Gapped phases of noninteracting fermions, with and without charge conservation and time‐reversal symmetry, are classified using Bott periodicity. The symmetry and spatial dimension determines a general universality class, which corresponds to one of the 2 types of complex and 8 types of real Clifford algebras. The phases within a given class are further characterized by a topological invariant, an element of some Abelian group that can be 0, ℤ, or Z2. The interface between two infinite phases with different topological numbers must carry some gapless mode. Topological properties of finite systems are described in terms of K‐homology. This classification is robust with respect to disorder, provided electron states near the Fermi energy are absent or localized. In some cases (e.g., integer quantum Hall systems) the K‐theoretic classification is stable to interactions, but a counterexample is also given.

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