Robert G. Brown
Duke University Physics Department
Durham, NC 27708-0305
Copyright Robert G. Brown, 2024
Dieharder: A Random Number Test Suite
Robert G. Brown (rgb)
Welcome to the dieharder distribution website.
Version 3.29.4beta is the current snapshot. Some of the documentation
below may not quite be caught up to it, but it should be close.
Dieharder is a random number generator (rng) testing suite.
It is intended to test generators, not files of possibly
random numbers as the latter is a fallacious view of what it means
to be random. Is the number 7 random? If it is generated by a random
process, it might be. If it is made up to serve the purpose of some
argument (like this one) it is not. Perfect random number generators
produce "unlikely" sequences of random numbers -- at exactly the right
average rate. Testing a rng is therefore quite subtle.
dieharder is a tool designed to permit one to push a weak generator
to unambiguous failure (at the e.g. 0.0001% level), not leave one in the
"limbo" of 1% or 5% maybe-failure. It also contains many tests and is
extensible so that eventually it will contain many more tests than it
If you are using dieharder for testing rngs either in one of its
prebuilt versions (rpm or apt) or built from source (which gives you the
ability to e.g. add more tests or integrate your rng directly with
dieharder for ease of use) you may want to join either or both of the
mailing lists here. The former should be very low traffic -- basically
announcing when a snapshot makes it through development to where I'm
proud of it. The latter will be a bit more active, and is a good place
to post bug reports, patches, suggestions, fixes, complaints and
generally participate in the development process.
At the suggestion of Linas Vepstas on the Gnu Scientific Library
(GSL) list this GPL'd suite of random number tests will be named
"Dieharder". Using a movie sequel pun for the name is a double tribute
to George Marsaglia, whose "Diehard battery of
tests" of random number generators has enjoyed years of enduring
usefulness as a test suite.
The dieharder suite is more than just the diehard tests cleaned up
and given a pretty GPL'd source face in native C. Tests from the Statistical Test Suite (STS)
developed by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)
are being incorporated, as are new tests developed by rgb. Where
possible or appropriate, all tests that can be parameterized
("cranked up") to where failure, at least, is unambiguous are so
parameterized and controllable from the command line.
A further design goal is to provide some indication of why a
generator fails a test, where such information can be extracted during
the test process and placed in usable form. For example, the
bit-distribution tests should (eventually) be able to display the actual
histogram for the different bit ntuplets.
Dieharder is by design extensible. It is intended to be the "Swiss
army knife of random number test suites", or if you prefer, "the last
suite you'll ever ware" for testing random numbers.
- TechExpo 2011 Talk
(Duke). A short talk given at a Duke's Tech Expo in 2011 as an
overview of random number generator testing. Good for beginners.
Practice in (Pseudo) Random Number Generation for
Bioinformatics Applications by David Jones, UCL Bioinformatics Group
(E-mail: d dot jones@cs dot ucl dot ac dot uk). A really excellent
"must read" guideline for anyone thinking of using random number
generators in an actual application. My own advice differs only in that
I endorse using (well tested) Gnu Scientific Library random number
generators as they are generally portable and open source, hence well
tested. Several of Jones' implementation of Marsaglia's KISS-family rngs
have been added to dieharder and will shortly be added to the GSL under
the GPL for general use.
Dieharder can be freely downloaded from the Dieharder
download site. On this page there should be a long list of previous
versions of dieharder, and it should tell you what is the current
snapshot. The version numbers have the following specific
meaning which is a bit different than usual:
- First number (major). Bumped only when major goals in the design
roadmap are reached (for example, finishing all the diehard tests).
Version 1.x.x, for example, means that ALL of diehard (and more) is now
incorporated in the program. Version 2.x.x means that the tests
themselves have been split off into the libdieharder library, so that
they can be linked into scripting languages such as R, new UIs, or user
code. 3.x.x would be expected to indicate that the entire STS suite is
incorporated, and so on.
- Second number (first minor). This number indicates the number of
tests currently supported. When it bumps, it means new tests have been
added from e.g. STS, Knuth, Marsaglia and Tsang, rgb, or elsewhere.
