Counting Prime Numbers: Sieve of Eratosthenes using Java

Hello readers. Hope you all had a good week.

New results:

Old results:
CountPrime 5000 = 669 (Result in 10 seconds)
CountPrime 10000 = 1229 (Result in 85 seconds)

Last week I described here how to count prime numbers in a range using a rather unorthodox method called Hardy-Wright method. But as that method involves calculating factorials of all the numbers in the range [3..n], it is rather slow even when using multi-threading using a 8 core CPU.

So this week I was looking for a fast method to do this thing. I googled a bit and came across a method called Sieve of Eratosthenes.

Part 1: Sieve of Eratosthenes

The sieve of Eratosthenes is one of the most efficient ways to find all of the smaller primes. It is named after Eratosthenes of Cyrene, a Greek mathematician.

To find all the prime numbers less than or equal to a given integer n by Eratosthenes’ method:

  1. Create a list of consecutive integers from 2 through n: (2, 3, 4, …, n).
  2. Initially, let p equal 2, the smallest prime number.
  3. Enumerate the multiples of p by counting to n from 2p in increments of p, and mark them in the list (these will be 2p, 3p, 4p, … ; the p itself should not be marked).
  4. Find the first number greater than p in the list that is not marked. If there was no such number, stop. Otherwise, let p now equal this new number (which is the next prime), and repeat from step 3.

As a refinement, it is sufficient to mark the numbers in step 3 starting from p2, as all the smaller multiples of p will have already been marked at that point. This means that the algorithm is allowed to terminate in step 4 when p2 is greater than n.

Sieve of Eratosthenes: algorithm steps for primes below 121 (including optimization of starting from prime’s square).

Part 2: The Algorithm

The sieve of Eratosthenes can be expressed in pseudo-code, as follows:

Input: an integer n > 1
Let A be an array of Boolean values, indexed by integers 2 to n, initially all set to true.
for i = 2, 3, 4, …, not exceeding √n:
if A[i] is true:
for j = i2, i2+i, i2+2i, i2+3i, …, not exceeding n :
A[j] := false
Output: all i such that A[i] is true.

So now we build a java program to execute this algorithm.

Please note the comments in the code to relate to the algorithm.

First we declare an array of Boolean, indexed from 0 to n, initially all set to true. We’ll not consider the first 2 elements while getting the output.

private boolean isPrime[];
public SievePrime(int inp)
this.tempMax = inp; // Input: an integer n > 1
isPrime = new boolean[tempMax + 1]; // A be an array of Boolean values
for (int i = 0; i <= tempMax; i++)
isPrime[i] = true; // initially all set to true

Then we calculate the part “not exceeding √n” followed by the nested for loops to count the prime.

int sqrtLimit = (int)Math.sqrt(tempMax);
for (int i = tempMin; i <= sqrtLimit; i++)
// for j = i2, i2+i, i2+2i, i2+3i, ..., not exceeding n :
ctr = 0;
mul = ((i * i) + (ctr * i));
while(mul <= tempMax)
isPrime[mul] = false; // A[j] := false
mul = ((i * i) + (ctr * i));

Then we get the Output: all i such that A[i] is true.

// tempMin is 2, we are discarding the first two elements
for(int i = tempMin; i <= tempMax; i++)
System.out.println("Result: " + finalCount);

Part 3: Test and Benchmark

Alright, so that now we’ve built our program, it’s time to test it and get the timings. You can verify the results from here. And below is a screenshot of outputs of up to 1 billion.


As you can see we could find primes till 1 million in well below the 1 second mark. Things only got slower for the input of 1 billion which took almost 19 seconds to complete. Not bad though.

The full source code is available here to download.

Signing off here. And as always, happy learning and keep coding.

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