Click here to Skip to main content
15,358,692 members
Articles / Programming Languages / C#
Posted 11 Apr 2003


106 bookmarked

Trapping windows messages

Rate me:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
4.67/5 (31 votes)
11 Apr 20038 min read
Trapping windows messages in the .NET framework - a small tutorial


To perform some tasks, we still need to trap unmanaged windows messages, even though we are developing managed code. This is a little tutorial that tries to clarify how to trap those messages using the .NET Framework.

The code is written in C#. I believe it will be quite easy for those who are reading this document, and you can use VB.NET™ instead of C#, to port the concepts.

Learn by example

Now, to clarify the concepts lets use something useful. Maybe some of the readers have the need to detect if a CD, or for what matters any removable volume mounted on a device which supports a software ejection method (DVD, Zip, etc…), has been inserted or removed from a device. This can be accomplished by detecting the WM_CHANGEDEVICE message.

Trapping messages in .NET

There are, to my knowledge, two ways of trapping windows messages in the Microsoft .NET Framework.:

The IMessageFilter interface

The most obvious, and I suspect the least useful, is to use the IMessageFilter interface.

The BCL defines an IMessageFilter interface, which describes a single method named PreFilterMessage, which can be used to trap Windows messages. After defining a class which implements the IMessageFilter interface, we just need to tell the Application class, that it should add it to the queue of IMessageFilter interfaces it can handle using the Application.AddMessageFilter method. We can also remove a filter using the Application.RemoveMessageFilter method from the queue. Now, this approach is only useful to trap dispatched messages, it does not handle all messages. This process is out of scope in this document, anyway, as an example example, we would have to use something like:

using System;
using System.Windows.Forms;

public class MyFilter: IMessageFilter
    public bool PreFilterMessage(ref Message aMessage)
        if (aMessage.Msg==WM_AMESSAGE)
            //WM_AMESSAGE Dispatched
            //Let’s do something here
        // This can be either true of false
        // false enables the message to propagate to all other
        // listeners
        return false;

At some other point of your code you would have to register an instance of MyFilter, like:

// This will have to have a scope that makes it accessible to both
// AddFilter and RemoveFilter
MyFilter fFilter = new MyFilter();

Overriding a WndProc method

The solution, in our example, is overriding a WndProc method of a Control or to do the same with an implementation of the NativeWindow class. The first solution is useful if we need to trap messages in a class that inherits the Control class. If we want to build a class that is not dependent on a specific Control, we will have to use the NativeWindow class. This class simply wraps a window handle, and so, it enables us to override the WndProc method which is implemented.

In both cases, we will override the WndProc method like:

protected override void WndProc(ref Message aMessage)
    if (aMessage.Msg==WM_AMESSAGE)
        //WM_AMESSAGE Dispatched
        //Let’s do something here

Detecting a volume insertion or removal

Now, let’s look at our example. We already know that we will need to trap the WM_DEVICECHANGED message, and to filter two specific events. We will build the example based on two classes.

The first one, _DeviceVolumeMonitor, will be private to the project, and will only serve to inherit the NativeWindow class, so that our main class won’t expose the public NativeWindow methods. This class will also serve the purpose of encapsulating all API constants and structures that we will need to make things work.

DeviceVolumeMonitor, will be our main class. It implements most of the logic needed to the user. Nevertheless, the main subject of this tutorial is in the other class.


This message is broadcasted whenever something relevant occurs in a device connected to Microsoft Windows. For this matter, there are two events which we will need to trap, the DBT_DEVICEARRIVAL and the DBT_DEVICEREMOVECOMPLETE.

Both events are handled the same way, the only difference being that DBT_DEVICEARRIVAL detects a volume being inserted, and the DBT_DEVICEREMOVECOMPLETE detects that a volume was removed. Now, we need to look at some of the Win32 API declarations to see how this works.

