SetFileValidData function (fileapi.h)

Sets the valid data length of the specified file. This function is useful in very limited scenarios. For more information, see the Remarks section.

Caution  Use of this function without proper security considerations may compromise data privacy and security. For more information, see the Remarks section.



BOOL SetFileValidData(
  [in] HANDLE   hFile,
  [in] LONGLONG ValidDataLength


[in] hFile

A handle to the file. The file must have been opened with the GENERIC_WRITE access right, and the SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_NAME privilege enabled. For more information, see File Security and Access Rights.

Note  The file cannot be a network file, or be compressed, sparse, or transacted.

[in] ValidDataLength

The new valid data length.

This parameter must be a positive value that is greater than the current valid data length, but less than the current file size.

Return value

If the function succeeds, the return value is nonzero.

If the function fails, the return value is 0. To get extended error information, call GetLastError.


The SetFileValidData function sets the logical end of a file. To set the size of a file, use the SetEndOfFile function. The physical file size is also referred to as the end of the file.

Each file stream has the following properties:

  • File size: the size of the data in a file, to the byte.
  • Allocation size: the size of the space that is allocated for a file on a disk, which is always an even multiple of the cluster size.
  • Valid data length: the length of the data in a file that is actually written, to the byte. This value is always less than or equal to the file size.
Typically, the SetFileValidData function is used by system-level applications on their own private data. Not all file systems use valid data length. Some file systems can track multiple valid data ranges. In general, most applications will never need to call this function.

The SetFileValidData function allows you to avoid filling data with zeros when writing nonsequentially to a file. The function makes the data in the file valid without writing to the file. As a result, although some performance gain may be realized, existing data on disk from previously existing files can inadvertently become available to unintended readers. The following paragraphs provide a more detailed description of this potential security and privacy issue.

A caller must have the SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_NAME privilege enabled when opening a file initially. Applications should call SetFileValidData only on files that restrict access to those entities that have SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_NAME access. The application must ensure that the unwritten ranges of the file are never exposed, or security issues can result as follows.

If SetFileValidData is used on a file, the potential performance gain is obtained by not filling the allocated clusters for the file with zeros. Therefore, reading from the file will return whatever the allocated clusters contain, potentially content from other users. This is not necessarily a security issue at this point, because the caller needs to have SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_NAME privilege for SetFileValidData to succeed, and all data on disk can be read by such users. However, this caller can inadvertently expose this data to other users that cannot acquire the SE_MANAGE_VOLUME_PRIVILEGE privilege if the following holds:

  • If the file was not opened with a sharing mode that denies other readers, a nonprivileged user can open it and read the exposed data.
  • If the system stops responding before the caller finishes writing up the ValidDataLength supplied in the call, then, on a reboot, such a nonprivileged user can open the file and read exposed content.

If the caller of SetFileValidData opened the file with adequately restrictive access control, the previous conditions would not apply. However, for partially written files extended with SetFileValidData (that is, writing was not completed up to the ValidDataLength supplied in the call) there exists yet another potential privacy or security vulnerability. An administrator could copy the file to a target that is not properly controlled with restrictive ACL permissions, thus inadvertently exposing the extended area's data to unauthorized reading.

It is for these reasons that SetFileValidData is not recommended for general purpose use, in addition to performance considerations, as discussed below.

For more information about security and access privileges, see Running with Special Privileges and File Security and Access Rights.

You can use the SetFileValidData function to create large files in very specific circumstances so that the performance of subsequent file I/O can be better than other methods. Specifically, if the extended portion of the file is large and will be written to randomly, such as in a database type of application, the time it takes to extend and write to the file will be faster than using SetEndOfFile and writing randomly. In most other situations, there is usually no performance gain to using SetFileValidData, and sometimes there can be a performance penalty.

In Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, this function is supported by the following technologies.

Technology Supported
Server Message Block (SMB) 3.0 protocol Yes
SMB 3.0 Transparent Failover (TFO) Yes
SMB 3.0 with Scale-out File Shares (SO) Yes
Cluster Shared Volume File System (CsvFS) Yes
Resilient File System (ReFS) Yes


Requirement Value
Minimum supported client Windows XP [desktop apps only]
Minimum supported server Windows Server 2003 [desktop apps only]
Target Platform Windows
Header fileapi.h (include Windows.h)
Library Kernel32.lib
DLL Kernel32.dll

See also

File Management Functions