- Third number (second minor). This number is bumped when
significant features are added or altered. Bug fixes bump this number,
usually after a few bumps of the release number for testing snapshots.
This number and the release are reset to 0 when the major is bumped or a
new test is added to maintain the strictly increasing numerical value on
which e.g. yum upgrades rely.
The single-tree dieharder sources (.tgz and .src.rpm) files can be
downloaded from this directory. In addition, binary rpm's built on top
of Fedora Core whatever (for either i386 or both of x86_64) may be
present. Be warned: the GSL is a build requirement. The current
packaging builds both the library and the dieharder UI from a single
source rpm, or from running "make" in the toplevel directory of the
source tarball. With a bit of effort (making a private rpm building
tree), "make rpm" should work for you as well in this toplevel
This project is under very active development. Considerable effort
is being expended so that the suite will "run out of the box" to produce
a reasonably understandable report for any given random number generator
it supports via the "-a" flag, in addition to the ability to
considerably vary most specific tests as applied to the generator. A
brief synopsis of command options to get you started is presented below.
In general, though, documentation (including this page, the man page,
and built-in documentation) may lag the bleeding edge snapshot by a few
days or more.
An rpm installation note from Court Shrock:
I was reading about your work on dieharder. First, some info
about getting dieharder working in Gentoo:
emerge rpm gsl
rpm -i --nodeps dieharder-0.6.11-1.i386.rpm
Rebuilding from tarball source should always work as well, and if you
are planning to play a lot with the tool may be a desireable way to
proceed as there are some documentation goodies in the ./doc
subdirectory and the ./manual subdirectory of the source tarball (such
as the original diehard test descriptions and the STS white paper).
George Marsaglia retired from FSU in 1996. For a brief time diehard
appeared to have finally disappeared from FSU webspace, but what had
really happened is google's favorite path to it had disappeared when his
personal home directory was removed. Diehard is still there, at the URL
as well as at a Hong Kong website. The source code of diehard itself is
(of course) Copyright George Marsaglia but Marsaglia did not incorporate
an explicit license into his code which muddles the issue of how
and when it can be distributed, freely or otherwise. Existing diehard
sources are not directly incorporated into dieharder in source
form for that reason, to keep authorship and GPL licensing issues
Note that the same is not true about data. Several of the diehard
tests require that one use precomputed numbers as e.g. target mean,
sigma for some test statistic. Obviously in these cases we use the same
numbers as diehard so we get the same, or comparable, results. These
numbers were all developed with support from Federal grants and have all
been published in the literature, though, and should therefore be in the
public domain as far as reuse in a program is concerned.
Note also that most of the diehard tests are modified in
dieharder, usually in a way that should improve them. There are three
improvements that were basically always made if possible.
- The number of test sample p-value that contribute to the final
Kolmogorov-Smirnov test for the uniformity of the distribution of
p-values of the test statistic is a variable with default 100, which is
much larger than most diehard default values. This change alone
causes many generators that are asserted to "pass diehard" to in fact
fail -- any given test run generates a p-value that is acceptable, but
the distribution of p-values is not uniform.
- The number of actual samples within a test that contribute
to the single-run test statistic was made a variable when possible.
This was generally possible when the target was an easily computable
function of the number of samples, but a number of the tests have
pre-computed targets for specific numbers of samples and that number
cannot be varied because no general function is known relating the
target value to the number of samples.
- Many of diehard's tests investigated overlapping bit sequences.
Overlapping sequences are not independent and one has to account for
covariance between the samples (or a gradually vanishing degree of
autocorrelation between sequential samples with gradually decreasing
overlap). This was generally done at least in part because it used
file-based input of random numbers and the size of files that could
reasonably be generated and tested in the mid-90's contained on the
order of a million random deviates.
Unfortunately, some of the diehard tests that rely on weak inverses
of the covariance matrices associated with overlapping samples seem to
have errors in their implementation, whether in the original diehard
(covariance) data or in dieharder-specific code it is difficult to say.
Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to limit the number of random
numbers drawn from a generator when running an integrated test, and
non-overlapping versions of these same tests do not require any
treatment of covariance. For that reason non-overlapping versions of
the questionable tests have been provided where possible (in particular
testing permutations and sums) and the overlapping versions of those
tests are deprecated pending a resolution of the apparent errors.
In a few cases other variations are possible for specific tests.
This should be noted in the built-in test documentation for that test
Aside from these major differences, note that the algorithms were
independently written more or less from the test descriptions alone
(sometimes illuminated by a look at the code implementations, but only
to clear up just what was meant by the description). They may well do
things in a different (but equally valid) order or using different (but
ultimately equivalent) algorithms altogether and hence produce slightly
different (but equally valid) results even when run on the same data
with the same basic parameters. Then, there may be bugs in the
code, which might have the same general effect. Finally, it is always
possible that diehard implementations have bugs and can be in
error. Your Mileage May Vary. Be Warned.
The primary point of dieharder (like diehard before it) is to make it
easy to time and test (pseudo)random number generators, both software
and hardware, for a variety of purposes in research and cryptography.
The tool is built entirely on top of the GSL's random number generator
interface and uses a variety of other GSL tools (e.g. sort, erfc,
incomplete gamma, distribution generators) in its operation.
Dieharder differs significantly from diehard in many ways. For
example, diehard uses file based sources of random numbers exclusively
and by default works with only roughly ten million random numbers in
such a file. However, modern random number generators in a typical
simulation application can easily need to generate 10^18 or more random
numbers, generated from hundreds, thousands, millions of different seeds
in independent (parallelized) simulation threads, as the application
runs over a period of months to years. Those applications can easily be
sensitive to rng weaknesses that might not be revealed by sequences as
short as 10^7 uints in length even with excellent and sensitive
tests. One of dieharder's primary design goals was to permit tests to
be run on very long sequences.
To facilitate this, dieharder prefers to test generators that
have been wrapped up in a GSL-compatible interface so that they can
return an unbounded stream of random numbers -- as many as any
single test or the entire suite of tests might require. Numerous
examples are provided of how one can wrap one's own random number
generator so that it is can be called via the GSL interface.
Dieharder also supports file-based input three distinct ways. The
simplest is to use the (raw binary) stdin interface to pipe a bit stream
from any rng, hardware or software, through dieharder for
testing. In addition, one can use "direct" file input of either raw
binary or ascii formatted (usually uint) random numbers. The man page
contains examples of how to do all three of these things, and dieharder
itself can generate sample files to use as templates for the appropriate
Note Well! Dieharder can consume a lot of random
numbers in the course of running all the tests! To facilitate this,
dieharder should (as of 2.27.11 and beyond) support large file (> 2GB)
input, although this is still experimental. Large files are clunky and
relatively slow, and the LFS (large file system) in linux/gcc is still
relatively new and may have portability issues if dieharder is built
with a non-gcc compiler. It is therefore strongly recommended
that both hardware and software generators be tested by being wrapped
within the GSL interface by emulating the source code examples or that
the pipe/stdin interface be used so that they can return an essentially
unbounded rng stream.
Dieharder also goes beyond diehard in that it is deliberately
extensible. In addition to implementing all of the diehard tests it is
expected that dieharder will eventually contain all of the NIST STS and
a variety of tests contributed by users, invented by the dieharder
authors, or implemented from descriptions in the literature. As a true
open source project, dieharder can eventually contain all rng
tests that prove useful in one place with a consistent interface that
permits one to apply those tests to many generators for purposes of
comparison and validation of the tests themselves as much as the
generators. In other words, it is intended to be a vehicle for the
computer science of random number generation testing as well as a
practical test harness for random number generators.
To expand on this, the development of dieharder was motivated by the
following, in rough order of importance:
- To provide a readily available, rpm- or apt- installable
toolset so that "consumers" of random numbers (who typically use
large numbers of random numbers in e.g. simulation or other
research) can test the generator(s) they are using to verify their
quality or lack thereof.
