fabrizioM fabrizioM - 1 year ago 502
Swift Question

How do I atomically increment a variable in Swift?

I want to be able to increment a counter atomically and I can't find any reference on how to do it.

Adding more information based on comments:

  • Are you using GCD? No. I am not using GDC. Having to use a queue system to increment a number seems overkill.

  • Do You understand basic thread safety? Yes I do otherwise I would not be asking about atomic increments.

  • This variable is local ? No.

  • Is it instance level ? Yes it should be part of a single instance.

I want to do something like this:

class Counter {
private var mux Mutex
private (set) value Int
func increment (){
value += 1

Answer Source

From Low-Level Concurrency APIs:

There’s a long list of OSAtomicIncrement and OSAtomicDecrement functions that allow you to increment and decrement an integer value in an atomic way – thread safe without having to take a lock (or use queues). These can be useful if you need to increment global counters from multiple threads for statistics. If all you do is increment a global counter, the barrier-free OSAtomicIncrement versions are fine, and when there’s no contention, they’re cheap to call.

These functions work with fixed-size integers, you can choose the 32-bit or 64-bit variant depending on your needs:

class Counter {
    private (set) var value : Int32 = 0
    func increment () {

Alternatively, one can use a GCD queue for synchronization. From Dispatch Queues in the "Concurrency Programming Guide":

... With dispatch queues, you could add both tasks to a serial dispatch queue to ensure that only one task modified the resource at any given time. This type of queue-based synchronization is more efficient than locks because locks always require an expensive kernel trap in both the contested and uncontested cases, whereas a dispatch queue works primarily in your application’s process space and only calls down to the kernel when absolutely necessary.

In your case that would be

class Counter {
    private var queue = dispatch_queue_create("your.queue.identifier", DISPATCH_QUEUE_SERIAL)
    private (set) var value : Int = 0

    func increment () {
        dispatch_sync(queue) {

See Adding items to Swift array across multiple threads causing issues (because arrays aren't thread safe) - how do I get around that? or GCD with static functions of a struct for more sophisticated examples. This thread What advantage(s) does dispatch_sync have over @synchronized? is also very interesting.