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Global Variable in C

Last Updated on January 8, 2024 by Ankit Kochar

In C programming, a global variable is a variable that is declared outside any function and is accessible throughout the entire program. Unlike local variables, which are confined to the scope of a specific function, global variables retain their values across multiple function calls. Understanding how to use global variables in C is crucial for programmers seeking to manage data that needs to be shared across different parts of their codebase. This introduction delves into the basics of global variables and their significance in C programming. You can also refer to a local and global variables in python.

What is the Global Variable in C?

The Global Variable in c is usually declared just before the main function. To use memory efficiently, each programming language has different variables and their usage and syntaxes. A variable in a programming language is very useful. However, it is generally advised to avoid using global variables. Global variables can cause unaccounted problems in our programs because their values can be changed by any function.

Implementing singleton patterns and accessing registers in embedded systems are two examples of how global variables are used. Global variables can also be used to store constant values like pi in a program, or if a variable is used by multiple functions, we can declare it as global.

Example of a Global Variable in C in which we Declaring a Global Variable in C
A global variable can be declared by placing the variable outside of any function but within the scope of the entire program. For example, consider the following program:

Code Implementation

#include <stdio.h>
int num = 10;
void display();
int main()
    printf("Value of num: %d\n", num);
    return 0;
void display()
    printf("Value of num inside display function: %d\n", num);


Value of num: 10
Value of num inside display function: 10

In the above program, the variable num is declared outside of any function, making it a global variable. The value of num is set to 10. The main() function prints the value of num, which is 10, and then calls the display() function. The display() function also prints the value of num, which is still 10.

The global variable num is accessible from both the main() function and the display() function, as it has been declared outside of any function. The main() function sets the value of num to 10 and prints it using printf(). The display() function also has access to the global variable num, so it can print the value of num using printf() as well.

Use of Global Variable in C

We now know that global variables are useful because we discussed their definition. At the very beginning of the program, we define a global variable. These variables retain their value throughout the program’s lifespan.

The global variables can be accessed by any block or function in the program. This means that once declared, we can use global variables as often as needed, and they are available for use throughout the program’s lifetime.

Advantages of a Global Variable in C

Here are the advantages of a global variable in c

  • Accessibility: Global variables can be accessed from anywhere within a program, making them useful for sharing data between functions.
  • Scope: Global variables have a scope that extends throughout the entire program. This means that they can be accessed from any function within the program, including functions that are called from other functions.
  • Persistence: Global variables are initialized only once when the program starts and can retain their values throughout the lifetime of the program. This makes them useful for storing data that needs to be accessed by multiple functions over time.
  • Simplification: Global variables can simplify programming by reducing the number of parameters that need to be passed between functions. So this makes code simple and clear to read and also reduces the amount of memory needed
  • Initialization: Global variables can be initialized with a value when they are declared, which can make the code more efficient and reduce the number of lines of code needed to initialize the variable.

Disadvantages of a Global Variable in C

Here are the disadvantages of a global variable in c

  • Security: Global variables can make it difficult to enforce data security because they are accessible from any part of the program, which makes it easier for malicious code to change sensitive data
  • Readability and maintainability: Global variables can make it difficult to understand the code and its behavior because they can be modified by any part of the program.
  • So we can say global variables make code harder to debug especially when multiple developers are working.
  • Dependency: Global variables can create dependencies between different parts of the program, which can make it harder to make changes to the code. This can result in bugs, errors, and other problems that can be difficult to identify and fix.
  • Scalability: Global variables can make it difficult to scale a program as it grows in complexity or size. This is because global variables can introduce unexpected interactions between different parts of the program, which can result in performance issues, memory leaks, or other problems.
  • Testing: Global variables can make it harder to test a program because they can introduce unpredictable behavior that is difficult to control.

In conclusion, global variables in C offer a mechanism for maintaining shared data across functions, providing a way to pass information seamlessly between different parts of a program. While the use of global variables can simplify data sharing, it is important to exercise caution to avoid potential issues related to scope, naming conflicts, and unintended modifications. A thoughtful approach to their implementation can enhance code readability and maintainability in larger C programs.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) related to Global Variable in C

Here are the FAQs on the global variable in c

Q1: Can two global variables in different files have the same name?
Yes, two global variables in different files can have the same name without causing any conflicts. This is because each global variable has a unique scope that extends throughout the entire program, so the variables are separate and can be accessed independently.

Q2: How is a global variable declared in C?
To declare a global variable in C, you place the variable declaration outside of any function, typically at the beginning of the program or in a header file. For example:

int globalVar;  // Declaration of a global variable

Q3: Can global variables be modified by any function in the program?
Yes, global variables can be modified by any function that has access to them. However, it is essential to be mindful of potential side effects and unintended changes, as global variables can introduce challenges related to code maintainability.

Q4: What are the potential drawbacks of using global variables in C?
Using global variables can lead to issues such as naming conflicts, reduced encapsulation, and unintended modifications by multiple functions. Excessive reliance on global variables can also make code harder to understand and maintain.

Q5: When should global variables be used in C programming?
Global variables are best suited for situations where data needs to be shared across multiple functions or modules. However, it’s recommended to use them judiciously and consider alternatives, such as passing parameters between functions or using local variables within a controlled scope, to enhance code modularity and reduce potential issues.

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