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Posted 15 Mar 2008


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Parent Process Window

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15 Mar 2008CPOL2 min read
Shows how to get the process ID and show a modal window on the parent processes window


This article shows how to display a modal dialog/form against a parent processes window.

The download file contains a demo solution that shows how to use all of the code shown here.
The important code is wrapped in a class that makes things easier to maintain!


This does not happen very often, but I recently needed to create a Windows service that needed to display a dialog window to collect some user information during the installation. During the development of the installation project, I started thinking how to make sure that the data collection form is not hidden and that the installation does not continue without the user completing the necessary details.

I remember doing something like that in the past using MFC and WIN32, but I needed this for a .NET based solution. I decided to do some research.

In CodeProject resources, I found a solution that shows how to get the parent process using WIN32, and I also found a way of wrapping the IntPtr handle into an IWin32Window!

Here is the function that will retrieve the parent process:

Process GetParentProcess()
    int iParentPid = 0;
    int iCurrentPid = Process.GetCurrentProcess().Id;

    IntPtr oHnd = CreateToolhelp32Snapshot(TH32CS_SNAPPROCESS, 0);

    if(oHnd == IntPtr.Zero)
        return null;

    PROCESSENTRY32 oProcInfo = new PROCESSENTRY32();

    oProcInfo.dwSize =

    if(Process32First(oHnd, ref oProcInfo) == false)
        return null;

        if(iCurrentPid == oProcInfo.th32ProcessID)
        iParentPid = (int)oProcInfo.th32ParentProcessID;
    while(iParentPid == 0 && Process32Next(oHnd, ref oProcInfo));

    if(iParentPid > 0)
        return Process.GetProcessById(iParentPid);
        return null;    

Here are the PInvoke definitions:

#region WIN32 Definitions
    static uint TH32CS_SNAPPROCESS = 2;

    public struct PROCESSENTRY32
        public uint dwSize;
         public uint cntUsage;
    public uint th32ProcessID;
         public IntPtr th32DefaultHeapID;
         public uint th32ModuleID;
         public uint cntThreads;
         public uint th32ParentProcessID;
         public int pcPriClassBase;
         public uint dwFlags;
         [MarshalAs(UnmanagedType.ByValTStr, SizeConst = 260)]
         public string szExeFile;

    [DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
    static extern IntPtr CreateToolhelp32Snapshot(uint dwFlags, uint th32ProcessID);

    static extern bool Process32First(IntPtr hSnapshot, ref PROCESSENTRY32 lppe);

    static extern bool Process32Next(IntPtr hSnapshot, ref PROCESSENTRY32 lppe);

What is also important is the implementation of IWin32Window:

// Implementation of IWin32Window
// ----------------------------------------
class WinWrapper : System.Windows.Forms.IWin32Window
     public WinWrapper(IntPtr oHandle)
        _oHwnd = oHandle;

    public IntPtr Handle
        get { return _oHwnd; }

    private IntPtr _oHwnd;

Using It All

Assume that the parent process is form based and the child process is a console application. The child process needs to display a dialog box and it can do so like this:

Process oParent = GetParentProcess();
WinWrapper oParentHandle = new WinWrapper(oParent.MainWindowHandle);
MessageBox.Show(oParentHandle, "Hello Child Parent proc world!");

Points of Interest

It is interesting to see that the window IntPtr handle has to be wrapped in IWin32Window which just returns the same. I have tried the NativeWindow class and it did not help!

Good luck, hope that someone finds this code useful, and thanks to all the people who have put their code on The Code Project!


  • 15th March, 2008: Initial post


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Enver Buzoku
Team Leader
United Kingdom United Kingdom
C, BASIC on XT 8086,
C++, Perl, Java, HTML, SQL
MCTS - Web Applications
MCTS - Windows Forms Applications
MCTS - Distributed Applications
MCPD - Enterprise Systems

Comments and Discussions

GeneralAlternative approach Pin
Oleg Shilo16-Mar-08 16:54
MemberOleg Shilo16-Mar-08 16:54 

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