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Porting Issues Checklist


  • Use the new 64-bit-safe Windows data types.

    The new 64-bit-safe data types, described earlier in this document, are defined in Basetsd.h. This header file is included in Ntdef.h, which is included in Ntddk.h, Wdm.h, and Ntifs.h.

  • Use the platform compiler macros carefully.

    The following assumption is no longer valid:

    #ifdef _WIN32  // 32-bit Windows code
    #else          // 16-bit Windows code

    However, the 64-bit compiler defines _WIN32 for backward compatibility.

    Also, the following assumption is no longer valid:

    #ifdef _WIN16  // 16-bit Windows code
    #else          // 32-bit Windows code

    In this case, the else clause can represent _WIN32 or _WIN64.

  • Use the proper format specifiers with printf and wsprintf.

    Use %p to print pointers in hexadecimal. This is the best choice for printing pointers.

    Note   A future version of Visual C++ will support %I to print polymorphic data. It will treat values as 64 bits in 64-bit Windows and 32 bits in 32-bit Windows. Visual C++ will also support %I64 to print values that are 64 bits.

  • Know your address space.

    Do not blindly assume, for example, that if an address is a kernel address, its high-order bit must be set. To obtain the lowest system address, use the MM_LOWEST_SYSTEM_ADDRESS macro.

Pointer Arithmetic

  • Be careful when performing unsigned and signed operations.

    Consider the following:

    ULONG x;
    LONG y;
    LONG *pVar1;
    LONG *pVar2;
    pVar2 = pVar1 + y * (x - 1);

    The problem arises because x is unsigned, which makes the entire expression unsigned. This works fine unless y is negative. In this case, y is converted to an unsigned value, the expression is evaluated using 32-bit precision, scaled, and added to pVar1. On 64-bit Windows, this 32-bit unsigned negative number becomes a large 64-bit positive number, which gives the wrong result. To fix this problem, declare x as a signed value or explicitly typecast it to LONG in the expression.

  • Be careful when using hexadecimal constants and unsigned values.

    The following assertion is not true on 64-bit systems:

    ~((UINT64)(PAGE_SIZE-1)) == (UINT64)~(PAGE_SIZE-1)
    PAGE_SIZE = 0x1000UL  // Unsigned long - 32 bits
    PAGE_SIZE - 1 = 0x00000fff

    LHS expression:

    // Unsigned expansion(UINT64)(PAGE_SIZE -1 ) = 0x0000000000000fff
    ~((UINT64)(PAGE_SIZE -1 )) = 0xfffffffffffff000

    RHS expression:

    ~(PAGE_SIZE-1) = 0xfffff000
    (UINT64)(~(PAGE_SIZE - 1)) = 0x00000000fffff000


    ~((UINT64)(PAGE_SIZE-1)) != (UINT64)(~(PAGE_SIZE-1))
  • Be careful with NOT operations.

    Consider the following:

    UINT_PTR a; ULONG b;
    a = a & ~(b - 1); 

    The problem is that ~(b−1) produces 0x0000 0000 xxxx xxxx and not 0xFFFF FFFF xxxx xxxx. The compiler will not detect this. To fix this, change the code as follows:

    a = a & ~((UINT_PTR)b - 1);
  • Be careful when computing buffer sizes.

    Consider the following:

    len = ptr2 - ptr1 
    /* len could be greater than 2**32 */

    Cast pointers to PCHAR for pointer arithmetic.

    Note   If len is declared INT or ULONG, this will generate a compiler warning. Buffer sizes, even when computed correctly, may still exceed the capacity of ULONG.

  • Avoid using computed or hard-coded pointer offsets.

    When working with structures, use the FIELD_OFFSET macro wherever possible to determine the offset of structure members.

  • Avoid using hard-coded pointer or handle values.

    Do not pass hard-coded pointers or handles such as (HANDLE)0xFFFFFFFF to routines such as ZwCreateSection. Instead, use constants, such as INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE, that can be defined to have the appropriate value for each platform.

  • Be aware that in 64-bit Windows, 0xFFFFFFFF is not the same as -1.

    For example:

    DWORD index = 0;
    CHAR *p;
    // if (p[index-1] == '0') causes access violation on 64-bit Windows!

    On 32-bit machines:

    p[index-1] == p[0xffffffff] == p[-1] 

    On 64-bit machines:

    p[index-1] == p[0x00000000ffffffff] != p[-1]

    This problem can be avoided by changing the type of index from DWORD to DWORD_PTR.


  • Be careful with polymorphic interfaces.

    Do not create functions that accept parameters of type DWORD (or other fixed-precision types) for polymorphic data. If the data can be a pointer or an integral value, the parameter type should be UINT_PTR or PVOID, not DWORD.

