Python is a widely used highlevel programming language known for its ease of use, readability, and versatility. It allows developers to create powerful applications and solve complex problems with relatively simple code. One thing developers may commonly come across is converting unsigned integers to signed integers in Python. In this article, we’ll investigate this topic in depth, with code examples included.
Unsigned Integers
An unsigned integer is a whole number that doesn’t have a sign, meaning it’s always positive. Unsigned integers are represented in binary form (1’s and 0’s), and the number of bits used to represent the integer (bit length) determines its maximum possible value.
Here’s an example of a 4bit unsigned integer:
0101
This binary number represents a decimal value of 5, which is the unsigned integer in this case.
Signed Integers
A signed integer is a whole number that has a sign, meaning it can be positive, negative or zero. The signed format uses one of the bits to represent the sign, while the remaining bits determine the magnitude of the integer. This way, signed integers have half the maximum value range of unsigned integers of the same bit length.
Here’s an example of a 4bit signed integer:
1101
This binary number represents a decimal value of 3, which is the signed integer in this case. The leading bit (1) represents the sign (negative), while the remaining bits (101) determine the magnitude (3).
Converting Unsigned Integers to Signed Integers
There are several ways to convert an unsigned integer to a signed integer in Python, depending on the problem and the tools available. Here are a few examples:
 Simple Casting
Casting is the process of converting a variable from one data type to another. In Python, casting from an unsigned integer to a signed integer is straightforward for positive integers since they have the same bit representation. This means that we can simply cast the unsigned integer to a signed integer using the int() function, as shown below:
unsigned_int = 10
signed_int = int(unsigned_int)
print(signed_int)
The output of this code is 10, which is the same as the input. However, if we try to cast a large unsigned integer (greater than half the maximum range of the signed integer) to a signed integer, we’ll get an OverflowError, as shown below:
unsigned_int = 2147483647
signed_int = int(unsigned_int)
print(signed_int)
The output of this code is an OverflowError: Python int too large to convert to C long. This error occurs because the unsigned integer value (2147483647) is greater than the maximum value range of the signed integer (2147483647/2 = 1073741823).
 Using Bitwise Operations
Another way to convert an unsigned integer to a signed integer is by using bitwise operations. In this method, we’ll manually set the sign bit to the proper value, depending on the value of the unsigned integer. Here’s an example:
unsigned_int = 2147483647
signed_int = (unsigned_int + 2**31) % 2**32  2**31
print(signed_int)
The output of this code is 2147483647, which is the correct signed integer for the given input. Here’s how it works:
 We add 2^31 (which is the integer equivalent of the sign bit) to the unsigned integer, resulting in a value that’s always positive.
 We apply the modulo operator by 2^32, which wraps the value around the maximum value range and produces a binary value with a leading 0.
 We subtract the 2^31 we added earlier, which sets the sign bit back to its original value, resulting in a signed integer.
This method works for values up to the maximum value range of 32bit signed integers.
 Using the ctypes Module
The ctypes module provides Ccompatible data types in Python, allowing for seamless interaction between Python and C code. We can use the ctypes module to convert an unsigned integer to a signed integer easily. Here’s an example:
import ctypes
unsigned_int = 10
signed_int = ctypes.c_int32(unsigned_int).value
print(signed_int)
The output of this code is 10, which is the same as the input. The c_int32() function in the ctypes module creates a 32bit signed integer with the given value, allowing us to access the signed integer value using the value attribute.
Conclusion
In conclusion, converting unsigned integers to signed integers in Python is a common problem that can be solved using various methods, depending on the specific use case and available resources. Castings, bitwise operations, and the ctypes module are some of the techniques developers can use to convert unsigned integers to signed integers in a readable and efficient way. By understanding these methods, Python developers can improve their skills and create more robust applications.
Here are some additional information about the previous topics discussed in the article:
Unsigned Integers
Unsigned integers are also known as nonnegative integers since they only represent positive numbers. The maximum value of an unsigned integer depends on its bit length. Here’s a table that shows the maximum value of unsigned integers with different bit lengths:
Bit Length  Maximum Value 

8  255 
16  65,535 
32  4,294,967,295 
64  18,446,744,073,709,551,615 
Unsigned integers are commonly used for representing quantities, such as number of items, heights, or lengths.
Signed Integers
Signed integers can represent both positive and negative numbers, with one bit used to represent the sign. The maximum value of a signed integer depends on its bit length as well but is only half compared to unsigned integers of the same length. Here’s a table that shows the maximum value of signed integers with different bit lengths:
Bit Length  Maximum Value (Signed)  Maximum Value (Unsigned) 

8  127  255 
16  32,767  65,535 
32  2,147,483,647  4,294,967,295 
64  9,223,372,036,854,775,807  18,446,744,073,709,551,615 
Signed integers are commonly used for representing values that can be positive or negative, such as temperatures, financial transactions, and scores.
Casting
Casting is commonly used when changing the data type of a variable. In Python, casting is done explicitly using functions such as int(), float(), and str(). Here are some examples:
# casting a string to an integer
my_string = "10"
my_int = int(my_string)
print(my_int) # output: 10
# casting an integer to a string
my_int = 10
my_string = str(my_int)
print(my_string) # output: "10"
Bitwise Operations
Bitwise operations are operations that manipulate individual bits of a binary number. There are several bitwise operators in Python, including:
AND (&): performs a bitwise AND operation on two binary numbers.
OR (): performs a bitwise OR operation on two binary numbers.
XOR (^): performs a bitwise exclusive OR (XOR) operation on two binary numbers.
LEFT SHIFT (<<): shifts the bits to the left by a specified number of positions.
RIGHT SHIFT (>>): shifts the bits to the right by a specified number of positions.
Here’s an example of using the left shift operator to multiply a number by 2:
my_number = 5
shifted_number = my_number << 1
print(shifted_number) # output: 10
The my_number variable is shifted to the left by 1 position, which multiplies it by 2.
Lastly, the ctypes module provides a way to seamlessly interact with C code in Python. It’s commonly used for data type conversions and memory management. Developers can use the module to create Ccompatible data types, including integers, floats, and pointers.
Popular questions

What is the difference between an unsigned integer and a signed integer?
Answer: An unsigned integer is a whole number that doesn’t have a sign and is always positive. A signed integer is a whole number that has a sign and can be positive, negative, or zero. 
What is casting in Python?
Answer: Casting is the process of converting a variable from one data type to another. In Python, casting is done explicitly using functions such as int(), float(), and str(). 
How can we convert an unsigned integer to a signed integer using bitwise operations?
Answer: We can convert an unsigned integer to a signed integer using bitwise operations by manually setting the sign bit to the proper value, depending on the value of the unsigned integer. 
What is the maximum value of a 32bit signed integer?
Answer: The maximum value of a 32bit signed integer is 2,147,483,647. 
What is the purpose of the ctypes module in Python?
Answer: The ctypes module provides a way to seamlessly interact with C code in Python. It’s commonly used for data type conversions and memory management. Developers can use the module to create Ccompatible data types, including integers, floats, and pointers.
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Conversion