Fixed Point Division of two Q15 Numbers

Fixed point division is quite a bit more complicated than fixed point multiplication, and usually takes a lot more cycles than performing a multiplication. When dividing by a known value (a constant), it is usually better to multiply by the reciprocal than to do a division. And when dividing a fixed point number by an integer that is a power of two, a right shift can be used to implement a division. For example, to divide by 16, just shift your dividend right by 4 bits.

But there are cases where it is necessary to do a division by a calculated value. The easiest way to picture how the division should proceed is to think of the inverse of multiplying two Q15 numbers. The multiplication of two Q15 numbers produces a Q30 product. It then makes sense that a Q30 number divided by a Q15 number produces a Q15 result.

Let a = \hat{a}/{2}^{30}, b = \hat{b}/{2}^{15}

then a/b = \frac{\hat{a}/{2}^{30}}{\hat{b}/{2}^{15}}=\left(\hat{a}/\hat{b} \right)/{2}^{15}

So one procedure for finding a/b has the following steps:
1.convert the dividend a from Q15 to Q30 by shifting left by 15
2.divide the Q30 format number a by the Q15 format number b to get result in Q15

Let’s try an example. Let a = 0.03125 and b = 0.25, then c = a/b = 0.125. The Q15 numbers as hexadecimal integers will be a = 0x0400 and b = 0x2000. In step 1, a becomes 0x02000000 in Q30. In step 2, divide 0x02000000 by 0x2000 to get c = 0x1000 which is 4096 in decimal. As a check, find 4096/32768 = 0.125, the expected result.

In C language code, fixed point Q15 division can be coded as follows:

int16 a;
int16 b;
int16 c;

if ( abs(b) > abs(a) ) {
    c = (int16)(((int32)a << 15) / ((int32)b));

The casting is very ugly, but this works. Note that I have restricted the result of the division to be less than one. Removing the restriction that the magnitude of the divisor is larger than that of the dividend has an effect on the number of bits required for the result. To see this, try dividing the largest positive Q15 number by the smallest positive Q15 number, which results in a large number with 15 digits in front of the fractional point:

(0x7FFF/0x8000) / (1/0x8000) = (0x7FFF * 0x8000 ) / 0x8000 = 0x3FFF8000 / 0x8000

The result (0x3FFF8000) requires 30 bits, and it will have 15 bits to the left of the fractional point and 15 bits to the right. That is, the most significant bit has a weighting of {2}^{14} and the least significant bit has a weight of {2}^{-15} . In my work, I have almost always used Q15 division where the magnitude of the divisor is smaller than that of the dividend.

Along with looking ugly, the C code above for division is often inefficient. The C compiler will likely implement this as a division between two 32 bit numbers. When implementing division on a fixed point DSP chip, I have usually used assembly language coding and made use of a special purpose division instruction.

For example, the Texas Instruments TMS320C55x processor has the “subc” instruction or “conditional subtract.” To perform the type of division I have just described do the following:

1.make the dividend and divisor both positive and note original sign of each
2.load the dividend shifted left by 15 into an accumulator register
3.execute the conditional subtract of the divisor 16 times the result (in the lower 16 bits of the accumulator )
5.determine the correct sign for the result, and negate it if necessary

Note that a short cut is to load the dividend shifted left by 16 in the first step, and then execute the subc instruction 15 times. This works because it is known that the result will be positive.

Fixed point division is not difficult, but it can take a lot of cycles, and one needs to recognize the need to consider the range of the resulting output.

The C code and output below shows a couple of examples from this tutorial.

Example code:

#include <stdio.h>

typedef short int16;
typedef int int32;

int main( void )
    int16 a;
    int16 b;
    int16 c;
    int32 d;

    // example 1: magnitude of divisor is greater than magnitude of dividend
    printf("example 1: magnitude of divisor is greater than magnitude of dividend\n");

    a = 0x0400;
    b = 0x2000;

    if ( abs(b) > abs(a) ) {
        c = (int16)(((int32)a << 15) / ((int32)b));
    } else {
        printf("division error\n");

    printf("a = %d, b = %d, c = %d\n",a,b,c);
    printf("a = 0x%x, b = 0x%x, c = 0x%x\n",a,b,c);

    // example 2: no restrictions on divisor other than not 0
    printf("\nexample 2: no restrictions on divisor other than not 0\n");

    a = 0x7fff;
    b = 0x0001;

    if ( b != 0 ) {
        d = ((int32)a << 15) / ((int32)b);
    } else {
        printf("division by zero error\n");

    printf("a = %d, b = %d, d = %d\n",a,b,d);
    printf("a = 0x%x, b = 0x%x, d = 0x%x\n",a,b,d);

   return 0;

Code output:

example 1: magnitude of divisor is greater than magnitude of dividend
a = 1024, b = 8192, c = 4096
a = 0x400, b = 0x2000, c = 0x1000

example 2: no restrictions on divisor other than not 0
a = 32767, b = 1, d = 1073709056
a = 0x7fff, b = 0x1, d = 0x3fff8000

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One Comment on “Fixed Point Division of two Q15 Numbers”

  1. Njay Says:

    On a side note, I always round my positive integer divisions to the nearest value by adding half of the dividend before dividing, div(a,b) = (a + b/2) / b . This is more exact than the traditional CPU divide instruction which will round by defect, this is, will round down and not to the closest integer. If result would be 2.8 the division would say 2, thus not minimizing the error.
    For integers in general we must do |a| + |b/2| and take care of the sign accordingly.
    The 3D solids in my fixed point based rendering engine experiments a decade ago started to rotate much more smoothly after this 🙂

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