HOSTENT structure (winsock.h)

The hostent structure is used by functions to store information about a given host, such as host name, IPv4 address, and so forth. An application should never attempt to modify this structure or to free any of its components. Furthermore, only one copy of the hostent structure is allocated per thread, and an application should therefore copy any information that it needs before issuing any other Windows Sockets API calls.


typedef struct hostent {
  char  *h_name;
  char  **h_aliases;
  short h_addrtype;
  short h_length;
  char  **h_addr_list;



The official name of the host (PC). If using the DNS or similar resolution system, it is the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) that caused the server to return a reply. If using a local hosts file, it is the first entry after the IPv4 address.


A NULL-terminated array of alternate names.


The type of address being returned.


The length, in bytes, of each address.


A NULL-terminated list of addresses for the host. Addresses are returned in network byte order. The macro h_addr is defined to be h_addr_list[0] for compatibility with older software.


The gethostbyaddr and gethostbyname functions returns a pointer to a hostent structure—a structure allocated by Windows Sockets. The hostent structure contains the results of a successful search for the host specified in the name parameter.

The memory for the hostent structure returned by the gethostbyaddr and gethostbyname functions is allocated internally by the Winsock DLL from thread local storage. Only a single hostent structure is allocated and used, no matter how many times the gethostbyaddr or gethostbyname functions are called on the thread. The returned hostent structure must be copied to an application buffer if additional calls are to be made to the gethostbyaddr or gethostbyname functions on the same thread. Otherwise, the return value will be overwritten by subsequent gethostbyaddr or gethostbyname calls on the same thread. The internal memory allocated for the returned hostent structure is released by the Winsock DLL when the thread exits.

An application should not try to release the memory used by the returned hostent structure. The application must never attempt to modify this structure or to free any of its components. Furthermore, only one copy of this structure is allocated per thread, so the application should copy any information it needs before issuing any other function calls to gethostbyaddr or gethostbyname.


The following examples demonstrates the use of the hostent structure with the gethostbyname function.


#include <winsock2.h>
#include <ws2tcpip.h>
#include <stdio.h>

// Need to link with Ws2_32.lib
#pragma comment(lib, "ws2_32.lib")

int main(int argc, char **argv)

    // Declare and initialize variables
    WSADATA wsaData;
    int iResult;

    DWORD dwError;
    int i = 0;

    struct hostent *remoteHost;
    char *host_name;
    struct in_addr addr;

    char **pAlias;

    // Validate the parameters
    if (argc != 2) {
        printf("usage: %s ipv4address\n", argv[0]);
        printf(" or\n");
        printf("       %s hostname\n", argv[0]);
        printf("  to return the host\n");
        printf("       %s\n", argv[0]);
        printf("  to return the IP addresses for a host\n");
        printf("       %s\n", argv[0]);
        return 1;
    // Initialize Winsock
    iResult = WSAStartup(MAKEWORD(2, 2), &wsaData);
    if (iResult != 0) {
        printf("WSAStartup failed: %d\n", iResult);
        return 1;

    host_name = argv[1];

// If the user input is an alpha name for the host, use gethostbyname()
// If not, get host by addr (assume IPv4)
    if (isalpha(host_name[0])) {        /* host address is a name */
        printf("Calling gethostbyname with %s\n", host_name);
        remoteHost = gethostbyname(host_name);
    } else {
        printf("Calling gethostbyaddr with %s\n", host_name);
        addr.s_addr = inet_addr(host_name);
        if (addr.s_addr == INADDR_NONE) {
            printf("The IPv4 address entered must be a legal address\n");
            return 1;
        } else
            remoteHost = gethostbyaddr((char *) &addr, 4, AF_INET);

    if (remoteHost == NULL) {
        dwError = WSAGetLastError();
        if (dwError != 0) {
            if (dwError == WSAHOST_NOT_FOUND) {
                printf("Host not found\n");
                return 1;
            } else if (dwError == WSANO_DATA) {
                printf("No data record found\n");
                return 1;
            } else {
                printf("Function failed with error: %ld\n", dwError);
                return 1;
    } else {
        printf("Function returned:\n");
        printf("\tOfficial name: %s\n", remoteHost->h_name);
        for (pAlias = remoteHost->h_aliases; *pAlias != 0; pAlias++) {
            printf("\tAlternate name #%d: %s\n", ++i, *pAlias);
        printf("\tAddress type: ");
        switch (remoteHost->h_addrtype) {
        case AF_INET:
        case AF_INET6:
        case AF_NETBIOS:
            printf(" %d\n", remoteHost->h_addrtype);
        printf("\tAddress length: %d\n", remoteHost->h_length);

        if (remoteHost->h_addrtype == AF_INET) {
            while (remoteHost->h_addr_list[i] != 0) {
                addr.s_addr = *(u_long *) remoteHost->h_addr_list[i++];
                printf("\tIPv4 Address #%d: %s\n", i, inet_ntoa(addr));
        } else if (remoteHost->h_addrtype == AF_INET6)
            printf("\tRemotehost is an IPv6 address\n");

    return 0;


Requirement Value
Minimum supported client Windows 2000 Professional [desktop apps only]
Minimum supported server Windows 2000 Server [desktop apps only]
Header winsock.h (include Winsock2.h)

See also