The WM_CHANGEDEVICE constant definition can be found in WinUser.h, all other information we will need, it can be found in DBT.h header file. Both files are part of the Microsoft Platform SDK.

When a WM_CHANGEDEVICE is broadcasted, the message structure will transport the event value in the WParam, and some additional data in a location pointed by LParam.

As I already described, we are only interested in trapping messages that have a WParam with the DBT_DEVICEARRIVAL or DBT_DEVICEREMOVALCOMPLETE values. The data pointed by LParam will have the same structure in both cases.

Once one of the events is detected, we must cast the pointer stored in LParam, to a _DEV_BROADCAST_HDR structure, and evaluate the dbch_devicetype field. We are only interested in proceeding if the field value is DBT_DEVTYP_VOLUME.

If this is the case, then we will need to cast LParam again, but this time to point at a _DEV_BROADCAST_VOLUME structure. This structure has two fields which we will have to evaluate. The first one is dbcv_flags. This field will tell us the nature of the volume that was mounted (or dismounted). It can be either a media volume like a CD (the flag will have a DBTF_MEDIA flag) or a network share (DBTF_NET). In this case we will only be interested in filtering the DBTF_MEDIA value. The other field is dbcv_unitmask, which is a bit vector that tells us which drive letters were mounted.

At this point, there are two facts which need to be clarified. As stated in the Platform SDK documentation, this message can tell us if more than one volume was mounted and these can be of multiple types. We will have to make an assumption that is whenever the dbcv_flags includes the DBTF_MEDIA value, we will assume that all the drives described by the dbcv_unitmask bit vector are of this type. I don’t think that it is likely that this notification will ever have a dbcv_flags that includes both types. Anyway, this would be solved if we would determine the specific type for all the drives described by dbcv_unitmask. On the other hand, as it was already implied, dbcv_unitmask can describe more than one drive at a time. I guess this is only likely if we have a jukebox device, but anyway this is a problem we will solve in the code.

The _DeviceVolumeMonitor class

This is a helper class which is internal to the project. Now as I told you before, this class is only useful to inherit the NativeWindow class and to encapsulate the API constants and structures we will use. The class constructor takes only a parameter which will be the instance of the main class that owns the _DeviceVolumeMonitor instance.

The API constants and structures were modified to become more readable and useful in the .NET context.

The WndProc is overridden according to the cascading conditions described for the WM_DEVICECHANGE message. If all conditions are fulfilled then the object uses as internal method of the main class to inform it that a valid event has occurred. This method is called TriggerEvents.

The DeviceVolumeMonitor

Our main class, contains some logic, which has no relation to windows messages itself.

Now, we know that this class creates an instance of the former class, and that whenever an event is detected, it is reported back to the main class through the TriggerEvents method. This is not a clean OOP approach, but there was no point in making things more complicated.

This class has two properties defined: Enabled and AsynchronousEvents. The Enabled property is self explanatory, is handles enabling or disabling the message trapping. This is done with the helper class. When we want messages to be trapped we assign the handle to the NativeWindow descendant, and the WndProc method will be invoked whenever there is a message either broadcasted or dispatched, the handle will be released when the property is unset. This approach is better than controlling the property value in the WndProc method (the property is still evaluated on the method as a sanity check anyway), because the class won’t overload the system with unnecessary checks.

AsynchronousEvents controls the way events are invoked. If it is set, then the event will be called asynchronously, and WndProc won’t stall waiting for the application to process whatever it has to. Now, the way this is done on the TriggerEvents method is not peaceful. Many of you will criticize the BeginInvoke without following the design pattern. It is an unsafe option, but still it works if it only evolves calling thread safe code. Either way, I assume that you know what you are doing if you set this property.

There is a platform invoke to an API function called QueryDosDevice. This is a function that enables the translation between the drive letter, or DOS device name, to the full device path. This is used by one of two methods which translate the bit vector that was mentioned before. MaskToLogicalPaths translates the bit vector to a comma delimited string with all the drive letters described by the bit vector, MaskToDevicePaths on the other hand returns a string which is a list of the full device paths.

