What Is XOR in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

What Is XOR in Data Structure?

The XOR operation, also known as the exclusive OR operation, is a fundamental bitwise operation in computer programming and data structures. XOR stands for “exclusive or” because it returns true only if exactly one of the two operands is true.

Understanding the XOR Operation

The XOR operation takes two binary values and performs a comparison bit by bit. If the corresponding bits of the operands are different, it returns 1; otherwise, it returns 0. Here’s a truth table to illustrate this:

0 0 0
0 1 1
1 0 1
1 1 0

XOR in Data Structures and Algorithms:

The XOR operation has various applications in data structures and algorithms. One common use case is linked list manipulation, specifically for implementing a doubly linked list without using extra space for storing pointers to previous and next nodes.

Doubly Linked List Using XOR:

In a traditional doubly linked list, each node contains pointers to both the previous and next nodes. However, with XOR, we can store the XOR of the addresses of the previous and next nodes in a single pointer. This allows us to traverse the linked list in both directions without using additional memory for storing pointers.

Here’s an example to illustrate this:

  • Create a structure for each node in the linked list. The structure should contain a value and a pointer.
  • Define two variables: ‘prev’ and ‘curr’, initialized to NULL.
  • To insert a new node at the beginning of the list, create a new node and set its value. Set its pointer as XOR of ‘prev’ and NULL.
  • If ‘prev’ is not NULL, update its pointer by XORing the address of ‘curr’ with the address stored in its pointer.
  • Update ‘prev’ as ‘curr’ and ‘curr’ as newly created node.

Benefits of Using XOR:

The use of XOR in data structures offers several advantages:

  • Saves Memory: By storing two addresses in one pointer, we can reduce memory consumption, which is particularly useful when dealing with large data sets.
  • In-Place Operations: Operations like reversing a linked list or swapping elements in an array can be performed without requiring additional space for temporary variables.


XOR is an essential operation in computer programming and data structures. It allows us to perform bitwise operations efficiently while saving memory.

In data structures like linked lists, it enables us to implement efficient algorithms without using extra space for pointers. Understanding XOR opens up possibilities for optimizing code and solving complex problems more efficiently.

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