Random string generation with upper case letters and digits


Question

I want to generate a string of size N.

It should be made up of numbers and uppercase English letters such as:

  • 6U1S75
  • 4Z4UKK
  • U911K4

How can I achieve this in a pythonic way?

1
1208
3/28/2019 6:10:36 PM

Accepted Answer

Answer in one line:

''.join(random.choice(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits) for _ in range(N))

or even shorter starting with Python 3.6 using random.choices():

''.join(random.choices(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits, k=N))

A cryptographically more secure version; see https://stackoverflow.com/a/23728630/2213647:

''.join(random.SystemRandom().choice(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits) for _ in range(N))

In details, with a clean function for further reuse:

>>> import string
>>> import random
>>> def id_generator(size=6, chars=string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits):
...    return ''.join(random.choice(chars) for _ in range(size))
...
>>> id_generator()
'G5G74W'
>>> id_generator(3, "6793YUIO")
'Y3U'

How does it work ?

We import string, a module that contains sequences of common ASCII characters, and random, a module that deals with random generation.

string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits just concatenates the list of characters representing uppercase ASCII chars and digits:

>>> string.ascii_uppercase
'ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ'
>>> string.digits
'0123456789'
>>> string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits
'ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789'

Then we use a list comprehension to create a list of 'n' elements:

>>> range(4) # range create a list of 'n' numbers
[0, 1, 2, 3]
>>> ['elem' for _ in range(4)] # we use range to create 4 times 'elem'
['elem', 'elem', 'elem', 'elem']

In the example above, we use [ to create the list, but we don't in the id_generator function so Python doesn't create the list in memory, but generates the elements on the fly, one by one (more about this here).

Instead of asking to create 'n' times the string elem, we will ask Python to create 'n' times a random character, picked from a sequence of characters:

>>> random.choice("abcde")
'a'
>>> random.choice("abcde")
'd'
>>> random.choice("abcde")
'b'

Therefore random.choice(chars) for _ in range(size) really is creating a sequence of size characters. Characters that are randomly picked from chars:

>>> [random.choice('abcde') for _ in range(3)]
['a', 'b', 'b']
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for _ in range(3)]
['e', 'b', 'e']
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for _ in range(3)]
['d', 'a', 'c']

Then we just join them with an empty string so the sequence becomes a string:

>>> ''.join(['a', 'b', 'b'])
'abb'
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for _ in range(3)]
['d', 'c', 'b']
>>> ''.join(random.choice('abcde') for _ in range(3))
'dac'
2365
8/4/2018 7:28:53 AM

This Stack Overflow quesion is the current top Google result for "random string Python". The current top answer is:

''.join(random.choice(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits) for _ in range(N))

This is an excellent method, but the PRNG in random is not cryptographically secure. I assume many people researching this question will want to generate random strings for encryption or passwords. You can do this securely by making a small change in the above code:

''.join(random.SystemRandom().choice(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits) for _ in range(N))

Using random.SystemRandom() instead of just random uses /dev/urandom on *nix machines and CryptGenRandom() in Windows. These are cryptographically secure PRNGs. Using random.choice instead of random.SystemRandom().choice in an application that requires a secure PRNG could be potentially devastating, and given the popularity of this question, I bet that mistake has been made many times already.

If you're using python3.6 or above, you can use the new secrets module as mentioned in MSeifert's answer:

''.join(secrets.choice(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits) for _ in range(N))

The module docs also discuss convenient ways to generate secure tokens and best practices.


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