- To provide a very simple user interface for that toolset for
random number consumers. At the moment, this means a command line
interface (CLI) that can easily be embedded in scripts or run repeatedly
with different parameters. A graphical user interface (GUI) is on the
list of things to do, although it adds little to the practical utility
of the tool.
- To provide lots of knobs and dials and low level control for
statistical researchers that want to study particular generators with
particular tests in more detail. This includes full access to test
sources -- no parameter or aspect of the test algorithms is "hidden" and
needs to be taken on faith.
- To have the entire test code and documentation be fully Gnu
Public Licensed and hence openly available for adaptation, testing,
comment, and modification so that the testing suite itself becomes (over
- To be extensible. Dieharder provides a fairly simple
API for adding new tests with a common set of low-level testing
tools and a common test structure that leads (one hopes) to an
unambiguous decision to accept or reject any given random number
generator on the basis of any given test for a suitable choice of
controllable test parameters.
- To allow all researchers to be able to directly test, in
particular, the random number generators interfaced with the GSL.
This is a deliberate design decision justified by the extremely large
and growing number of random number generators prebuilt into the GSL and
the ease of adding new ones (either contributing them to the project or
for the sole purpose of local testing).
- To allow researchers that use e.g. distributions directly
generated by GSL routines (which can in principle fail two ways, due to
the failure of the underlying random number generator or due to a
failure of the generating algorithm) to be able to directly validate
their particular generator/distribution combination at the cost of
implementing a suitable test in dieharder (using the code of existing
tests as a template).
- To allow dieharder to be directly interfaced with other tools
and interfaces. For example, dieharder can be directly called
within the R interface, permitting its rngs to be tested and R-based
graphics and tools to be used to analyze test results. Note well,
however, that because it uses the GSL (which is GPL viral) dieharder
itself is GPL viral and cannot be embedded directly into a non-GPL tool
such as matlab. It can, of course, be used to generate p-value
data that is passed on to matlab (or any other graphing or analysis
Although this tool is being developed on Linux/GCC-based platforms,
it should port with no particular difficulty to other Unix-like
environments (at least ones that also support the GSL), with the further
warning that certain features (in particular large file support) may
require tweaking and that the dieharder authors may not be able to help
you perform that tweaking.
Essential Usage Synopsis
If you compile the test or install the provided binary rpm's and run
it should run -a(ll) tests on the default GSL generator.
Choose alternative tests with -g number where:
dieharder -g -1
will list all possible numbers known to the current snapshot of the
should list all the tests implemented in the current snapshop of
DieHarder. Finally, the venerable and time tested:
provides a Usage synopsis (which can quite long) and
is the (installed) man page, which may or many not be completely up
to date as the suite is under active development. For developers,
additional documentation is available in the toplevel directory or doc
subdirectory of the source tree. Eventually, a complete DieHard manual
in printable PDF form will be available both on this website and in
List of Random Number Generators and Tests
List of GSL and user-defined random number generators that can be
tested by dieharder:
# dieharder version 3.29.4beta Copyright 2003 Robert G. Brown #
# Id Test Name | Id Test Name | Id Test Name #
| 000 borosh13 |001 cmrg |002 coveyou |
| 003 fishman18 |004 fishman20 |005 fishman2x |
| 006 gfsr4 |007 knuthran |008 knuthran2 |
| 009 knuthran2002 |010 lecuyer21 |011 minstd |
| 012 mrg |013 mt19937 |014 mt19937_1999 |
| 015 mt19937_1998 |016 r250 |017 ran0 |
| 018 ran1 |019 ran2 |020 ran3 |
| 021 rand |022 rand48 |023 random128-bsd |
| 024 random128-glibc2 |025 random128-libc5 |026 random256-bsd |
| 027 random256-glibc2 |028 random256-libc5 |029 random32-bsd |
| 030 random32-glibc2 |031 random32-libc5 |032 random64-bsd |
| 033 random64-glibc2 |034 random64-libc5 |035 random8-bsd |
| 036 random8-glibc2 |037 random8-libc5 |038 random-bsd |
| 039 random-glibc2 |040 random-libc5 |041 randu |
| 042 ranf |043 ranlux |044 ranlux389 |
| 045 ranlxd1 |046 ranlxd2 |047 ranlxs0 |
| 048 ranlxs1 |049 ranlxs2 |050 ranmar |
| 051 slatec |052 taus |053 taus2 |
| 054 taus113 |055 transputer |056 tt800 |
| 057 uni |058 uni32 |059 vax |
| 060 waterman14 |061 zuf | |
| 200 stdin_input_raw |201 file_input_raw |202 file_input |
| 203 ca |204 uvag |205 AES_OFB |
| 206 Threefish_OFB | | |
| 400 R_wichmann_hill |401 R_marsaglia_multic. |402 R_super_duper |
| 403 R_mersenne_twister |404 R_knuth_taocp |405 R_knuth_taocp2 |
| 500 /dev/random |501 /dev/urandom | |
| 600 empty | | |
Two "gold standard" generators in particular are provided to "test
the test" -- AES_OFB and Threefish_OFB are both cryptographic generators
and should be quite random. gfsr4, mt19937, and taus (and several
others) are very good generators in the GSL, as well. If you are
developing a new rng, it should compare decently with these generators
on dieharder test runs.
