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The Multimedia Timer for the .NET Framework

, 1 Mar 2006
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A .NET class encapsulating the Win32 multimedia timer.


The Win32 multimedia timer services provide the greatest degree of timing accuracy. They allow you to schedule timing events at a higher resolution than other timer services. This can be useful in a multimedia application where timing accuracy is of utmost importance. For example, a MIDI application needs timing events that are as finely grained as possible.

Unfortunately, the Win32 multimedia timer is not part of the .NET Framework. However, by using the .NET interoperability services, the multimedia timer can be brought into the .NET fold.

The multimedia timer class

The multimedia Timer class encapsulates several of the Win32 multimedia functions to make using the multimedia timer in the .NET environment easy and painless. The Timer class has Start and Stop methods for starting and stopping the Timer respectively. It also implements the IComponent interface so that it can be dragged and dropped onto the Windows Designer. When the Timer Period has elapsed, it raises a Tick event. All are very simple and straightforward. In addition, the class has several properties:

  • Capabilities – Gets a structure representing the multimedia timer capabilities.
  • Mode – Gets or sets the timer mode.
  • Period – Gets or sets the time between timer events in milliseconds.
  • Resolution – Gets or sets the timer resolution in milliseconds.
  • SynchronizingObject - Gets or sets the ISynchronizeInvoke object the timer is using for marshaling events.

The Capabilities property is a static property that gets a TimerCaps structure representing your system's multimedia timer's minimum and maximum Period values. Each multimedia Timer you create has the same capabilities. Note, I have not been able to find hard documentation for this, but it appears that the maximum number of multimedia timers you can create on Windows XP is 16. I assume this is true for other versions of Windows as well, but I don't know.

The Mode property gets or sets the Timer's firing mode. If the Mode is set to TimerMode.OneShot, the Timer will fire only once after the Period value has elapsed. Otherwise, if it is set to TimerMode.Periodic, it will fire continuously each time the Period value has elapsed.

The Period property gets or sets the time in milliseconds between each Tick event.

The Resolution property gets or sets the Timer's accuracy. The lower the value of this property, with zero being the lowest, the higher the accuracy. However, the documentation for the Win32 multimedia timer warns that "To reduce system overhead, however, you should use the maximum value appropriate for your application".

The SynchronizingObject property gets or sets the timer's ISynchronizeInvoke object. Initially, this property is null. When you initialize to an ISynchronizeInvoke object, the timer will marshal the events it generates to the same thread in which the ISynchronizeInvoke object is running. For example, if you are using the timer in a Windows Form, you can initialize the timer's SynchronizingObject to the Form itself. The timer will then marshal its events to the Form's thread.


I hope you find this class useful. My hope is that it will find its way into .NET multimedia applications. Comments and suggestions are most welcome.


  • 11/22/2003 - Article submitted.
  • 10/24/2005 - Major article revision, source code rewritten and updated.
  • 03/01/2006 - Article revision, source code rewritten and updated.


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

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About the Author

Leslie Sanford

United States United States
Aside from dabbling in BASIC on his old Atari 1040ST years ago, Leslie's programming experience didn't really begin until he discovered the Internet in the late 90s. There he found a treasure trove of information about two of his favorite interests: MIDI and sound synthesis.

After spending a good deal of time calculating formulas he found on the Internet for creating new sounds by hand, he decided that an easier way would be to program the computer to do the work for him. This led him to learn C. He discovered that beyond using programming as a tool for synthesizing sound, he loved programming in and of itself.

Eventually he taught himself C++ and C#, and along the way he immersed himself in the ideas of object oriented programming. Like many of us, he gotten bitten by the design patterns bug and a copy of GOF is never far from his hands.

Now his primary interest is in creating a complete MIDI toolkit using the C# language. He hopes to create something that will become an indispensable tool for those wanting to write MIDI applications for the .NET framework.