Two events are defined, OnVolumeInserted and OnVolumeRemoved. Both of them take the issued bit vector as a parameter.

Finally, I have implemented the IDisposable interface, I followed the design pattern, so there is not much to say here.


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.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Rui Reis
Portugal Portugal
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

QuestionMessage Closed Pin
21-Jul-21 20:43
MemberOnline Friends21-Jul-21 20:43 
QuestionExcellent, but I need help! Pin
brettaur22-May-18 18:02
Memberbrettaur22-May-18 18:02 
QuestionSeeing Odd Message Values Pin
El-ahrairah13-Jul-15 15:35
MemberEl-ahrairah13-Jul-15 15:35 
AnswerRe: Seeing Odd Message Values Pin
brettaur22-May-18 18:06
Memberbrettaur22-May-18 18:06 
Questiontrapping a message from an external (non-dot net) application Pin
SpringerRider3-Mar-15 4:34
MemberSpringerRider3-Mar-15 4:34 
QuestionWorks great except for mobile phones Pin
sergionader18-Dec-12 3:10
Membersergionader18-Dec-12 3:10 
Questionq Pin
wiphasius6-Oct-12 11:27
Memberwiphasius6-Oct-12 11:27 
Questionsending massage through mobile Pin
Edward0912-Jan-11 20:23
MemberEdward0912-Jan-11 20:23 
NewsThere is a way to capture the Messages without a Form Pin
Tarion86013-Apr-09 7:36
MemberTarion86013-Apr-09 7:36 
GeneralChat messages interception Pin
nadavg20-Nov-08 23:27
Membernadavg20-Nov-08 23:27 
GeneralRe: Chat messages interception Pin
DanWalker2-Nov-10 14:21
MemberDanWalker2-Nov-10 14:21 
GeneralRe: Chat messages interception Pin
brettaur22-May-18 17:50
Memberbrettaur22-May-18 17:50 
QuestionConsuming the event. Pin
Rafael Chargel13-Feb-08 9:51
MemberRafael Chargel13-Feb-08 9:51 
QuestionNo message triggered on SD card insertion/removal? Pin
horiyip11-Jul-07 19:49
Memberhoriyip11-Jul-07 19:49 
AnswerRe: No message triggered on SD card insertion/removal? Pin
redviking200619-Nov-07 20:20
Memberredviking200619-Nov-07 20:20 
AnswerRe: No message triggered on SD card insertion/removal? Pin
merlin_r684-Jan-08 11:17
Membermerlin_r684-Jan-08 11:17 
AnswerRe: No message triggered on SD card insertion/removal? Pin
maurice_chavez26-Jan-09 10:14
Membermaurice_chavez26-Jan-09 10:14 
GeneralRe: No message triggered on SD card insertion/removal? Pin
WolfeeCat7-Mar-09 6:14
MemberWolfeeCat7-Mar-09 6:14 
QuestionAny VB.NET Port? Pin
horiyip11-Jul-07 6:42
Memberhoriyip11-Jul-07 6:42 
QuestionDrive letter not show on media insertion ... Only on removal? Pin
Matt U.15-Feb-07 18:09
MemberMatt U.15-Feb-07 18:09 
pherthyl17-Jan-07 15:57
Memberpherthyl17-Jan-07 15:57 
Questionfaster method ? Pin
vincent3121-Nov-06 8:55
Membervincent3121-Nov-06 8:55 
QuestionDoing this in a control Pin
LewisG12-Sep-06 9:18
MemberLewisG12-Sep-06 9:18 
AnswerRe: Doing this in a control Pin
jkersch7-Dec-06 6:41
Memberjkersch7-Dec-06 6:41 
Generaland with a windows service Pin
Ingo Fischer12-Dec-05 3:15
MemberIngo Fischer12-Dec-05 3:15 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Praise Praise    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.