Using Mutex Objects

You can use a mutex object to protect a shared resource from simultaneous access by multiple threads or processes. Each thread must wait for ownership of the mutex before it can execute the code that accesses the shared resource. For example, if several threads share access to a database, the threads can use a mutex object to permit only one thread at a time to write to the database.

The following example uses the CreateMutex function to create a mutex object and the CreateThread function to create worker threads.

When a thread of this process writes to the database, it first requests ownership of the mutex using the WaitForSingleObject function. If the thread obtains ownership of the mutex, it writes to the database and then releases its ownership of the mutex using the ReleaseMutex function.

This example uses structured exception handling to ensure that the thread properly releases the mutex object. The __finally block of code is executed no matter how the __try block terminates (unless the __try block includes a call to the TerminateThread function). This prevents the mutex object from being abandoned inadvertently.

If a mutex is abandoned, the thread that owned the mutex did not properly release it before terminating. In this case, the status of the shared resource is indeterminate, and continuing to use the mutex can obscure a potentially serious error. Some applications might attempt to restore the resource to a consistent state; this example simply returns an error and stops using the mutex. For more information, see Mutex Objects.

#include <windows.h>
#include <stdio.h>


HANDLE ghMutex; 


int main( void )
    DWORD ThreadID;
    int i;

    // Create a mutex with no initial owner

    ghMutex = CreateMutex( 
        NULL,              // default security attributes
        FALSE,             // initially not owned
        NULL);             // unnamed mutex

    if (ghMutex == NULL) 
        printf("CreateMutex error: %d\n", GetLastError());
        return 1;

    // Create worker threads

    for( i=0; i < THREADCOUNT; i++ )
        aThread[i] = CreateThread( 
                     NULL,       // default security attributes
                     0,          // default stack size
                     (LPTHREAD_START_ROUTINE) WriteToDatabase, 
                     NULL,       // no thread function arguments
                     0,          // default creation flags
                     &ThreadID); // receive thread identifier

        if( aThread[i] == NULL )
            printf("CreateThread error: %d\n", GetLastError());
            return 1;

    // Wait for all threads to terminate

    WaitForMultipleObjects(THREADCOUNT, aThread, TRUE, INFINITE);

    // Close thread and mutex handles

    for( i=0; i < THREADCOUNT; i++ )


    return 0;

DWORD WINAPI WriteToDatabase( LPVOID lpParam )
    // lpParam not used in this example

    DWORD dwCount=0, dwWaitResult; 

    // Request ownership of mutex.

    while( dwCount < 20 )
        dwWaitResult = WaitForSingleObject( 
            ghMutex,    // handle to mutex
            INFINITE);  // no time-out interval
        switch (dwWaitResult) 
            // The thread got ownership of the mutex
            case WAIT_OBJECT_0: 
                __try { 
                    // TODO: Write to the database
                    printf("Thread %d writing to database...\n", 

                __finally { 
                    // Release ownership of the mutex object
                    if (! ReleaseMutex(ghMutex)) 
                        // Handle error.

            // The thread got ownership of an abandoned mutex
            // The database is in an indeterminate state
            case WAIT_ABANDONED: 
                return FALSE; 
    return TRUE;