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php – Why rand() isn't really random?

Posted by: admin July 12, 2020 Leave a comment


I wanted to put random points on an image (stars in space for some little fun side project)

I have this simple script.

$gd = imagecreatetruecolor(1000, 1000);
$white = imagecolorallocate($gd, 255, 255, 255);

for ($i = 0; $i < 100000; $i++) 
    $x = rand(1,1000);
    $y = rand(1,1000);

    imagesetpixel($gd, round($x),round($y), $white);

header('Content-Type: image/png');

Keep in mind this is just for testing, that is why I put 100000 in for loop so it shows the pattern I noticed emerging. We have 1 million pixel to use, still random X and Y creates this pattern instead:
enter image description here

So it is far from random. I know rand is not real random, that is why it isn’t good for cryptography. But I find no information about how it works and what should I do to avoid patterns like this.

How to&Answers:

Linear congruential random number generators (which is what PHP rand uses) will always display autocorrelation effects on an x-y plot.

You will have better results with mt_rand. This is a Mersenne Twister generator.


Rest assured: As of PHP 7.1.0, rand() uses the same random number generator as mt_rand().

This only is an issue for PHP < 7.1 see the Docs