I have written a CSV parser to read in 12609000 lines of CSV data. Each line has 16 fields of both string and double type data. The following code takes about 40 seconds to parse the data. I would like to know if there is a better way of doing this which can make it even faster. I have seen recommendations to load all of the CSV data from the file at once into memory and then perform the parsing as in here.

I have tried it but didn't make too much of a difference. I am posting the core of my code which takes the longest time, about 37 out of the 40 seconds.

  // outBuffer is a (char*) to a char array containing the CSV 
  // string I load from the file. outBufferSize has the length
  // of outBuffer. 

  // Get number of lines in the file.
  int num_rows = 0;
  for(int i=0;i<outBufferSize;i++) {
    if (outBuffer[i]=='\n')

  // Assign required memory
  lastPtr     = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  lastPtr     = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  lastPtr     = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  bidPtr      = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  askPtr      = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  volPtr      = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  highPtr     = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  lowPtr      = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  bidSizePtr  = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  askSizePtr  = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));
  lastSizePtr = calloc(num_rows,sizeof(double));

  // Get the indices of end-of-line characters in outBuffer.
  int *line_ends = (int*) calloc(num_rows,sizeof(int));
  for(int i=0,j=0;i<outBufferSize;i++){
        line_ends[j++] = i;

  int line     = 0;
  int line_begin=0;
  char token[4096];

      line_begin = line_ends[line]+1;


      lastPtr[line]     = last;
      bidPtr[line]      = bid;
      askPtr[line]      = ask;
      volPtr[line]      = volume;
      highPtr[line]     = high;
      lowPtr[line]      = low;
      bidSizePtr[line]  = bid_size;
      askSizePtr[line]  = ask_size;
      lastSizePtr[line] = last_size;

  • \$\begingroup\$ Optimizing your code could help, but have you considered throwing more IOPS at the problem? \$\endgroup\$
    – chicks
    May 28, 2016 at 3:10

2 Answers 2


First, I would take the memcpy out of the loop. Just make token a char* and keep moving it to the next line_begin, and replace all the \n with null to terminate token. That will save you a lot of byte moving you don't need.

Second, you can put the &lastPtr[line] directly inside the sscanf, and avoid a reassignment from a temp variable.

Third, if you put all your values inside a struct and make a big array of that struct, instead of a bunch of separate arrays, it will put values that you access close together in time also close together in memory, which should help you avoid cache misses.


I agree with Karl's suggestions. There are a few extra things that you might consider.

  • check whether sscanf returns the expected value, which is the number of conversions performed. This should be a constant and if not correct, you should perhaps error and exit.

  • suppress assignment of fields that you don't want instead of using dummy variables. You can use the '*' to do this.

  • use %n to get the number of characters read from the input stream. You can use this instead of the array of line-endings to advance through the string. This saves you from scanning through the string the second time.

  • you might avoid the first scan through the string by mallocing an estimated size and reallocing if there is not enough space later. Maybe if you have control of the file format, you can write the number of lines as the 1st line of the input file to save this complication too.


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