Note that the stdin_input_raw interface (-g 200) is a "universal"
interface. Any generator that can produce a (continuous) stream of
presumably random bits can be tested with dieharder. The easiest way to
demonstrate this is by running:
dieharder -S 1 -B -o -t 1000000000 | dieharder -g 75 -r 3 -n 2
where the first invocation of dieharder generates a stream of binary
bits drawn from the default generator with seed 1 and the second reads
those bits from stdin and tests them with the rgb bitdist test on two
bit sequences. Compare the output to:
dieharder -S 1 -r 3 -n 2
which runs the same test on the same generator with the same seed
internally. They should be the same.
Similarly the file_input generator requires a file of "cooked" (ascii
readable) random numbers, one per line, with a header that describes the
format to dieharder. Note Well! File or stream input rands (with any
of the three methods for input) are delivered to the tests on demand,
but if the test needs more than are available dieharder either fails (in
the case of a stdin stream) or rewinds the file and cycles through it
again, and again, and again as needed. Obviously this significantly
reduces the sample space and can lead to completely incorrect results
for the p-value histograms unless there are enough rands to run EACH
test without repetition (it is harmless to reuse the sequence for
different tests). Let the user beware!
List of the CURRENT fully implemented tests (as of the 08/18/08
# dieharder version 3.29.4beta Copyright 2003 Robert G. Brown #
Installed dieharder tests:
Test Number Test Name Test Reliability
-d 0 Diehard Birthdays Test Good
-d 1 Diehard OPERM5 Test Suspect
-d 2 Diehard 32x32 Binary Rank Test Good
-d 3 Diehard 6x8 Binary Rank Test Good
-d 4 Diehard Bitstream Test Good
-d 5 Diehard OPSO Good
-d 6 Diehard OQSO Test Good
-d 7 Diehard DNA Test Good
-d 8 Diehard Count the 1s (stream) Test Good
-d 9 Diehard Count the 1s Test (byte) Good
-d 10 Diehard Parking Lot Test Good
-d 11 Diehard Minimum Distance (2d Circle) Test Good
-d 12 Diehard 3d Sphere (Minimum Distance) Test Good
-d 13 Diehard Squeeze Test Good
-d 14 Diehard Sums Test Do Not Use
-d 15 Diehard Runs Test Good
-d 16 Diehard Craps Test Good
-d 17 Marsaglia and Tsang GCD Test Good
-d 100 STS Monobit Test Good
-d 101 STS Runs Test Good
-d 102 STS Serial Test (Generalized) Good
-d 200 RGB Bit Distribution Test Good
-d 201 RGB Generalized Minimum Distance Test Good
-d 202 RGB Permutations Test Good
-d 203 RGB Lagged Sum Test Good
-d 204 RGB Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test Test Good
Full descriptions of the tests are available from within the tool.