    For example, do not create a function that accepts an array of exception parameters typed as DWORD values. The array should be an array of DWORD_PTR values. Therefore, the array elements can hold addresses or 32-bit integral values. The general rule is that if the original type is DWORD and it needs to be pointer width, convert it to a DWORD_PTR value. That is why there are corresponding pointer-precision types for the native Win32 types. If you have code that uses DWORD, ULONG, or other 32-bit types in a polymorphic way (that is, you really want the parameter or structure member to hold an address), use UINT_PTR in place of the current type.

  • Be careful when calling functions that have pointer OUT parameters.

    Do not do this:

    void GetBufferAddress(OUT PULONG *ptr);
    void foo()
      ULONG bufAddress;
      // This call causes memory corruption.
      GetBufferAddress((PULONG *)&bufAddress);

    Typecasting bufAddress to (PULONG *) prevents a compiler error. However, GetBufferAddress will write a 64-bit value into the memory location at &bufAddress. Because bufAddress is only a 32-bit value, the 32 bits immediately following bufAddress will get overwritten. This is a very subtle, hard-to-find bug.

  • Do not cast pointers to INT, LONG, ULONG, or DWORD.

    If you must cast a pointer to test some bits, set or clear bits, or otherwise manipulate its contents, use the UINT_PTR or INT_PTR type. These types are integral types that scale to the size of a pointer for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows (for example, ULONG for 32-bit Windows and _int64 for 64-bit Windows). For example, assume you are porting the following code:

    ImageBase = (PVOID)((ULONG)ImageBase | 1);

    As a part of the porting process, you would change the code as follows:

    ImageBase = (PVOID)((ULONG_PTR)ImageBase | 1);

    Use UINT_PTR and INT_PTR where appropriate (and if you are uncertain whether they are required, there is no harm in using them just in case). Do not cast your pointers to the types ULONG, LONG, INT, UINT, or DWORD.

    Note  HANDLE is defined as a void *, so typecasting a HANDLE value to a ULONG value to test, set, or clear the low two bits is a programming error.

  • Use PtrToLong and PtrToUlong to truncate pointers.

    If you must truncate a pointer to a 32-bit value, use the PtrToLong or PtrToUlong function (defined in Basetsd.h). This function disables the pointer truncation warning for the duration of the call.

    Use these functions carefully. After you truncate a pointer variable using one of these functions, never cast the resulting LONG or ULONG back to a pointer. These functions truncate the upper 32 bits of an address, which are usually needed to access the memory originally referenced by pointer. Using these functions without careful consideration will result in fragile code.

Data Structures and Structure Alignment

  • Carefully examine all uses of data structure pointers.

    The following are common trouble areas:

    • Data structures that are stored on disk or exchanged with 32-bit processes.
    • Explicit and implicit unions with pointers.
    • Security descriptors.
  • Use the FIELD_OFFSET macro.

    For example:

    struct xx {
       DWORD NumberOfPointers;
       PVOID Pointers[1];

    The following allocation is incorrect in 64-bit Windows because the compiler will pad the structure with an additional 4 bytes to make the 8-byte alignment requirement:


    Here is how to do it correctly:

    malloc(FIELD_OFFSET(struct xx, Pointers) +100*sizeof(PVOID));
  • Use the TYPE_ALIGNMENT macro.

    The TYPE_ALIGNMENT macro returns the alignment requirement for a given data type on the current platform. For example:

    TYPE_ALIGNMENT(KFLOATING_SAVE) == 4 on x86, 8 on Itanium
    TYPE_ALIGNMENT(UCHAR) == 1 everywhere

    As an example, code such as this:

    ProbeForRead(UserBuffer, UserBufferLength, sizeof(ULONG));

    becomes more portable when changed to:

    ProbeForRead(UserBuffer, UserBufferLength, TYPE_ALIGNMENT(ULONG));
  • Watch for data type changes in public kernel structures.

    For example, the Information field in the IO_STATUS_BLOCK structure is now of type ULONG_PTR.

  • Be cautious when using structure packing directives.

    On 64-bit Windows, if a data structure is misaligned, routines that manipulate the structure, such as RtlCopyMemory and memcpy, will not fault. Instead, they will raise an exception. For example:

    #pragma pack (1)  /* also set by /Zp switch */
    struct Buffer {
        ULONG size;
        void *ptr;
    void SetPointer(void *p) {
        struct Buffer s;
        s.ptr = p;  /* will cause alignment fault */

    You could use the UNALIGNED macro to fix this:

    void SetPointer(void *p) {
        struct Buffer s;
        *(UNALIGNED void *)&s.ptr = p;

    Unfortunately, using the UNALIGNED macro is very expensive on Itanium-based processors. A better solution is to put 64-bit values and pointers at the beginning of the structure.

    Note  If possible, avoid using different packing levels in the same header file.

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