# Pollard’s $p-1$ algorithm

Pollard’s $p-1$ method is an integer factorization algorithm  devised by John Pollard in 1974 to take advantage of Fermat’s little theorem  . Theoretically, trial division  always returns a result (though of course in practice the computing engine’s resources could be exhausted or the user might not to be around to care for the result). Pollard’s $p-1$ algorithm, on the other hand, was designed from the outset to cope with the possibility of failure to return a result.

Choose a test cap $B$ and call Pollard’s $p-1$ algorithm with a positive integer.

1. 1.
2. 2.

Choose an integer $a$ coprime   to $n$. If $n$ is odd (which can be tested easily enough by looking at the least significant bit) then one possible choice is $a=2$. For even $n$, we could choose $\lfloor\sqrt{n}\rfloor+1$.

3. 3.

Find the exponent $e$ such that $p^{e}\leq B$. Then for each $p, compute $b=a^{p^{e}}\mod n$ and see if $1<\gcd(b-1,n). If that’s the case, return those results of the greatest common divisor   function, exit.

4. 4.

If the GCD function consistently returned 1s, one could try a higher test cap and try again from step 1.

5. 5.

If the GCD function consistently returned $n$ itself, this could indicate that $a$ is in fact not coprime to $n$, in which case one could try going back to step 2 to pick a different $a$.

6. 6.

Throw a failure exception.

For example, $n=221$. Of course it’s overkill to use the Pollard $p-1$ algorithm on such a small number, but it helps to keep the example simple. Since the running time of the algorithm is exponential, Crandall and Pomerance suggest picking small $B$. So for this example let’s pick $B=10$, the primes are then 2, 3, 5, 7, and the exponents are 3, 2, 1, 1. Since 221 is odd, we try $a=2$. So we see that $2^{8}\mod 221=35$, and $\gcd(34,221)=17$. We also see $3^{9}\mod 221=14$ and $\gcd(13,221)=13$. Multiplication  immediately verifies that $13\times 17=221$.

As of version 5.2, Pollard’s $p-1$ algorithm is one of the methods used by Mathematica’s FactorInteger function after ferreting out small factors by trial division.

## References

• 1 R. Crandall & C. Pomerance, , Springer, NY, 2001: 5.4.1
Title Pollard’s $p-1$ algorithm PollardsP1Algorithm 2013-03-22 16:43:47 2013-03-22 16:43:47 PrimeFan (13766) PrimeFan (13766) 8 PrimeFan (13766) Algorithm msc 11A41 Pollard $p-1$ algorithm Pollard’s p minus 1 algorithm Pollard p minus 1 algorithm Pollard $p-1$ method Pollard’s p minus 1 method Pollard p minus 1 method Pollard’s $p-1$ method