ReadConsoleOutputCharacter function


This document describes console platform functionality that is no longer a part of our ecosystem roadmap. We do not recommend using this content in new products, but we will continue to support existing usages for the indefinite future. Our preferred modern solution focuses on virtual terminal sequences for maximum compatibility in cross-platform scenarios. You can find more information about this design decision in our classic console vs. virtual terminal document.

Copies a number of characters from consecutive cells of a console screen buffer, beginning at a specified location.


BOOL WINAPI ReadConsoleOutputCharacter(
  _In_  HANDLE  hConsoleOutput,
  _Out_ LPTSTR  lpCharacter,
  _In_  DWORD   nLength,
  _In_  COORD   dwReadCoord,
  _Out_ LPDWORD lpNumberOfCharsRead


hConsoleOutput [in]
A handle to the console screen buffer. The handle must have the GENERIC_READ access right. For more information, see Console Buffer Security and Access Rights.

lpCharacter [out]
A pointer to a buffer that receives the characters read from the console screen buffer.

nLength [in]
The number of screen buffer character cells from which to read. The size of the buffer pointed to by the lpCharacter parameter should be nLength * sizeof(TCHAR).

dwReadCoord [in]
The coordinates of the first cell in the console screen buffer from which to read, in characters. The X member of the COORD structure is the column, and the Y member is the row.

lpNumberOfCharsRead [out]
A pointer to a variable that receives the number of characters actually read.

Return value

If the function succeeds, the return value is nonzero.

If the function fails, the return value is zero. To get extended error information, call GetLastError.


If the number of characters to be read from extends beyond the end of the specified screen buffer row, characters are read from the next row. If the number of characters to be read from extends beyond the end of the console screen buffer, characters up to the end of the console screen buffer are read.

This function uses either Unicode characters or 8-bit characters from the console's current code page. The console's code page defaults initially to the system's OEM code page. To change the console's code page, use the SetConsoleCP or SetConsoleOutputCP functions. Legacy consumers may also use the chcp or mode con cp select= commands, but it is not recommended for new development.


This API is not recommended and does not have a virtual terminal equivalent. This decision intentionally aligns the Windows platform with other operating systems where the individual client application is expected to remember its own drawn state for further manipulation. Applications remoting via cross-platform utilities and transports like SSH may not work as expected if using this API.


Minimum supported client Windows 2000 Professional [desktop apps only]
Minimum supported server Windows 2000 Server [desktop apps only]
Header ConsoleApi2.h (via WinCon.h, include Windows.h)
Library Kernel32.lib
DLL Kernel32.dll
Unicode and ANSI names ReadConsoleOutputCharacterW (Unicode) and ReadConsoleOutputCharacterA (ANSI)

See also

Console Functions


Low-Level Console Output Functions