File Handles

When a file is opened by a process using the CreateFile function, a file handle is associated with it until either the process terminates or the handle is closed using the CloseHandle function. The file handle is used to identify the file in many function calls.

Each file handle and file object is generally unique to each process that opens a file—the only exceptions to this are when a file handle held by a process is duplicated, or when a child process inherits the file handles of the parent process. In these situations, these file handles are unique, but see a single, shared file object. See DuplicateHandle for more information on duplicating file handles held by processes.

Note that while the file handles are typically private to a process, the file data that the file handles point to is not. Therefore, processes and threads that share the same file must synchronize their access. For most operations on a file, a process identifies the file through its private pool of handles.