Creating Threads and Passing Data at Start Time

When an operating-system process is created, the operating system injects a thread to execute code in that process, including any original application domain. From that point on, application domains can be created and destroyed without any operating system threads necessarily being created or destroyed. If the code being executed is managed code, then a Thread object for the thread executing in the current application domain can be obtained by retrieving the static CurrentThread property of type Thread. This topic describes thread creation and discusses alternatives for passing data to the thread procedure.

Creating a Thread

Creating a new Thread object creates a new managed thread. The Thread class has constructors that take a ThreadStart delegate or a ParameterizedThreadStart delegate; the delegate wraps the method that is invoked by the new thread when you call the Start method. Calling Start more than once causes a ThreadStateException to be thrown.

The Start method returns immediately, often before the new thread has actually started. You can use the ThreadState and IsAlive properties to determine the state of the thread at any one moment, but these properties should never be used for synchronizing the activities of threads.

Note

Once a thread is started, it is not necessary to retain a reference to the Thread object. The thread continues to execute until the thread procedure ends.

The following code example creates two new threads to call instance and static methods on another object.

using namespace System;
using namespace System::Threading;

public ref class ServerClass
{
public:
    // The method that will be called when the thread is started.
    void InstanceMethod()
    {
        Console::WriteLine(
            "ServerClass.InstanceMethod is running on another thread.");

        // Pause for a moment to provide a delay to make
        // threads more apparent.
        Thread::Sleep(3000);
        Console::WriteLine(
            "The instance method called by the worker thread has ended.");
    }

    static void StaticMethod()
    {
        Console::WriteLine(
            "ServerClass.StaticMethod is running on another thread.");

        // Pause for a moment to provide a delay to make
        // threads more apparent.
        Thread::Sleep(5000);
        Console::WriteLine(
            "The static method called by the worker thread has ended.");
    }
};

public ref class Simple
{
public:
    static void Main()
    {
        ServerClass^ serverObject = gcnew ServerClass();

        // Create the thread object, passing in the
        // serverObject.InstanceMethod method using a
        // ThreadStart delegate.
        Thread^ InstanceCaller = gcnew Thread(
            gcnew ThreadStart(serverObject, &ServerClass::InstanceMethod));

        // Start the thread.
        InstanceCaller->Start();

        Console::WriteLine("The Main() thread calls this after "
            + "starting the new InstanceCaller thread.");

        // Create the thread object, passing in the
        // serverObject.StaticMethod method using a
        // ThreadStart delegate.
        Thread^ StaticCaller = gcnew Thread(
            gcnew ThreadStart(&ServerClass::StaticMethod));

        // Start the thread.
        StaticCaller->Start();

        Console::WriteLine("The Main() thread calls this after "
            + "starting the new StaticCaller thread.");
    }
};

int main()
{
    Simple::Main();
}
// The example displays output like the following:
//       The Main() thread calls this after starting the new InstanceCaller thread.
//       The Main() thread calls this after starting the new StaticCaller thread.
//       ServerClass.StaticMethod is running on another thread.
//       ServerClass.InstanceMethod is running on another thread.
//       The instance method called by the worker thread has ended.
//       The static method called by the worker thread has ended.
using System;
using System.Threading;

public class ServerClass
{
    // The method that will be called when the thread is started.
    public void InstanceMethod()
    {
        Console.WriteLine(
            "ServerClass.InstanceMethod is running on another thread.");

        // Pause for a moment to provide a delay to make
        // threads more apparent.
        Thread.Sleep(3000);
        Console.WriteLine(
            "The instance method called by the worker thread has ended.");
    }

    public static void StaticMethod()
    {
        Console.WriteLine(
            "ServerClass.StaticMethod is running on another thread.");

        // Pause for a moment to provide a delay to make
        // threads more apparent.
        Thread.Sleep(5000);
        Console.WriteLine(
            "The static method called by the worker thread has ended.");
    }
}

public class Simple
{
    public static void Main()
    {
        ServerClass serverObject = new ServerClass();

        // Create the thread object, passing in the
        // serverObject.InstanceMethod method using a
        // ThreadStart delegate.
        Thread InstanceCaller = new Thread(
            new ThreadStart(serverObject.InstanceMethod));

        // Start the thread.
        InstanceCaller.Start();

        Console.WriteLine("The Main() thread calls this after "
            + "starting the new InstanceCaller thread.");

