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Semaphore Class

Limits the number of threads that can access a resource or pool of resources concurrently.

Namespace:  System.Threading
Assembly:  System (in System.dll)

[HostProtectionAttribute(SecurityAction.LinkDemand, Synchronization = true, 
	ExternalThreading = true)]
public sealed class Semaphore : WaitHandle


The HostProtectionAttribute attribute applied to this type or member has the following Resources property value: Synchronization | ExternalThreading. The HostProtectionAttribute does not affect desktop applications (which are typically started by double-clicking an icon, typing a command, or entering a URL in a browser). For more information, see the HostProtectionAttribute class or SQL Server Programming and Host Protection Attributes.

Use the Semaphore class to control access to a pool of resources. Threads enter the semaphore by calling the WaitOne method, which is inherited from the WaitHandle class, and release the semaphore by calling the Release method.

The count on a semaphore is decremented each time a thread enters the semaphore, and incremented when a thread releases the semaphore. When the count is zero, subsequent requests block until other threads release the semaphore. When all threads have released the semaphore, the count is at the maximum value specified when the semaphore was created.

There is no guaranteed order, such as FIFO or LIFO, in which blocked threads enter the semaphore.

A thread can enter the semaphore multiple times, by calling the WaitOne method repeatedly. To release some or all of these entries, the thread can call the parameterless Release() method overload multiple times, or it can call the Release(Int32) method overload that specifies the number of entries to be released.

The Semaphore class does not enforce thread identity on calls to WaitOne or Release. It is the programmer's responsibility to ensure that threads do not release the semaphore too many times. For example, suppose a semaphore has a maximum count of two, and that thread A and thread B both enter the semaphore. If a programming error in thread B causes it to call Release twice, both calls succeed. The count on the semaphore is full, and when thread A eventually calls Release, a SemaphoreFullException is thrown.

Semaphores are of two types: local semaphores and named system semaphores. If you create a Semaphore object using a constructor that accepts a name, it is associated with an operating-system semaphore of that name. Named system semaphores are visible throughout the operating system, and can be used to synchronize the activities of processes. You can create multiple Semaphore objects that represent the same named system semaphore, and you can use the OpenExisting method to open an existing named system semaphore.

A local semaphore exists only within your process. It can be used by any thread in your process that has a reference to the local Semaphore object. Each Semaphore object is a separate local semaphore.

The following code example creates a semaphore with a maximum count of three and an initial count of zero. The example starts five threads, which block waiting for the semaphore. The main thread uses the Release(Int32) method overload to increase the semaphore count to its maximum, allowing three threads to enter the semaphore. Each thread uses the Thread.Sleep method to wait for one second, to simulate work, and then calls the Release() method overload to release the semaphore. Each time the semaphore is released, the previous semaphore count is displayed. Console messages track semaphore use. The simulated work interval is increased slightly for each thread, to make the output easier to read.

using System;
using System.Threading;

public class Example
    // A semaphore that simulates a limited resource pool. 
    private static Semaphore _pool;

    // A padding interval to make the output more orderly. 
    private static int _padding;

    public static void Main()
        // Create a semaphore that can satisfy up to three 
        // concurrent requests. Use an initial count of zero, 
        // so that the entire semaphore count is initially 
        // owned by the main program thread. 
        _pool = new Semaphore(0, 3);

        // Create and start five numbered threads.  
        for(int i = 1; i <= 5; i++)
            Thread t = new Thread(new ParameterizedThreadStart(Worker));

            // Start the thread, passing the number. 

        // Wait for half a second, to allow all the 
        // threads to start and to block on the semaphore. 

        // The main thread starts out holding the entire 
        // semaphore count. Calling Release(3) brings the  
        // semaphore count back to its maximum value, and 
        // allows the waiting threads to enter the semaphore, 
        // up to three at a time. 
        Console.WriteLine("Main thread calls Release(3).");

        Console.WriteLine("Main thread exits.");

    private static void Worker(object num)
        // Each worker thread begins by requesting the 
        // semaphore.
        Console.WriteLine("Thread {0} begins " +
            "and waits for the semaphore.", num);

        // A padding interval to make the output more orderly. 
        int padding = Interlocked.Add(ref _padding, 100);

        Console.WriteLine("Thread {0} enters the semaphore.", num);

        // The thread's "work" consists of sleeping for  
        // about a second. Each thread "works" a little 
        // longer, just to make the output more orderly. 
        Thread.Sleep(1000 + padding);

        Console.WriteLine("Thread {0} releases the semaphore.", num);
        Console.WriteLine("Thread {0} previous semaphore count: {1}",
            num, _pool.Release());

This type is thread safe.

Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2, Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows XP Starter Edition, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2000 SP4, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 98

The .NET Framework and .NET Compact Framework do not support all versions of every platform. For a list of the supported versions, see .NET Framework System Requirements.

.NET Framework

Supported in: 3.5, 3.0, 2.0