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Disadvantages of Backtracking

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In this article, we have covered the Disadvantages of Backtracking algorithm.

Table of contents:

  1. Introduction to Backtracking
  2. Disadvantages of Backtracking
  3. Type of Backtracking and their Disadvantages
  4. Conclusion

Introduction to Backtracking

Backtracking is a general algorithmic technique that involves incrementally building a solution and undoing ("backtracking") the most recent increment when it is determined that it cannot be part of a valid solution.

Backtracking is frequently used to solve problems that require generating all possible solutions, such as finding all possible paths through a maze or generating all possible item combinations. Backtracking can also be used to solve problems with multiple solutions, such as determining the shortest path through a maze or determining the most efficient way to schedule a series of tasks.

Disadvantages of Backtracking

Backtracking has several major disadvantages, including:

  • Backtracking can be time-consuming in large search spaces because it may need to explore a large number of possibilities before finding a solution. Backtracking has an exponential time complexity, making it impractical for solving large or complex problems.

  • Backtracking can also be memory intensive if it generates and stores a large number of partial solutions. This can be a significant issue if the problem is large or memory resources are limited.

  • Backtracking may not always find the best solution because it may stop at the first solution found or may not investigate all possible solutions.

  • Backtracking can become stuck in infinite loops if the problem is poorly defined or the constraints are not properly implemented. When a recursive function calls itself indefinitely, this can occur.

  • Backtracking may also be ineffective when the problem has specific constraints and the solution must be found in a specific order.

Type of Backtracking and their Disadvantages

Backtracking algorithms are classified into several types and they each have their own disadvantages:

  • Depth-First Search (DFS) Backtracking: If the problem has cycles or the search tree is not well-defined, it may become stuck in an infinite loop. Furthermore, DFS backtracking may consume a significant amount of memory if the search tree is deep and the solution is at the bottom.

  • Backtracking with memoization: This requires more memory to store the memoization table and can make the code more complex.

  • Backtracking with constraints: Finding the right set of constraints to effectively prune the search space without eliminating valid solutions can be difficult.

  • Backtracking with dynamic programming: It can be difficult to identify which subproblems can be solved using dynamic programming, and additional memory is required to store the intermediate solutions.


To summarize, backtracking is a powerful problem-solving technique, but it is computationally expensive and may not always find the best solution. It should be used in conjunction with other techniques such as:

  • Pruning: Backtracking can be made more efficient by employing techniques such as pruning, which entails discarding partial solutions that are unlikely to lead to a valid solution. This can be accomplished by introducing constraints that eliminate certain branches of the search tree, or by employing heuristics to direct the search in a more efficient direction.

  • Symmetry Breaking: Backtracking can generate a large number of identical solutions when solving problems with symmetric solutions. To avoid this, symmetry breaking techniques can be used, which ensure that only one solution from each symmetry class is generated.

  • Heuristics: It can be used to direct the search in a more efficient direction by prioritizing certain branches of the search tree or by making better decisions based on information about the problem.

With this article at OpenGenus, you must have the complete idea of the disadvantages of backtracking.

Disadvantages of Backtracking
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