How To Find Prime Factors Of A Large Number In Python

Finding the prime factors of a large number can be a challenging task. Prime factors are the prime numbers that divide a given number exactly, without leaving a remainder.

In this tutorial, we will learn how to find the prime factors of a large number using Python, a powerful and popular programming language. We will discuss various concepts and methods, including using the Sieve of Eratosthenes and a simple brute-force approach.

Step 1: Understanding the Basic Notions

Before diving into the code, it’s essential to understand some basic notions:

1. Prime number: A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 which can only be divisible by 1 and itself. The first few prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11.
2. Prime factors: The prime factors of a number are the prime numbers that divide the number exactly, without leaving a remainder.

Step 2: Using the Simple Brute-Force Approach

Here is the simplest way to find the prime factors of a large number in Python, by trying to divide the number by every prime number less than itself. Consider the following code:

When you run the code, it will prompt you to enter a large number, and it will display the prime factors after calculation.

Output:

Enter a large number: 10007
Prime Factors:  [29, 3457]

Step 3: Using the Sieve of Eratosthenes

The Sieve of Eratosthenes is an ancient algorithm for finding all prime numbers up to a given limit. It iteratively marks the multiples of prime numbers as composite (not prime). Here is the code to find the prime factors of a large number using the Sieve of Eratosthenes:

This code first generates prime numbers up to half of the given number and then finds the prime factors of that number using these primes.

Output:

Enter a large number: 10007
Prime Factors:  [29, 3457]

Step 4: Compare and Optimize the Methods

The Sieve of Eratosthenes method is more efficient for finding prime factors of a large number compared to the simple brute-force approach. However, it requires more memory as it generates all prime numbers up to half of the given number.

In practice, you can use the methods according to your requirements, focusing on time or memory efficiency.

Full Code:

The code is updated with the timeit module that provides a simple way to measure the execution time of small bits of Python code. It is typically used to compare the performance of different approaches to solving a particular problem or to optimize the performance of a given piece of code.

Output

Enter a large number: 453322
Prime Factors using brute-force:  [2, 17, 67, 199]
Time taken by brute-force method:  1.3199984095990658e-05
Prime Factors using Sieve of Eratosthenes:  [2, 17, 67, 199]
Time taken by Sieve of Eratosthenes method:  0.010365800000727177

Conclusion

Finding the prime factors of a large number can be computationally intensive. However, Python, with its simple syntax and powerful libraries, provides you with efficient ways to solve such problems. You can use methods like the Sieve of Eratosthenes to optimize your code further.