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How to: Run an Operation in the Background

If you have an operation that will take a long time to complete, and you do not want to cause delays in your user interface, you can use the BackgroundWorker class to run the operation on another thread.

The following code example shows how to run a time-consuming operation in the background. The form has Start and Cancel buttons. Click the Start button to run an asynchronous operation. Click the Cancel button to stop a running asynchronous operation. The outcome of each operation is displayed in a MessageBox.

There is extensive support for this task in Visual Studio.

Also see Walkthrough: Running an Operation in the Background.

using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Drawing;
using System.Threading;
using System.Windows.Forms;

namespace BackgroundWorkerExample
{
    public class Form1 : Form
    {
        public Form1()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
        }

        private void backgroundWorker1_DoWork(object sender, DoWorkEventArgs e)
        {
            // Do not access the form's BackgroundWorker reference directly. 
            // Instead, use the reference provided by the sender parameter.
            BackgroundWorker bw = sender as BackgroundWorker;

            // Extract the argument. 
            int arg = (int)e.Argument;

            // Start the time-consuming operation.
            e.Result = TimeConsumingOperation(bw, arg);

            // If the operation was canceled by the user,  
            // set the DoWorkEventArgs.Cancel property to true. 
            if (bw.CancellationPending)
            {
                e.Cancel = true;
            }
        }

        // This event handler demonstrates how to interpret  
        // the outcome of the asynchronous operation implemented 
        // in the DoWork event handler. 
        private void backgroundWorker1_RunWorkerCompleted(
            object sender, 
            RunWorkerCompletedEventArgs e)
        {   
            if (e.Cancelled)
            {
                // The user canceled the operation.
                MessageBox.Show("Operation was canceled");
            }
            else if (e.Error != null)
            {
                // There was an error during the operation. 
                string msg = String.Format("An error occurred: {0}", e.Error.Message);
                MessageBox.Show(msg);
            }
            else
            {
                // The operation completed normally. 
                string msg = String.Format("Result = {0}", e.Result);
                MessageBox.Show(msg);
            }
        }

        // This method models an operation that may take a long time  
        // to run. It can be cancelled, it can raise an exception, 
        // or it can exit normally and return a result. These outcomes 
        // are chosen randomly. 
        private int TimeConsumingOperation( 
            BackgroundWorker bw, 
            int sleepPeriod )
        {
            int result = 0;

            Random rand = new Random();

            while (!bw.CancellationPending)
            {
                bool exit = false;

                switch (rand.Next(3))
                {
                    // Raise an exception. 
                    case 0:
                    {
                        throw new Exception("An error condition occurred.");
                        break;
                    }

                    // Sleep for the number of milliseconds 
                    // specified by the sleepPeriod parameter. 
                    case 1:
                    {
                        Thread.Sleep(sleepPeriod);
                        break;
                    }

                    // Exit and return normally. 
                    case 2:
                    {
                        result = 23;
                        exit = true;
                        break;
                    }

                    default:
                    {
                        break;
                    }
                }

                if( exit )
                {
                    break;
                }
            }

            return result;
        }

        private void startBtn_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
        {
            this.backgroundWorker1.RunWorkerAsync(2000);
        }

        private void cancelBtn_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
        {
            this.backgroundWorker1.CancelAsync();
        }

        /// <summary> 
        /// Required designer variable. 
        /// </summary> 
        private System.ComponentModel.IContainer components = null;

        /// <summary> 
        /// Clean up any resources being used. 
        /// </summary> 
        /// <param name="disposing">true if managed resources should be disposed; otherwise, false.</param>
        protected override void Dispose(bool disposing)
        {
            if (disposing && (components != null))
            {
                components.Dispose();
            }
            base.Dispose(disposing);
        }

        #region Windows Form Designer generated code

        /// <summary> 
        /// Required method for Designer support - do not modify 
        /// the contents of this method with the code editor. 
        /// </summary> 
        private void InitializeComponent()
        {
            this.backgroundWorker1 = new System.ComponentModel.BackgroundWorker();
            this.startBtn = new System.Windows.Forms.Button();
            this.cancelBtn = new System.Windows.Forms.Button();
            this.SuspendLayout();
            //  
            // backgroundWorker1 
            //  
            this.backgroundWorker1.WorkerSupportsCancellation = true;
            this.backgroundWorker1.DoWork += new System.ComponentModel.DoWorkEventHandler(this.backgroundWorker1_DoWork);
            this.backgroundWorker1.RunWorkerCompleted += new System.ComponentModel.RunWorkerCompletedEventHandler(this.backgroundWorker1_RunWorkerCompleted);
            //  
            // startBtn 
            //  
            this.startBtn.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(12, 12);
            this.startBtn.Name = "startBtn";
            this.startBtn.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(75, 23);
            this.startBtn.TabIndex = 0;
            this.startBtn.Text = "Start";
            this.startBtn.Click += new System.EventHandler(this.startBtn_Click);
            //  
            // cancelBtn 
            //  
            this.cancelBtn.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(94, 11);
            this.cancelBtn.Name = "cancelBtn";
            this.cancelBtn.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(75, 23);
            this.cancelBtn.TabIndex = 1;
            this.cancelBtn.Text = "Cancel";
            this.cancelBtn.Click += new System.EventHandler(this.cancelBtn_Click);
            //  
            // Form1 
            //  
            this.AutoScaleDimensions = new System.Drawing.SizeF(6F, 13F);
            this.AutoScaleMode = System.Windows.Forms.AutoScaleMode.Font;
            this.ClientSize = new System.Drawing.Size(183, 49);
            this.Controls.Add(this.cancelBtn);
            this.Controls.Add(this.startBtn);
            this.Name = "Form1";
            this.Text = "Form1";
            this.ResumeLayout(false);

        }

        #endregion

        private System.ComponentModel.BackgroundWorker backgroundWorker1;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Button startBtn;
        private System.Windows.Forms.Button cancelBtn;
    }

    public class Program
    {
        private Program()
        {
        }

        /// <summary> 
        /// The main entry point for the application. 
        /// </summary>
        [STAThread]
        static void Main()
        {
            Application.EnableVisualStyles();
            Application.Run(new Form1());
        }
    }
}

This example requires:

  • References to the System, System.Drawing and System.Windows.Forms assemblies.

For information about building this example from the command line for Visual Basic or Visual C#, see Building from the Command Line (Visual Basic) or Command-line Building With csc.exe. You can also build this example in Visual Studio by pasting the code into a new project. Also see How to: Compile and Run a Complete Windows Forms Code Example Using Visual Studio.

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