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Posted 10 Mar 2006


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Getting the user idle time with C#

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10 Mar 20062 min read
Getting the user idle time using C# and the Windows API.

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System idle time is the time that has passed since the computer has received its last input from the user. It can be used to detect whether the user is idle or not. This feature is present in many instant messaging systems.

Visual Studio 2003 does not provide an explicit way to accomplish this, but I found an alternate method using C# code only.

Using the code

The implemented solution calls functions inside the user32.dll and kernel32.dll files.

To do this, it is necessary:

  1. To add a reference to the System.Runtime.InteropServices namespace.
  2. To know the name and definition of the function to be called.
  3. To create an extern function using C#.
  4. To make any additional structure to be used in the called functions.
// Step 1
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;

// Steps 2 and 3
private static extern bool 
        GetLastInputInfo(ref LASTINPUTINFO plii);

//Step 4
internal struct LASTINPUTINFO 
    public uint cbSize;

    public uint dwTime;

When I was trying to make things works, I found an issue with the LASTINPUTINFO structure. I solved the problem by creating a C# struct with the same members as the original function. Note that you need to know the mapping between a Windows data type and the .NET Framework data types. The following table is very useful:

BOOLBoolean variable (should be TRUE or FALSE).
BOOLEANBoolean variable (should be TRUE or FALSE).
BYTEByte (8 bits).
CALLBACKCalling convention for callback functions.
CHAR8-bit Windows (ANSI) character.
COLORREFRed, green, blue (RGB) color value (32 bits).
CONSTVariable whose value is to remain constant during execution.
DWORD32-bit unsigned integer.
DWORD_PTRUnsigned long type for pointer precision. Use when casting a pointer to a long type to perform pointer arithmetic. (Also commonly used for general 32-bit parameters that have been extended to 64 bits in 64-bit Windows.)
INT32-bit signed integer.
INT_PTRSigned integral type for pointer precision. Use when casting a pointer to an integer to perform pointer arithmetic.
INT3232-bit signed integer.
INT6464-bit signed integer.
LONG32-bit signed integer.
LONG_PTRSigned long type for pointer precision. Use when casting a pointer to a long to perform pointer arithmetic.
LONG3232-bit signed integer.
LONG6464-bit signed integer.
LONGLONG64-bit signed integer.
LPARAMMessage parameter.
LPBOOLPointer to a BOOL.
LPBYTEPointer to a BYTE.

When using a struct as a parameter, you have to initialize it before it is passed to the function:

lastInPut.cbSize = (uint)

The rest of the code does not contain any trick.

Using the code

The best method to use the code is compiling it in an DLL and using the functions asynchronously using a timer or threads.


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Comments and Discussions

QuestionGetLastUserInput.GetIdleTickCount() Pin
rafaelly20067-Jan-18 22:05
Memberrafaelly20067-Jan-18 22:05 
QuestionReset tick in an event Pin
Steve15f17-Mar-17 3:44
MemberSteve15f17-Mar-17 3:44 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Halldorsson14-Aug-14 2:17
MemberHalldorsson14-Aug-14 2:17 
SuggestionGetLastInputInfo additional info Pin
jorge_toriz16-Jun-14 7:39
Memberjorge_toriz16-Jun-14 7:39 
BugBUG FOUND & FIXED: Environment.TickCount returns negative value in GetIdleTime() Windows 7 X64 Pin
jeffsdjfhj321-Jun-13 3:01
Memberjeffsdjfhj321-Jun-13 3:01 
GeneralRe: BUG FOUND & FIXED: Environment.TickCount returns negative value in GetIdleTime() Windows 7 X64 Pin
sihirbazz10-Jun-14 8:58
Membersihirbazz10-Jun-14 8:58 
GeneralRe: BUG FOUND & FIXED: Environment.TickCount returns negative value in GetIdleTime() Windows 7 X64 Pin
Dasiths17-May-15 14:26
MemberDasiths17-May-15 14:26 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
Jorge Ali Urbina16-Mar-13 7:36
MemberJorge Ali Urbina16-Mar-13 7:36 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Supriya Srivastav11-Jan-12 21:50
MemberSupriya Srivastav11-Jan-12 21:50 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
andoniu1-Nov-11 21:53
Memberandoniu1-Nov-11 21:53 
QuestionWorking in 64 bit Windows Pin
eduardo zola24-Jul-11 15:28
Membereduardo zola24-Jul-11 15:28 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
That's Aragon21-Jul-11 2:47
MemberThat's Aragon21-Jul-11 2:47 
Generalthx Pin
binabic6-May-11 10:49
Memberbinabic6-May-11 10:49 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Gilberto Alexandre16-Feb-11 23:33
MemberGilberto Alexandre16-Feb-11 23:33 
QuestionIs it possible in Web forms? Pin
deja_anbu12-Feb-11 22:31
Memberdeja_anbu12-Feb-11 22:31 
GeneralBehave really bad on vista Pin
Sergejack27-Jan-10 5:17
MemberSergejack27-Jan-10 5:17 
GeneralRe: Behave really bad on vista Pin
av_tiuk3-Jun-10 6:33
Memberav_tiuk3-Jun-10 6:33 
GeneralGetting the idle time of another system in network Pin
SHRIDHAR TL14-Oct-09 2:37
MemberSHRIDHAR TL14-Oct-09 2:37 
GeneralRe: Getting the idle time of another system in network Pin
AyBeO17-Dec-09 18:56
MemberAyBeO17-Dec-09 18:56 
GeneralPretty slick Pin
Mythos724-Aug-09 9:29
MemberMythos724-Aug-09 9:29 
GeneralVirtual machine Issues Pin
snorkie16-Apr-09 12:07
professionalsnorkie16-Apr-09 12:07 
AnswerThis little piece of code saved me this morning Pin
German Sosa11-Apr-09 4:35
MemberGerman Sosa11-Apr-09 4:35 
GeneralFantastic Pin
z00z07-Oct-08 7:04
Memberz00z07-Oct-08 7:04 
Generalwell done Pin
alexandru robert, agrapine6-Jun-08 23:16
Memberalexandru robert, agrapine6-Jun-08 23:16 
Generalabsolutely great! Pin
Luis Miguel Silva16-Feb-08 12:46
MemberLuis Miguel Silva16-Feb-08 12:46 

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