b = b, a % b
    return a

print(gcd(60, 48))  # Output: 12

Implementing Extended Euclidean Algorithm

The Extended Euclidean Algorithm not only finds the GCD but also integers x and y such that ax + by = gcd(a, b).

Here’s the Python code to implement it:

def extended_gcd(a, b):
    if a == 0:
        return b, 0, 1
    gcd, x1, y1 = extended_gcd(b % a, a)
    x = y1 - (b // a) * x1
    y = x1
    return gcd, x, y

Implementing Brute-Force Method

The brute-force approach involves checking each number to see if it divides both a and b without leaving a remainder. It’s not an efficient method but is straightforward to implement.

def gcd_bruteforce(a, b):
    if a == 0 or b == 0:
        return 0
    for i in range(min(a, b), 0, -1):
        if a % i == 0 and b % i == 0:
            return i

print(gcd_bruteforce(60, 48))  # Output: 12

Implementing Recursive Method

The GCD of two numbers can also be found recursively.

def gcd_recursive(a, b):
    if b == 0:
        return a
        return gcd_recursive(b, a % b)

print(gcd_recursive(60, 48))  # Output: 12

Performance Considerations

When choosing an algorithm, consider the performance requirements of your application:

  • The Euclidean algorithm has a time complexity of O(log min(a, b)) and is usually sufficient for most purposes.
  • Brute-force methods should generally be avoided for large numbers due to their inefficiency.

Best Practices and Tips

  • If you’re working with more than two numbers, the GCD can be computed iteratively. gcd(a, b, c) = gcd(gcd(a, b), c)
  • Always validate input data to handle edge cases like negative numbers or zero.
  • For complex applications, consider using specialized libraries for number theory.


Finding the HCF/GCD is a fundamental operation with wide-ranging applications from simplifying fractions to cryptography. Python offers various ways to compute the GCD, including a built-in function and the capability to implement efficient algorithms like the Euclidean and Extended Euclidean methods.

This article has provided you with the knowledge and code samples to implement GCD finding methods in Python, along with performance considerations and best practices.

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