Learning checked and unchecked context

Today, I am going to discuss about one of the rarely used but very useful keywords of C# that are called checked and unchecked context. I learnt this few days back.  These keywords can be used at certain scenarios and can save you from hazardous situations. This would be more useful when you are playing with lots of data and doing lots of operations over it.

So let’s start with a quiz. Just predict the result of the following code snippet

   int value = 5000000;
   int multiplier = 2500;
   int result = value * multiplier;
   Console.WriteLine(result);

What would be the result?
12500000000?   No

It would be -384901888. But how?

Because if you check the max value of int. It is 2147483647. Now you can see that the result of multiplication is higher than this max value. So you can think that the value displayed is min value of int. Which is certainly not desirable.

And even you would not get any overflow exception. So be cautious, while selecting the data types of variable whether it is a normal or temporary variable.

By default, Arithmetic overflow and underflow exception is turned off. You can turn it in on assembly level. For this, you can go to

Project->Properties->build tab-> advanced button. So you’ll get the following screen.

Here you can check the checkbox for arithmetic overflow/underflow and now if you run the code, you will get the OverflowException.

But this got enabled at assembly level and if you want to to have at some code snippet level then first uncheck the above marked checkbox and second you need to use the checked and unchecked keyword to have this feature.

So checked and unchecked keywords are provided for these scenarios. If you want to get exception if some values overflows or underflows.

  1
   int value = 5000000;
   int multiplier = 2500;
   int result = 0;
   checked
   {
   	result = value * multiplier;
   }

So if you run the above you’ll get the overflow exception again. What actually checked does, whenever a value is assigned to primitive variable, it the checks with the variable’s max value if the value is greater/lower than the max/min value, it throws overflow/underflow exception.

The above code  that is in checked block, can also be written as

int result = checked((int)(value * multiplier));

One need to be cautious while writing checked/unchecked keyword. This code would not throw any exception.

unchecked keyword also can be used if you don’t want to have a check for overflow/underflow. the code can be written as

            int value = 5000000;
            int multiplier = 2500;
            int result = 0;
            unchecked
            {
                result = value * multiplier;
            }
            Console.WriteLine(result);

If you have enabled overflow exception check at assembly level but don’t want it at certain situations then you can use unchecked keyword.

There are few key points, one need to remember-

  • In any case, you cannot rely on user input whether you have some validation or not. So it’s always recommended that you have this check and code for handling the overflow exception. Even if you are getting from some third party services etc, then also I would recommend this check.
  • You cannot rely on the following code, generally it does not throw overflow/underflow exception.
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
        	checked
            {
            	addition();
            }
            Console.ReadKey();
        }
    
        private static void addition()
        {
        	int value = 5000000;
        	int multiplier = 2500;
        	int result = 0;
        	result = value * multiplier;
        	Console.WriteLine(result);
        }
    

    I mean, one should write code statements in checked block. If you are calling any method from the checked/unchecked block, you cannot sure that it work as desired.

  • These checked/unchecked context works on CLR primitive types only.
  • System.Decimal is c# primitive type but not CLR. So checked/unchecked context has no effect on this.

I hope you all have enjoyed this feature if didn’t learn it earlier.

Who already aware of this feature, please share some more points that can be added here.

Cheers,
Brij

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