Using Semaphore Objects

The following example uses a semaphore object to limit the number of threads that can perform a particular task. First, it uses the CreateSemaphore function to create the semaphore and to specify initial and maximum counts, then it uses the CreateThread function to create the threads.

Before a thread attempts to perform the task, it uses the WaitForSingleObject function to determine whether the semaphore's current count permits it to do so. The wait function's time-out parameter is set to zero, so the function returns immediately if the semaphore is in the nonsignaled state. WaitForSingleObject decrements the semaphore's count by one.

When a thread completes the task, it uses the ReleaseSemaphore function to increment the semaphore's count, thus enabling another waiting thread to perform the task.

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

#define MAX_SEM_COUNT 10
#define THREADCOUNT 12

HANDLE ghSemaphore;


int main( void )
    DWORD ThreadID;
    int i;

    // Create a semaphore with initial and max counts of MAX_SEM_COUNT

    ghSemaphore = CreateSemaphore( 
        NULL,           // default security attributes
        MAX_SEM_COUNT,  // initial count
        MAX_SEM_COUNT,  // maximum count
        NULL);          // unnamed semaphore

    if (ghSemaphore == NULL) 
        printf("CreateSemaphore 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) ThreadProc, 
                     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 semaphore handles

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


    return 0;

DWORD WINAPI ThreadProc( LPVOID lpParam )

    // lpParam not used in this example

    DWORD dwWaitResult; 
    BOOL bContinue=TRUE;

        // Try to enter the semaphore gate.

        dwWaitResult = WaitForSingleObject( 
            ghSemaphore,   // handle to semaphore
            0L);           // zero-second time-out interval

        switch (dwWaitResult) 
            // The semaphore object was signaled.
            case WAIT_OBJECT_0: 
                // TODO: Perform task
                printf("Thread %d: wait succeeded\n", GetCurrentThreadId());

                // Simulate thread spending time on task

                // Release the semaphore when task is finished

                if (!ReleaseSemaphore( 
                        ghSemaphore,  // handle to semaphore
                        1,            // increase count by one
                        NULL) )       // not interested in previous count
                    printf("ReleaseSemaphore error: %d\n", GetLastError());

            // The semaphore was nonsignaled, so a time-out occurred.
            case WAIT_TIMEOUT: 
                printf("Thread %d: wait timed out\n", GetCurrentThreadId());
    return TRUE;