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How to load unmanaged (native) resources from managed C# code

Let’s say, that you have native assembly, that holds some resources -  strings, bitmaps, icons and images and you want to get them from your managed code. How to do it? First of all, let’s see how those resources looks like


What we can see here, that we have one PNG resources with ID 209, one REGISTRY resource with ID 303 etc. So, let’s extract them.

Looking in user32, we’ll find two handy methods LoadImage and LoadBitmap. Both receives string names of the resources and handle to the loaded module, that holds those resources. You can not load the library by using Assembly class from reflection namespace, due to fact, that our module is native code. So, we should load it as datafile. How to do it?

kernel32 holds method, named LoadLibraryEx, that actually receives the path to our file and some flags. So, let’s interop it

[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
static extern IntPtr LoadLibraryEx(string lpFileName, IntPtr hFile, uint dwFlags);

Now all we have to do is to load our file with LOAD_LIBRARY_AS_DATAFILE (0x00000002) flag.

IntPtr hMod = LoadLibraryEx(path, IntPtr.Zero, LOAD_LIBRARY_AS_DATAFILE);

Now, we have a pointer to our module and we can begin to extract resources. But we do not know the names (there are not) of embedded resources. The only information we have is those IDs. Looking into small note in MSDN, we can assume, that it’s possible to assume, that this method can receive MAKEINTRESOURCE macro, to convert resource ID into name, how to do it in C#? Simple.


Thus, we have write our own override to LoadBitmap, that receives C# int (long in C++). We can even use it with LoadImage enhanced method.

public static extern IntPtr LoadImage(IntPtr hInstance, int uID, uint type, int width, int height, int load);
public static extern IntPtr LoadBitmap(IntPtr hInstance, int uID);

However, this wont work, due to fact, that our resource is not Bitmap. It’s PNG. What to do? We should load it as "other" resource. But first of all, we should find it and measure it’s size. We’ll use the same dirty trick to convert string name of the resource into it’s ID.

static extern IntPtr FindResource(IntPtr hModule, int lpID, string lpType);
[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
static extern IntPtr LoadResource(IntPtr hModule, IntPtr hResInfo);
[DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
static extern uint SizeofResource(IntPtr hModule, IntPtr hResInfo);

Well, but what’s the type of the resource? It’s "PNG" for some reason :) So, using following should bring us the pointer into our resource and it’s size.

IntPtr hMod = LoadLibraryEx(path, IntPtr.Zero, LOAD_LIBRARY_AS_DATAFILE);
IntPtr hRes = FindResource(hMod, 209, "PNG");
uint size = SizeofResource(hMod, hRes);
IntPtr pt = LoadResource(hMod, hRes);

Well, now we have our pointer. Let’s make Bitmap. Simple? Not so fast… Using Bitmap.FromHbitmap(pt) will throw exception, because of the type of resource. It is not hBitmap. It’s PNG byte array. Let’s copy it and create Bitmap from stream

byte[] bPtr = new byte[size];
Marshal.Copy(pt, bPtr, 0, (int)size);
using (MemoryStream m = new MemoryStream(bPtr))
  bmp = (Bitmap)Bitmap.FromStream(m);

Now it works. We have Bitmap, that actually PNG, stores in our native resource file. Next step is to extract string resources. The same way? No. IMHO, String is the best class ever in every programming language, thus, we have special method to extract string resources from unmanaged code.

static extern int LoadString(IntPtr hInstance, int uID, StringBuilder lpBuffer, int nBufferMax);

So, following code will bring us strings, we are looking for.

StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
int ln = LoadString(hMod, 210, sb, 255);

string s = sb.ToString();

Well done, we’re fininshed. Actually, this is not very straight forward to load native resources, however, even with small brain as mine, you can do it.

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7 Responses to “How to load unmanaged (native) resources from managed C# code”

  1. Says:

    Pingback from…/how-to-load-unmanaged-native-resources-from-managed-c-code.aspx

  2. Pete Says:

    This is really great.  Thanks for posting this.

    Now that I'm using strings from an unmanaged resources in my C# program, I'm curious if there is anyway to use the defines in the native resource's header files when calling LoadString or FindResource?  

    For example in the native resource header files I have

    #define IDS_SOMESTRING     1001

    I realize that header files aren't part of C#, but hoping you may know some trick so I can use these instead of the values in C#.

    (Sorry if this is a dumb question, I'm new to C#)

  3. Tamir Khason Says:

    Nir, sure

    This is not complete code. I’m using FreeLibrary(hMod); at the end as well as cleaning all allocated memory

  4. NirD Says:

    You forgot the cleanup code, native resources are not garbage collected.

    Every LoadXXX call requires a FreeXXX call, otherwise you are leaking memory, handles and other system resources.

  5. Geek Lectures - Things geeks should know about » Blog Archive » How to load unmanaged (native) resources from managed C# code Says:

    Pingback from  Geek Lectures – Things geeks should know about » Blog Archive   »  How to load unmanaged (native) resources from managed C# code

  6. Samartha Says:

    Nice. Needed the string part. One doubt: How do i loop through all the strings. What if i dont know the ID of that string?

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