For example, enter:
rgb@lilith|B:1003>./dieharder -d 203 -h
OK, what is dtest_num = 203
# RGB Lagged Sums Test
# This package contains many very lovely tests. Very few of them,
# however, test for lagged correlations -- the possibility that
# the random number generator has a bitlevel correlation after
# some fixed number of intervening bits.
# The lagged sums test is therefore very simple. One simply adds up
# uniform deviates sampled from the rng, skipping lag samples in between
# each rand used. The mean of tsamples samples thus summed should be
# 0.5*tsamples. The standard deviation should be sqrt(tsamples/12).
# The experimental values of the sum are thus converted into a
# p-value (using the erf()) and a ks-test applied to psamples of them.
Note that all tests have been independently rewritten from their
description, and may be functionally modified or extended relative to
the original source code published in the originating suite(s). This
has proven to be absolutely necessary; dieharder stresses random number
generator tests as much as it stresses random number generators, and
tests with imprecise target statistics can return "failure" when the
fault is with the test, not the generator.
The author (rgb) bears complete responsibility for these changes,
subject to the standard GPL code disclaimer that the code has no
warranty. In essence, yes it may be my fault if they don't work but
using the tool is at your own risk and you can fix it if
it bothers you and/or I don't fix it first.
All tests are encapsulated to be as standard as possible in the way
they compute p-values from single statistics or from vectors of
statistics, and in the way they implement the underlying KS and chisq
tests. Diehard is now complete in dieharder (although two tests are
badly broken and should not be used), and attention will turn towards
implementing more selected tests from the STS and many other sources. A
road map of sorts (with full supporting documentation) is available on
request if volunteers wish to work on adding more GPL tests.
Note that a few tests appear to have stubborn bugs. In particular,
the diehard operm5 test seems to fail all generators in dieharder.
Several users have attempted to help debug this problem, and it
tentatively appears that the problem is in the original diehard code and
not just dieharder. There is extensive literature on overlapping tests,
which are highly non-trivial to implement and involve things like
forming the weak inverse of covariance matrices in order to correct for
overlapping (non-independent) statistics.
A revised version of overlapping permutations is underway (as an rgb
test), but is still buggy. A non-overlapping (rgb) permutations test is
provided now that should test much the same thing at the expense of
requiring more samples to do it.
Similarly, the diehard sums test appears to produce a systematically
non-flat distribution of p-values for all rngs tested, in particular for
the "gold standard" cryptographic generators aes and threefish, as well
as for the "good" generators in the GSL (mt19937, taus, gfsr4). It
seems very unlikely that all of these generators would be flawed in the
same way, so this test also should not be used to test your rng.
Thoughts for the Future/Wish List/To Do
- Tests of GSL random distribution (as opposed to number) generators,
as indirect tests of the generators that feed them.
- New tests, compressions of existing ones that are "different" but
really the same. Hyperplane tests. Spectral tests. Especially the bit
distribution test with user defineable lag or lag pattern (to look for
subtle, long period correlations in the bit patterns produced).
- Collaborators. Co-developers welcome, as are contributions or
suggestions from users. Note well that users have already provided
critical help debugging the early code! Part of the point of a GPL
project is that you are NOT at the mercy of a black box piece of code.
If you are using dieharder and are moderately expert at statistics and
random numbers and observe something odd, please help out!
I hope that even during its development, you find dieharder useful.
Remember, it is fully open source, so you can freely modify and
redistribute the code according to the rules laid out in the Gnu Public
License (version 2b), which might cost you as much as a beer one day.
In particular, you can easily add random number generators using the
provided examples as templates, or you can add tests of your own by
copying the general layout of the existing tests (working toward a
p-value per run, cumulating (say) 100 runs, and turning the resulting KS
test into an overall p-value). Best of all, you can look inside the
code and see how the tests work, which may inspire you to create a new
test -- or a new generator that can pass a test.
To conclude, if you have any interest in participating in the
development of dieharder, be sure to let me know, especially if you have
decent C coding skills (including familiarity with Subversion and the
GSL) and a basic knowledge of statistics. I even have documents to help
with the latter, if you have the programming skills and want to LEARN
statistics. Bug reports or suggestions are also welcome.
Submit bug reports, etc. to
rgb at phy dot duke dot edu