Besides programming, his other interests are photography and playing his Les Paul guitars.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionI get "The calling thread cannot access this object because a different thread owns it." Error [modified] PinmemberJeu Keu23-Jul-14 14:21 
AnswerRe: I get "The calling thread cannot access this object because a different thread owns it." Error PinmemberMember 807229210-Aug-14 1:27 
QuestionMultimediatimer and USB HID Communication PinmemberOzkanKafadar9-Jul-14 1:45 
Questionvery useful, easy implementation. Thank you! PinmemberMember 1077314525-Apr-14 8:19 
QuestionError with OneShot Timer : timer is still 'running' after Tick PinmemberMember 1069630128-Mar-14 10:55 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberchris wedgwood22-Aug-13 4:58 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberCrunchyDoodle19-Jun-13 8:08 
QuestionExcellent timer PinmemberJayawant Karale30-Apr-13 2:41 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberDale Barnard18-Apr-13 11:21 
QuestionObsolete Pinmemberjfriedman12-Apr-13 19:13 
AnswerRe: Obsolete PinmemberMember 1042672326-Nov-13 2:31 
GeneralRe: Obsolete Pinprofessionaljfriedman26-Nov-13 5:00 
GeneralRe: Obsolete PinmemberMember 1042672326-Nov-13 5:12 
GeneralRe: Obsolete Pinprofessionaljfriedman26-Nov-13 7:47 
GeneralGreat Timer PinmemberChristopher Brooks19-Feb-13 11:49 
QuestionSystematic Timer Delay Pinmemberdiggy doggit11-Feb-13 21:21 
QuestionThread kept alive after dispose PinmemberLee Reid10-Jul-12 4:26 
The thread on which the timer runs remains alive after the timer is disposed. Is there any way to kill that thread, or is this behaviour by-design?

QuestionTimer PinmemberMember 869768715-May-12 13:44 
QuestionRunning into timer drift PinmemberBHort15-Sep-11 11:29 
AnswerRe: Running into timer drift Pinmemberroadz118-Mar-12 12:13 
GeneralWith multiple timers, MultimediaTimer does not always re-start properly Pinmemberzamirkhan4-May-11 11:48 
GeneralRe: With multiple timers, MultimediaTimer does not always re-start properly PingroupSparkling_ouc29-Jun-11 23:03 
GeneralI get a Timer error sometimes [modified] PinmemberD-Flux31-Mar-11 1:17 
GeneralMultimedia timer PinmemberJSamedov9-Feb-11 23:14 
GeneralRe: Multimedia timer Pinmemberzamirkhan4-May-11 11:21 
GeneralThanks very much PinmemberMat_Davies9-Dec-10 8:30 
QuestionCan I start up several instances of the timer? PinmemberMiiika_19-Oct-10 23:11 
QuestionNot accurate as C++ native mode [modified] PinmemberBit_Flipper9-Jun-10 11:11 
GeneralThanks very much PinmemberJulian11223-May-10 21:05 PinmemberBerlus3-Feb-10 5:16 
GeneralThanks Pinmember_brice2-Feb-10 2:50 
GeneralMake 'multiple' waitable timer using this Multi media timer PinmemberMember 39606625-Jan-10 10:41 
GeneralRe: Make 'multiple' waitable timer using this Multi media timer PinmemberBit_Flipper16-Jun-10 5:27 
GeneralRe: Make 'multiple' waitable timer using this Multi media timer PinmemberMiiika_19-Oct-10 23:13 
Generalbroken examples PinmemberSk9329-Sep-09 6:52 
GeneralRe: broken examples PinmemberLeslie Sanford29-Sep-09 7:54 
GeneralProblem with accuracy PinmemberOndrej8413-Feb-09 1:03 
QuestionProblem: Events are not being fired at the specified interval Pinmemberrkbowen21-Nov-08 2:44 
AnswerRe: Problem: Events are not being fired at the specified interval PinmemberPittyAlex3-Jan-09 0:09 
QuestionThe Timer class is sealed, I cannot inherit it. Pinmemberuu88ii24-Jun-08 21:24 
Generalsorry,a mistakenly vote Pinmemberuu88ii9-Jun-08 2:42 
GeneralRe: sorry,a mistakenly vote PinmemberIlíon18-Sep-08 15:25 
GeneralBug with TimerMode.OneShot and SyncronizingObject Pinmemberpatrickcbrown20-Sep-07 9:49 
GeneralRe: Bug with TimerMode.OneShot and SyncronizingObject PinmemberLeslie Sanford20-Sep-07 9:57 
GeneralRe: Bug with TimerMode.OneShot and SyncronizingObject Pinmemberpatrickcbrown21-Sep-07 12:39 
GeneralRe: Bug with TimerMode.OneShot and SyncronizingObject PinmemberLeslie Sanford21-Sep-07 12:48 
GeneralRe: Bug with TimerMode.OneShot and SyncronizingObject Pinmemberpatrickcbrown20-Sep-07 9:58 
GeneraltimeBeginPeriod/timeEndPeriod Pinmemberujr14-Feb-07 7:29 
GeneralRe: timeBeginPeriod/timeEndPeriod PinmemberRuben Jönsson5-Oct-07 4:20 
GeneralCan't open demo form (Form1.cs) in designer PinmemberDPRoberts10-Aug-06 10:38 

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