        // Create the thread object, passing in the
        // serverObject.StaticMethod method using a
        // ThreadStart delegate.
        Thread StaticCaller = new Thread(
            new ThreadStart(ServerClass.StaticMethod));

        // Start the thread.
        StaticCaller.Start();

        Console.WriteLine("The Main() thread calls this after "
            + "starting the new StaticCaller thread.");
    }
}
// The example displays the output like the following:
//    The Main() thread calls this after starting the new InstanceCaller thread.
//    The Main() thread calls this after starting the new StaticCaller thread.
//    ServerClass.StaticMethod is running on another thread.
//    ServerClass.InstanceMethod is running on another thread.
//    The instance method called by the worker thread has ended.
//    The static method called by the worker thread has ended.
Imports System.Threading

Public class ServerClass
    ' The method that will be called when the thread is started.
    Public Sub InstanceMethod()
        Console.WriteLine(
            "ServerClass.InstanceMethod is running on another thread.")

        ' Pause for a moment to provide a delay to make
        ' threads more apparent.
        Thread.Sleep(3000)
        Console.WriteLine(
            "The instance method called by the worker thread has ended.")
    End Sub

    Public Shared Sub SharedMethod()
        Console.WriteLine(
            "ServerClass.SharedMethod is running on another thread.")

        ' Pause for a moment to provide a delay to make
        ' threads more apparent.
        Thread.Sleep(5000)
        Console.WriteLine(
            "The Shared method called by the worker thread has ended.")
    End Sub
End Class

Public class Simple
    Public Shared Sub Main()
        Dim serverObject As New ServerClass()

        ' Create the thread object, passing in the
        ' serverObject.InstanceMethod method using a
        ' ThreadStart delegate.
        Dim InstanceCaller As New Thread(AddressOf serverObject.InstanceMethod)

        ' Start the thread.
        InstanceCaller.Start()

        Console.WriteLine("The Main() thread calls this after " _
            + "starting the new InstanceCaller thread.")

        ' Create the thread object, passing in the
        ' serverObject.SharedMethod method using a
        ' ThreadStart delegate.
        Dim SharedCaller As New Thread( _
            New ThreadStart(AddressOf ServerClass.SharedMethod))

        ' Start the thread.
        SharedCaller.Start()

        Console.WriteLine("The Main() thread calls this after " _
            + "starting the new SharedCaller thread.")
    End Sub
End Class
' The example displays output like the following:
'    The Main() thread calls this after starting the new InstanceCaller thread.
'    The Main() thread calls this after starting the new StaticCaller thread.
'    ServerClass.StaticMethod is running on another thread.
'    ServerClass.InstanceMethod is running on another thread.
'    The instance method called by the worker thread has ended.
'    The static method called by the worker thread has ended.

Passing Data to Threads and Retrieving Data from Threads

In the .NET Framework version 2.0, the ParameterizedThreadStart delegate provides an easy way to pass an object containing data to a thread when you call the Thread.Start method overload. See ParameterizedThreadStart for a code example.

Using the ParameterizedThreadStart delegate is not a type-safe way to pass data, because the Thread.Start method overload accepts any object. An alternative is to encapsulate the thread procedure and the data in a helper class and use the ThreadStart delegate to execute the thread procedure. This technique is shown in the two code examples that follow.

Neither of these delegates has a return value, because there is no place to return the data from an asynchronous call. To retrieve the results of a thread method, you can use a callback method, as demonstrated in the second code example.

using namespace System;
using namespace System::Threading;

// The ThreadWithState class contains the information needed for
// a task, and the method that executes the task.
//
public ref class ThreadWithState
{
private:
    // State information used in the task.
    String^ boilerplate;
    int value;

    // The constructor obtains the state information.
public:
    ThreadWithState(String^ text, int number)
    {
        boilerplate = text;
        value = number;
    }

    // The thread procedure performs the task, such as formatting
    // and printing a document.
    void ThreadProc()
    {
        Console::WriteLine(boilerplate, value);
    }
};

// Entry point for the example.
//
public ref class Example
{
public:
    static void Main()
    {
        // Supply the state information required by the task.
        ThreadWithState^ tws = gcnew ThreadWithState(
            "This report displays the number {0}.", 42);

