In computational complexity theory, a problem is NP-complete when it can be solved by a restricted class of brute force search algorithms and it can be used to simulate any other problem with a similar algorithm. More precisely, each input to the problem should be associated with a set of solutions of polynomial length, whose validity can be tested quickly (in polynomial time), such that the output for any input is "yes" if the solution set is non-empty and "no" if it is empty. The complexity class of problems of this form is called NP, an abbreviation for "nondeterministic polynomial time". A problem is said to be NP-hard if everything in NP can be transformed in polynomial time into it, and a problem is NP-complete if it is both in NP and NP-hard. The NP-complete problems represent the hardest problems in NP. If any NP-complete problem has a polynomial time algorithm, all problems in NP do. The set of NP-complete problems is often denoted by NP-C or NPC.
Although a solution to an NP-complete problem can be verified "quickly", there is no known way to find a solution quickly. That is, the time required to solve the problem using any currently known algorithm increases rapidly as the size of the problem grows. As a consequence, determining whether it is possible to solve these problems quickly, called the P versus NP problem, is one of the fundamental unsolved problems in computer science today.
While a method for computing the solutions to NP-complete problems quickly remains undiscovered, computer scientists and programmers still frequently encounter NP-complete problems. NP-complete problems are often addressed by using heuristic methods and approximation algorithms.

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