How to create a random string using PHP?


I know that the rand function in PHP generates random integers, but what is the best way to generate a random string such as:

Original string, 9 chars

$string = 'abcdefghi';

Example random string limiting to 6 chars

$string = 'ibfeca';

UPDATE: I have found tons of these types of functions, basically I'm trying to understand the logic behind each step.

UPDATE: The function should generate any amount of chars as required.

Please comment the parts if you reply.

10/27/2011 2:39:21 PM

Accepted Answer

Well, you didn't clarify all the questions I asked in my comment, but I'll assume that you want a function that can take a string of "possible" characters and a length of string to return. Commented thoroughly as requested, using more variables than I would normally, for clarity:

function get_random_string($valid_chars, $length)
    // start with an empty random string
    $random_string = "";

    // count the number of chars in the valid chars string so we know how many choices we have
    $num_valid_chars = strlen($valid_chars);

    // repeat the steps until we've created a string of the right length
    for ($i = 0; $i < $length; $i++)
        // pick a random number from 1 up to the number of valid chars
        $random_pick = mt_rand(1, $num_valid_chars);

        // take the random character out of the string of valid chars
        // subtract 1 from $random_pick because strings are indexed starting at 0, and we started picking at 1
        $random_char = $valid_chars[$random_pick-1];

        // add the randomly-chosen char onto the end of our string so far
        $random_string .= $random_char;

    // return our finished random string
    return $random_string;

To call this function with your example data, you'd call it something like:

$original_string = 'abcdefghi';
$random_string = get_random_string($original_string, 6);

Note that this function doesn't check for uniqueness in the valid chars passed to it. For example, if you called it with a valid chars string of 'AAAB', it would be three times more likely to choose an A for each letter as a B. That could be considered a bug or a feature, depending on your needs.

5/12/2009 5:26:09 PM

If you want to allow repetitive occurences of characters, you can use this function:

function randString($length, $charset='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789')
    $str = '';
    $count = strlen($charset);
    while ($length--) {
        $str .= $charset[mt_rand(0, $count-1)];
    return $str;

The basic algorithm is to generate <length> times a random number between 0 and <number of characters> − 1 we use as index to pick a character from our set and concatenate those characters. The 0 and <number of characters> − 1 bounds represent the bounds of the $charset string as the first character is addressed with $charset[0] and the last with $charset[count($charset) - 1].

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