        // Create a thread to execute the task, and then
        // start the thread.
        Thread^ t = gcnew Thread(gcnew ThreadStart(tws, &ThreadWithState::ThreadProc));
        t->Start();
        Console::WriteLine("Main thread does some work, then waits.");
        t->Join();
        Console::WriteLine(
            "Independent task has completed; main thread ends.");
    }
};

int main()
{
    Example::Main();
}
// This example displays the following output:
//       Main thread does some work, then waits.
//       This report displays the number 42.
//       Independent task has completed; main thread ends.
using System;
using System.Threading;

// The ThreadWithState class contains the information needed for
// a task, and the method that executes the task.
//
public class ThreadWithState
{
    // State information used in the task.
    private string boilerplate;
    private int value;

    // The constructor obtains the state information.
    public ThreadWithState(string text, int number)
    {
        boilerplate = text;
        value = number;
    }

    // The thread procedure performs the task, such as formatting
    // and printing a document.
    public void ThreadProc()
    {
        Console.WriteLine(boilerplate, value);
    }
}

// Entry point for the example.
//
public class Example
{
    public static void Main()
    {
        // Supply the state information required by the task.
        ThreadWithState tws = new ThreadWithState(
            "This report displays the number {0}.", 42);

        // Create a thread to execute the task, and then
        // start the thread.
        Thread t = new Thread(new ThreadStart(tws.ThreadProc));
        t.Start();
        Console.WriteLine("Main thread does some work, then waits.");
        t.Join();
        Console.WriteLine(
            "Independent task has completed; main thread ends.");
    }
}
// The example displays the following output:
//       Main thread does some work, then waits.
//       This report displays the number 42.
//       Independent task has completed; main thread ends.
Imports System.Threading

' The ThreadWithState class contains the information needed for
' a task, and the method that executes the task.
Public Class ThreadWithState
    ' State information used in the task.
    Private boilerplate As String
    Private value As Integer

    ' The constructor obtains the state information.
    Public Sub New(text As String, number As Integer)
        boilerplate = text
        value = number
    End Sub

    ' The thread procedure performs the task, such as formatting
    ' and printing a document.
    Public Sub ThreadProc()
        Console.WriteLine(boilerplate, value)
    End Sub
End Class

' Entry point for the example.
'
Public Class Example
    Public Shared Sub Main()
        ' Supply the state information required by the task.
        Dim tws As New ThreadWithState( _
            "This report displays the number {0}.", 42)

        ' Create a thread to execute the task, and then
        ' start the thread.
        Dim t As New Thread(New ThreadStart(AddressOf tws.ThreadProc))
        t.Start()
        Console.WriteLine("Main thread does some work, then waits.")
        t.Join()
        Console.WriteLine( _
            "Independent task has completed main thread ends.")
    End Sub
End Class
' The example displays the following output:
'       Main thread does some work, then waits.
'       This report displays the number 42.
'       Independent task has completed; main thread ends.

Retrieving Data with Callback Methods

The following example demonstrates a callback method that retrieves data from a thread. The constructor for the class that contains the data and the thread method also accepts a delegate representing the callback method; before the thread method ends, it invokes the callback delegate.

using namespace System;
using namespace System::Threading;

// Delegate that defines the signature for the callback method.
//
public delegate void ExampleCallback(int lineCount);

// The ThreadWithState class contains the information needed for
// a task, the method that executes the task, and a delegate
// to call when the task is complete.
//
public ref class ThreadWithState
{
private:
    // State information used in the task.
    String^ boilerplate;
    int value;

    // Delegate used to execute the callback method when the
    // task is complete.
    ExampleCallback^ callback;

public:
    // The constructor obtains the state information and the
    // callback delegate.
    ThreadWithState(String^ text, int number,
        ExampleCallback^ callbackDelegate)
    {
        boilerplate = text;
        value = number;
        callback = callbackDelegate;
    }

    // The thread procedure performs the task, such as
    // formatting and printing a document, and then invokes
    // the callback delegate with the number of lines printed.
    void ThreadProc()
    {
        Console::WriteLine(boilerplate, value);
        if (callback != nullptr)
        {
            callback(1);
        }
    }
};

// Entry point for the example.
//
public ref class Example
{
public:
    static void Main()
    {
        // Supply the state information required by the task.
        ThreadWithState^ tws = gcnew ThreadWithState(
            "This report displays the number {0}.",
            42,
            gcnew ExampleCallback(&Example::ResultCallback)
        );

