WinMain function (winbase.h)

The user-provided entry point for a graphical Windows-based application.

WinMain is the conventional name used for the application entry point. For more information, see Remarks.


int __clrcall WinMain(
  [in]           HINSTANCE hInstance,
  [in, optional] HINSTANCE hPrevInstance,
  [in]           LPSTR     lpCmdLine,
  [in]           int       nShowCmd


[in] hInstance


A handle to the current instance of the application.

[in, optional] hPrevInstance


A handle to the previous instance of the application. This parameter is always NULL. If you need to detect whether another instance already exists, create a uniquely named mutex using the CreateMutex function. CreateMutex will succeed even if the mutex already exists, but the function will return ERROR_ALREADY_EXISTS. This indicates that another instance of your application exists, because it created the mutex first. However, a malicious user can create this mutex before you do and prevent your application from starting. To prevent this situation, create a randomly named mutex and store the name so that it can only be obtained by an authorized user. Alternatively, you can use a file for this purpose. To limit your application to one instance per user, create a locked file in the user's profile directory.

[in] lpCmdLine


The command line for the application, excluding the program name. To retrieve the entire command line, use the GetCommandLine function.

[in] nShowCmd

Type: int

Controls how the window is to be shown. This parameter can be any of the values that can be specified in the nCmdShow parameter for the ShowWindow function.

Return value

Type: int

If the function succeeds, terminating when it receives a WM_QUIT message, it should return the exit value contained in that message's wParam parameter. If the function terminates before entering the message loop, it should return zero.


The name WinMain is used by convention by many programming frameworks. Depending on the programming framework, the call to the WinMain function can be preceded and followed by additional activities specific to that framework.

Your WinMain should initialize the application, display its main window, and enter a message retrieval-and-dispatch loop that is the top-level control structure for the remainder of the application's execution. Terminate the message loop when it receives a WM_QUIT message. At that point, your WinMain should exit the application, returning the value passed in the WM_QUIT message's wParam parameter. If WM_QUIT was received as a result of calling PostQuitMessage, the value of wParam is the value of the PostQuitMessage function's nExitCode parameter. For more information, see Creating a Message Loop.

ANSI applications can use the lpCmdLine parameter of the WinMain function to access the command-line string, excluding the program name. Note that lpCmdLine uses the LPSTR data type instead of the LPTSTR data type. This means that WinMain cannot be used by Unicode programs. The GetCommandLineW function can be used to obtain the command line as a Unicode string. Some programming frameworks might provide an alternative entry point that provides a Unicode command line. For example, the Microsoft Visual Studio C++ complier uses the name wWinMain for the Unicode entry point.


The following code example demonstrates the use of WinMain

#include <windows.h>

int APIENTRY WinMain(HINSTANCE hInst, HINSTANCE hInstPrev, PSTR cmdline, int cmdshow)
    return MessageBox(NULL, "hello, world", "caption", 0);


Requirement Value
Minimum supported client Windows 2000 Professional [desktop apps only]
Minimum supported server Windows 2000 Server [desktop apps only]
Target Platform Windows
Header winbase.h (include Windows.h)

See also






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