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The easiest way to find out how large or small a number that a particular type can hold is to use the values defined in the ANSI standard header file limits.h. This file contains many useful constants defining the values that can be held by various types, including these: Value Description CHAR_BIT-Number of bits in a char CHAR_MAX-Maximum decimal integer value of a char CHAR_MIN-Minimum decimal integer value of a char MB_LEN_MAX-Maximum number of bytes in a multibyte character INT_MAX-Maximum decimal value of an int INT_MIN-Minimum decimal value of an int LONG_MAX-Maximum decimal value of a long LONG_MIN-Minimum decimal value of a long SCHAR_MAX-Maximum decimal integer value of a signed char SCHAR_MIN-Minimum decimal integer value of a signed char SHRT_MAX-Maximum decimal value of a short SHRT_MIN-Minimum decimal value of a short UCHAR_MAX-Maximum decimal integer value of unsigned char UINT_MAX-Maximum decimal value of an unsigned integer ULONG_MAX-Maximum decimal value of an unsigned long int USHRT_MAX-Maximum decimal value of an unsigned short int For integral types, on a machine that uses two's complement arithmetic (which is just about any machine you're likely to use), a signed type can hold numbers from -2(number of bits - 1) to +2(number of bits - 1) - 1. An unsigned type can hold values from 0 to +2(number of bits)- 1. For instance, a 16-bit signed integer can hold numbers from -215(-32768) to +215 - 1 (32767).