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Linear Search vs. Binary Search

30 Mar 2023
4 MIN READ
Last updated on: April 21, 2023
The purpose of searching algorithms is to find out whether a specific element is present in a data structure or...
Linear Search vs. Binary Search

The purpose of searching algorithms is to find out whether a specific element is present in a data structure or not. If the element can be found, an operation relevant to it will be performed. According to the traversing mechanism, search algorithms can be based on linear search or binary search. The primary difference between linear search and binary search is that while the former depends on sequential comparison, the latter follows the divide-and-conquer rule to find an element. 

Understanding the difference between linear search and binary search is crucial to figure out which method to use for searching an element. Dive into this article to gain details about the difference between linear search and binary search. 

What is Linear Search?

Linear search is a simple searching algorithm based on a sequential model. Unlike binary search, the linear search algorithm checks every item in a list to find the required element. Like stacks in data structures, a linear search algorithm will check elements in a particular order. A linear search, sometimes referred to as a sequential search and is suitable for searching over a small array or an unsorted array. 

When the element you are looking for is in the first position of the data structure, only one comparison would be sufficient. But an N number of comparisons will be required to find elements in the last position.  

What is Binary Search?

Binary search is an algorithm for finding an item from a sorted list of items. It is called binary search because it splits the array into two halves as part of the algorithm. It is also known as half-interval search, logarithmic search, or binary chop.

When you compare linear search and binary search, the binary search seems to be faster. But a significant difference between linear search and binary search is that you need to sort the items in a list before using the binary search algorithm. Click on this to understand more about sorting in data structures

Basically, the binary search can help you find any item by comparing the middlemost item of the collection. Therefore, one massive difference between linear search and binary search is that binary search can be completed within a short span. 

Major Differences between Linear search and Binary search

Several exciting data science projects for beginners demand the application of searching algorithms. Data analytics professionals often need to use linear vs. binary search for operations. You can understand everything about data science and analytics here: Data Science Vs. Data Analytics: Key Difference Between Data Science & Data Analytics. But if you want to understand the difference between linear search and binary search, keep scrolling down.

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Working

    In linear search vs binary search, linear search will iterate through different elements. The major difference between linear search and binary search in terms of working is that the linear search compares all the elements with the key that needs to be searched. But binary search can reduce the size of the array which should be searched, and the binary search compares the key with the mid element. 

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Implementation

    In linear search vs. binary search, the linear search can only be implemented on data structures allowing at least one-way traversal like linked lists and arrays whereas, the binary search can only be implemented on data structures supporting only two-way traversal. 

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Complexity

    The difference between linear search and binary search is that linear search is simpler to use and is less complex whereas the binary search is comparatively complicated. 

    A business analyst course will offer more details about the simplicity and complexity of linear search vs. binary search.

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Speed

    In linear search vs binary search, the latter is more complicated. But the binary search can be performed much faster, and there is a huge difference between linear search and binary search in terms of speed comparison. Basically, in large data set the speed of liner search become slow whereas, speed of binary search would be faster and will cost less.

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Data Structure

    A major difference between linear search and binary search can be spotted in terms of flexibility. Linear search is flexible with different data structures like lists, linked lists, arrays, and more. However, the binary search cannot be performed on every data structure. Since binary search is useful for multi-directional traversal, data structures like a single list cannot be used.

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Efficiency

    Linear search isn’t efficient for large data sets. But when you compare the difference between linear search and binary search, binary search will be perfect for large datasets.

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Prerequisites

    A difference between linear search and binary search can also be spotted in terms of prerequisites. In Linear vs binary searches, the linear search can be performed on sorted as well as random data, however binary search is only applicable to sorted datasets. 

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Use Case

    A difference between linear search and binary search is also prevalent in terms of use cases. The binary search is useful for large and sorted datasets.

  • Linear Search vs Binary Search: Dimensions

    Binary search can be implemented of only one-dimensional array whereas, Linear search can be used on both single and multidimensional array.

You can check the real-time application of data structures here. 

Comparison Factor Linear Search Binary Search
Algorithm Sequential searching Divide and conquer approach
Sorted List Not mandatory mandatory
Working Checks every element sequentially as long as a match can’t be found Divides a list in two halves from the middle on every iteration as long as the position of a target value cannot be spotted
Implementation Useful for data structures that enable traversal in a single way like arrays and linked list Useful only for data structures supporting two way traversal
Simplicity and Complexity Simple and less complex More complicated than linear search
Time Required 0 (n) 0 (log n)
Efficiency Not useful for large datasets More efficient for finding elements in large datasets
Best Case When an element can be found in the first position of an array When an element can be found at first split, the middle element of an array
Also Called Sequential search Half-interval search or logarithmic search

FAQ's

Which is faster, linear, or binary search?

If you compare linear search and binary search, binary search will prove to be faster and more efficient, particularly for larger data sets.

What is the difference between linear search and binary search?

The difference between linear search and binary search is that binary search does not scan every element in a list like linear search. Linear search is simpler while binary search is faster.

Which search algorithm is best?

In linear search vs. binary search, binary search is better. A major difference between linear search and binary search is that binary search can be more useful for searching elements in large data structures.

Why is binary search better than linear?

When you compare linear search vs. binary search, you will find binary search is better for finding elements in large data structures. The binary search uses the divide-and-conquer approach to find elements faster.

Where is linear searching used?

linear search is great for performing a single search in an unordered list. One of the prominent differences between linear search and binary search is that linear search can only be used in a list with few elements.

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