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Creating Threads

The CreateThread function creates a new thread for a process. The creating thread must specify the starting address of the code that the new thread is to execute. Typically, the starting address is the name of a function defined in the program code (for more information, see ThreadProc). This function takes a single parameter and returns a DWORD value. A process can have multiple threads simultaneously executing the same function.

The following is a simple example that demonstrates how to create a new thread that executes the locally defined function, MyThreadFunction.

The calling thread uses the WaitForMultipleObjects function to persist until all worker threads have terminated. The calling thread blocks while it is waiting; to continue processing, a calling thread would use WaitForSingleObject and wait for each worker thread to signal its wait object. Note that if you were to close the handle to a worker thread before it terminated, this does not terminate the worker thread. However, the handle will be unavailable for use in subsequent function calls.

#include <windows.h>
#include <tchar.h>
#include <strsafe.h>

#define MAX_THREADS 3
#define BUF_SIZE 255

DWORD WINAPI MyThreadFunction( LPVOID lpParam );
void ErrorHandler(LPTSTR lpszFunction);

// Sample custom data structure for threads to use.
// This is passed by void pointer so it can be any data type
// that can be passed using a single void pointer (LPVOID).
typedef struct MyData {
    int val1;
    int val2;

int _tmain()
    DWORD   dwThreadIdArray[MAX_THREADS];
    HANDLE  hThreadArray[MAX_THREADS]; 

    // Create MAX_THREADS worker threads.

    for( int i=0; i<MAX_THREADS; i++ )
        // Allocate memory for thread data.

        pDataArray[i] = (PMYDATA) HeapAlloc(GetProcessHeap(), HEAP_ZERO_MEMORY,

        if( pDataArray[i] == NULL )
           // If the array allocation fails, the system is out of memory
           // so there is no point in trying to print an error message.
           // Just terminate execution.

        // Generate unique data for each thread to work with.

        pDataArray[i]->val1 = i;
        pDataArray[i]->val2 = i+100;

        // Create the thread to begin execution on its own.

        hThreadArray[i] = CreateThread( 
            NULL,                   // default security attributes
            0,                      // use default stack size  
            MyThreadFunction,       // thread function name
            pDataArray[i],          // argument to thread function 
            0,                      // use default creation flags 
            &dwThreadIdArray[i]);   // returns the thread identifier 

        // Check the return value for success.
        // If CreateThread fails, terminate execution. 
        // This will automatically clean up threads and memory. 

        if (hThreadArray[i] == NULL) 
    } // End of main thread creation loop.

    // Wait until all threads have terminated.

    WaitForMultipleObjects(MAX_THREADS, hThreadArray, TRUE, INFINITE);

    // Close all thread handles and free memory allocations.

    for(int i=0; i<MAX_THREADS; i++)
        if(pDataArray[i] != NULL)
            HeapFree(GetProcessHeap(), 0, pDataArray[i]);
            pDataArray[i] = NULL;    // Ensure address is not reused.

    return 0;

DWORD WINAPI MyThreadFunction( LPVOID lpParam ) 
    HANDLE hStdout;
    PMYDATA pDataArray;

    TCHAR msgBuf[BUF_SIZE];
    size_t cchStringSize;
    DWORD dwChars;

    // Make sure there is a console to receive output results. 

    hStdout = GetStdHandle(STD_OUTPUT_HANDLE);
    if( hStdout == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE )
        return 1;

    // Cast the parameter to the correct data type.
    // The pointer is known to be valid because 
    // it was checked for NULL before the thread was created.
    pDataArray = (PMYDATA)lpParam;

    // Print the parameter values using thread-safe functions.

    StringCchPrintf(msgBuf, BUF_SIZE, TEXT("Parameters = %d, %d\n"), 
        pDataArray->val1, pDataArray->val2); 
    StringCchLength(msgBuf, BUF_SIZE, &cchStringSize);
    WriteConsole(hStdout, msgBuf, (DWORD)cchStringSize, &dwChars, NULL);

    return 0; 

void ErrorHandler(LPTSTR lpszFunction) 
    // Retrieve the system error message for the last-error code.

    LPVOID lpMsgBuf;
    LPVOID lpDisplayBuf;
    DWORD dw = GetLastError(); 

        (LPTSTR) &lpMsgBuf,
        0, NULL );

    // Display the error message.

    lpDisplayBuf = (LPVOID)LocalAlloc(LMEM_ZEROINIT, 
        (lstrlen((LPCTSTR) lpMsgBuf) + lstrlen((LPCTSTR) lpszFunction) + 40) * sizeof(TCHAR)); 
        LocalSize(lpDisplayBuf) / sizeof(TCHAR),
        TEXT("%s failed with error %d: %s"), 
        lpszFunction, dw, lpMsgBuf); 
    MessageBox(NULL, (LPCTSTR) lpDisplayBuf, TEXT("Error"), MB_OK); 

    // Free error-handling buffer allocations.


The MyThreadFunction function avoids the use of the C run-time library (CRT), as many of its functions are not thread-safe, particularly if you are not using the multithreaded CRT. If you would like to use the CRT in a ThreadProc function, use the _beginthreadex function instead.

It is risky to pass the address of a local variable if the creating thread exits before the new thread, because the pointer becomes invalid. Instead, either pass a pointer to dynamically allocated memory or make the creating thread wait for the new thread to terminate. Data can also be passed from the creating thread to the new thread using global variables. With global variables, it is usually necessary to synchronize access by multiple threads. For more information about synchronization, see Synchronizing Execution of Multiple Threads.

The creating thread can use the arguments to CreateThread to specify the following:

  • The security attributes for the handle to the new thread. These security attributes include an inheritance flag that determines whether the handle can be inherited by child processes. The security attributes also include a security descriptor, which the system uses to perform access checks on all subsequent uses of the thread's handle before access is granted.
  • The initial stack size of the new thread. The thread's stack is allocated automatically in the memory space of the process; the system increases the stack as needed and frees it when the thread terminates. For more information, see Thread Stack Size.
  • A creation flag that enables you to create the thread in a suspended state. When suspended, the thread does not run until the ResumeThread function is called.

You can also create a thread by calling the CreateRemoteThread function. This function is used by debugger processes to create a thread that runs in the address space of the process being debugged.

Related topics

Terminating a Thread



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