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Posted 28 May 2003


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Adding and extracting binary resources

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28 May 20034 min read
A beginner's guide to adding a binary resource in visual studio and a simple class for programmatical extraction.


There may be times when you want to include a binary resource in your apps and extract them later to use on the fly.

How to use the BinRes class

Using the BinRes class is very straightforward. Follow the steps below to use it in an existing project.

After putting the source files (BinRes.cpp and BinRes.h) into the directory you wish to use them from, add the files to your Visual Studio project. Include binres.h in the file you want to use the class:

#include "binres.h"

There is no need to create an instance of BinRes, because all member functions are declared static. Optionally set up an output path where you want the binary file to be written to using setOutputPath.


Finally, call ExtractBinResource passing through the resource name, the resource identifier and the output name you would like for the binary file. E.g.

    BinRes::ExtractBinResource("BIN", 132, "debugViewer.exe");

That's all you have to do to take advantage of the BinRes class.

Setting up your binary resource

The first thing we need to do to use the class BinRes in our application is to add a binary file. For my included binary file I decided to visit and downloaded the most excellent DebugView application (which allows you to monitor OutputDebugString calls on your local system). This is the binary exe we will use and add to our resources.

Sample Image

Okay, select the ResourceView tab in Visual Studio, right mouse click the resources and select import to import a new resource.

Sample Image

At the Import Resource Dialog select "Custom" from the Open as combo box, and "All Files (*.*)" from the Files of type combo box and navigate to the binary file you are going to add to your resources. I have selected Dbgview.exe

Sample Image

At the Custom Resource Type dialog box enter a suitable name. I have chosen "BIN" which is short for, you guessed it, BINARIES

And that's it. We have successfully added a binary resource to our test app resources. Now lets move on to looking at how to use the code.

Examining the code

The main function that is used with the BinRes class is ExtractBinResource. Let's now dissect this class function to see exactly what is going on. Here is the function in its entirety.

void BinRes::ExtractBinResource(std::string strCustomResName, 
                int nResourceId, 
                std::string strOutputName)
    HGLOBAL hResourceLoaded;  // handle to loaded resource
    HRSRC   hRes              // handle/ptr to res. info.
    char    *lpResLock        // pointer to resource data
    DWORD   dwSizeRes;
    std::string strOutputLocation;
    std::string strAppLocation;

    // lets get the app location
    strAppLocation = getAppLocation();
    strOutputLocation = strAppLocation += "\\";
    strOutputLocation += strOutputName;

    hRes = FindResource(NULL, 

    hResourceLoaded = LoadResource(NULL, hRes);
    lpResLock = (char *) LockResource(hResourceLoaded);
    dwSizeRes = SizeofResource(NULL, hRes);

    std::ofstream outputFile(strOutputLocation.c_str(), std::ios::binary);
    outputFile.write((const char *) lpResLock, dwSizeRes);

After we have set up variables the first API that is called is FindResource. This finds the location of the resource identified by nResourceId and gets a handle to it. Obviously, we need this handle so we can load the resource.

hRes = FindResource(NULL, 

The next line loads our resource into memory so we can work with it.

hResLoad = LoadResource(NULL, hRes);

Once our resource is loaded we get a pointer to it so we can traverse and write the data to an output file. We get a pointer by calling LockResource.

lpResLock = (char *) LockResource(hResLoad);

Now we have a pointer to the resource in memory but how big is the resource? How do we know when to stop writing data to the output file? Ideally we need to get size of the resource, and we do this by calling the aptly named API, SizeofResource.

dwSizeRes = SizeofResource(NULL, hRes);

Now we have got everything we need to write out the data to the file. We have the output name (that's passed in to us by the caller, a pointer to our resource in memory and the size of the resource, so the next thing we do is open an output stream for our file.

std::ofstream outputFile(strTemp.c_str(), std::ios::binary);

With our output file open we then write the resource data in memory to the open file using ofstream's write.

outputFile.write((const char *) lpResLock, dwSizeRes);

And the final step is to close the file.


ExtractBinResource parameters explained

  • The first parameter is the name of the new Resource Type we created, when we added our binary resource to the project. In our case we named the new type "BIN", and this is what we pass through.