        Thread^ t = gcnew Thread(gcnew ThreadStart(tws, &ThreadWithState::ThreadProc));
        t->Start();
        Console::WriteLine("Main thread does some work, then waits.");
        t->Join();
        Console::WriteLine(
            "Independent task has completed; main thread ends.");
    }

    // The callback method must match the signature of the
    // callback delegate.
    //
    static void ResultCallback(int lineCount)
    {
        Console::WriteLine(
            "Independent task printed {0} lines.", lineCount);
    }
};

int main()
{
    Example::Main();
}
// The example displays the following output:
//       Main thread does some work, then waits.
//       This report displays the number 42.
//       Independent task printed 1 lines.
//       Independent task has completed; main thread ends.
using System;
using System.Threading;

// The ThreadWithState class contains the information needed for
// a task, the method that executes the task, and a delegate
// to call when the task is complete.
//
public class ThreadWithState
{
    // State information used in the task.
    private string boilerplate;
    private int value;

    // Delegate used to execute the callback method when the
    // task is complete.
    private ExampleCallback callback;

    // The constructor obtains the state information and the
    // callback delegate.
    public ThreadWithState(string text, int number, 
        ExampleCallback callbackDelegate) 
    {
        boilerplate = text;
        value = number;
        callback = callbackDelegate;
    }
    
    // The thread procedure performs the task, such as
    // formatting and printing a document, and then invokes
    // the callback delegate with the number of lines printed.
    public void ThreadProc() 
    {
        Console.WriteLine(boilerplate, value);
        if (callback != null)
            callback(1);
    }
}

// Delegate that defines the signature for the callback method.
//
public delegate void ExampleCallback(int lineCount);

// Entry point for the example.
//
public class Example 
{
    public static void Main() 
    {
        // Supply the state information required by the task.
        ThreadWithState tws = new ThreadWithState(
            "This report displays the number {0}.",
            42,
            new ExampleCallback(ResultCallback)
        );

        Thread t = new Thread(new ThreadStart(tws.ThreadProc));
        t.Start();
        Console.WriteLine("Main thread does some work, then waits.");
        t.Join();
        Console.WriteLine(
            "Independent task has completed; main thread ends."); 
    }

    // The callback method must match the signature of the
    // callback delegate.
    //
    public static void ResultCallback(int lineCount) 
    {
        Console.WriteLine(
            "Independent task printed {0} lines.", lineCount);
    }
}
// The example displays the following output:
//       Main thread does some work, then waits.
//       This report displays the number 42.
//       Independent task printed 1 lines.
//       Independent task has completed; main thread ends.
Imports System.Threading

' The ThreadWithState class contains the information needed for
' a task, the method that executes the task, and a delegate
' to call when the task is complete.
Public Class ThreadWithState
    ' State information used in the task.
    Private boilerplate As String
    Private value As Integer

    ' Delegate used to execute the callback method when the
    ' task is complete.
    Private callback As ExampleCallback

    ' The constructor obtains the state information and the
    ' callback delegate.
    Public Sub New(text As String, number As Integer, _
        callbackDelegate As ExampleCallback)
        boilerplate = text
        value = number
        callback = callbackDelegate
    End Sub

    ' The thread procedure performs the task, such as
    ' formatting and printing a document, and then invokes
    ' the callback delegate with the number of lines printed.
    Public Sub ThreadProc()
        Console.WriteLine(boilerplate, value)
        If Not (callback Is Nothing) Then
            callback(1)
        End If
    End Sub
End Class

' Delegate that defines the signature for the callback method.
'
Public Delegate Sub ExampleCallback(lineCount As Integer)

Public Class Example
    Public Shared Sub Main()
        ' Supply the state information required by the task.
        Dim tws As New ThreadWithState( _
            "This report displays the number {0}.", _
            42, _
            AddressOf ResultCallback)

        Dim t As New Thread(AddressOf tws.ThreadProc)
        t.Start()
        Console.WriteLine("Main thread does some work, then waits.")
        t.Join()
        Console.WriteLine( _
            "Independent task has completed; main thread ends.")
    End Sub

    Public Shared Sub ResultCallback(lineCount As Integer)
        Console.WriteLine( _
            "Independent task printed {0} lines.", lineCount)
    End Sub
End Class
' The example displays the following output:
'       Main thread does some work, then waits.
'       This report displays the number 42.
'       Independent task printed 1 lines.
'       Independent task has completed; main thread ends.

See Also

Thread
ThreadStart
ParameterizedThreadStart
Thread.Start
Threading
Using Threads and Threading