22.4 P/Invoke

It is possible, though generally undesirable, to invoke unmanaged code from within C#. The .NET platform invoke facility (P/Invoke) was originally intended only to provide access to the Windows API, but you can use it to expose functions in any DLL.

To see how this works, let's revisit Example 21-3. You will recall that you used the Stream class to rename files by invoking the MoveTo( ) method:

file.MoveTo(fullName + ".bak");

You can accomplish the same thing by using Windows' kernel32.dll and invoking the MoveFiles method. To do so, you need to declare the method as a static extern and use the DllImport attribute:

[DllImport("kernel32.dll", EntryPoint="MoveFile",
    ExactSpelling=false, CharSet=CharSet.Unicode,
static extern bool MoveFile(
  string sourceFile, string destinationFile);

The DllImport attribute class is used to indicate that an unmanaged method will be invoked through P/Invoke. The parameters are:


Indicates the name of the DLL entry point (the method) to call.


Setting this to false allows matching of the entry-point name without case-sensitivity.


Indicates how the string arguments to the method should be marshaled.


Setting this to true allows you to call GetLastError to check if an error occurred when invoking this method.

The rest of the code is virtually unchanged, except for the invocation of the MoveFile( ) method itself. Notice that MoveFile( ) is declared to be a static method of the class, so use static method semantics:

Tester.MoveFile(file.FullName,file.FullName + ".bak");

Pass in the original filename and the new name and the file is moved, just as it was when calling file.MoveTo( ). In this example, there is no advantageand actually considerable disadvantageto using P/Invoke. You have left managed code, and the result is not object-oriented. P/Invoke really only makes sense when you absolutely, positively need to invoke a method for which there is no reasonable substitute within managed code. Example 22-10 shows the complete source code for using P/Invoke to move the files.

Example 22-10. Using P/Invoke to call a Win32 API method
namespace Programming_CSharp
   using System;
   using System.IO;
   using System.Runtime.InteropServices;

   class Tester

      // declare the WinAPI method you wish to P/Invoke
      [DllImport("kernel32.dll", EntryPoint="MoveFile",
          ExactSpelling=false, CharSet=CharSet.Unicode,
      static extern bool MoveFile(
         string sourceFile, string destinationFile);

      public static void Main( )
         // make an instance and run it
         Tester t = new Tester( );
         string theDirectory = @"c:\test\media";
         DirectoryInfo dir = 
            new DirectoryInfo(theDirectory);
      // Set it running with a directory name
      private void ExploreDirectory(DirectoryInfo dir)

         // make a new subdirectory
         string newDirectory = "newTest";
         DirectoryInfo newSubDir = 

         // get all the files in the directory and
         // copy them to the new directory
         FileInfo[] filesInDir = dir.GetFiles( );
         foreach (FileInfo file in filesInDir)
            string fullName = newSubDir.FullName +  
               "\\" + file.Name;
            Console.WriteLine("{0} copied to newTest", 

         // get a collection of the files copied in
         filesInDir = newSubDir.GetFiles( );

         // delete some and rename others
         int counter = 0;
         foreach (FileInfo file in filesInDir)
            string fullName = file.FullName;

            if (counter++ %2 == 0)
               // P/Invoke the Win API
               Tester.MoveFile(fullName, fullName + ".bak");
               Console.WriteLine("{0} renamed to {1}",
               file.Delete( );
               Console.WriteLine("{0} deleted.", 
         // delete the subdirectory 
Output (excerpt):
c:\test\media\newTest\recycle.wav renamed to
c:\test\media\newTest\ringin.wav renamed to 

    Part I: The C# Language