  • The second parameter is the resource id for our binary resource. In the ResourceView tab it is shown as IDR_BIN1 but if you open resource.h you will see that IDR_BIN1 is an alias for a number. This is the number we need to pass through as the second parameter.

  • The third parameter is the output name of the binary file that is preferred. Simple!

BinRes::ExtractBinResource("BIN", 132, "debugViewer.exe");


And that's it! Et Voila. My first CP article completed. Possible improvements to the class could include adding an output location. At the moment the file is outputted to the same directory the program is run in.

And of course all suggestions/feedback/bug reports are welcomed.


  • Version 1 - 21 May 2003 - First version


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

adrian cooper
Software Developer (Senior)
United Kingdom United Kingdom
never late, and never early. Hes always on time: its ade!

Comments and Discussions

QuestionMy Vote is 5 Pin
Yazeed Hamdan9-Oct-15 6:43
MemberYazeed Hamdan9-Oct-15 6:43 
QuestionImport binary (.exe) resource in VS2012? Pin
Member 1023629813-Oct-13 12:25
MemberMember 1023629813-Oct-13 12:25 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
ahmedfakhry30-Mar-11 6:34
Memberahmedfakhry30-Mar-11 6:34 
GeneralTrouble with extracting RT_BITMAP resource Pin
Dmitry Sazonov aka SaZ19-Apr-10 21:37
MemberDmitry Sazonov aka SaZ19-Apr-10 21:37 
Generalthanks. Pin
NormBo16-Sep-09 3:29
MemberNormBo16-Sep-09 3:29 
GeneralExecute the exe Pin
flaushi20-Mar-09 2:39
Memberflaushi20-Mar-09 2:39 
GeneralIt's worked perfect Pin
Elaaber6-Jan-07 10:04
MemberElaaber6-Jan-07 10:04 
GeneralI Agree - Worked first time Pin
TenChiMon22-May-06 23:06
MemberTenChiMon22-May-06 23:06 
QuestionHow can read and write binary bitmap file ? Pin
nganinfo7-Mar-06 23:48
Membernganinfo7-Mar-06 23:48 
GeneralGreat! Pin
pma16-Feb-06 10:32
Memberpma16-Feb-06 10:32 
GeneralVC++ 6.0 Pin
geminias1-Jan-06 0:28
Membergeminias1-Jan-06 0:28 
QuestionIs there any way to modify value of resource in the EXE ?? Pin
Jigar Mehta26-Jan-05 0:56
MemberJigar Mehta26-Jan-05 0:56 
GeneralGet verion info from resource Pin
Yanbo Zhou14-Jan-05 4:00
MemberYanbo Zhou14-Jan-05 4:00 
GeneralRe: Get verion info from resource Pin
ThatsAlok19-Jan-05 20:44
MemberThatsAlok19-Jan-05 20:44 
GeneralCorrect the page Pin
Hazem Nasereddin14-Dec-04 6:12
MemberHazem Nasereddin14-Dec-04 6:12 
GeneralIt's simply Great! Pin
genievn19-Sep-04 0:55
Membergenievn19-Sep-04 0:55 
GeneralThanks! Pin
Anak_Metal24-Mar-04 17:30
MemberAnak_Metal24-Mar-04 17:30 
GeneralUnlocking the Resource Pin
ilyar1006-Jan-04 17:29
Memberilyar1006-Jan-04 17:29 
GeneralRe: Unlocking the Resource Pin
rbid17-Sep-04 23:06
Memberrbid17-Sep-04 23:06 
GeneralBinRes::setOutputPath(strPath) Pin
DonGuitar4-Dec-03 3:36
MemberDonGuitar4-Dec-03 3:36 
GeneralRe: BinRes::setOutputPath(strPath) Pin
adrian cooper17-Dec-03 22:01
Memberadrian cooper17-Dec-03 22:01 
GeneralNice, but... Pin
huug27-Oct-03 6:24
Memberhuug27-Oct-03 6:24 
GeneralRe: Nice, but... Pin
adrian cooper30-Oct-03 3:09
Memberadrian cooper30-Oct-03 3:09 
GeneralRe: Nice, but... Pin
Rezaul15-Jul-06 7:25
MemberRezaul15-Jul-06 7:25 
GeneralWell done! Pin
Vladimir L.19-Aug-03 10:12
MemberVladimir L.19-Aug-03 10:12 

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