Dan Herbert Dan Herbert - 1 month ago 10
C# Question

Is there a way to indefinitely pause a thread?

I've been working on a web crawling .NET app in my free time, and one of the features of this app that I wanted to included was a pause button to pause a specific thread.

I'm relatively new to multi-threading and I haven't been able to figure out a way to pause a thread indefinitely that is currently supported. I can't remember the exact class/method, but I know there is a way to do this but it has been flagged as obsolete by the .NET framework.

Is there any good general purpose way to indefinitely pause a worker thread in C# .NET.

I haven't had a lot of time lately to work on this app and the last time I touched it was in the .NET 2.0 framework. I'm open to any new features (if any) that exist in the .NET 3.5 framework, but I'd like to know of solution that also works in the 2.0 framework since that's what I use at work and it would be good to know just in case.

Answer

Never, ever use Thread.Suspend. The major problem with it is that 99% of the time you can't know what that thread is doing when you suspend it. If that thread holds a lock, you make it easier to get into a deadlock situation, etc. Keep in mind that code you are calling may be acquiring/releasing locks behind the scenes. Win32 has a similar API: SuspendThread and ResumeThread. The following docs for SuspendThread give a nice summary of the dangers of the API:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms686345(VS.85).aspx

This function is primarily designed for use by debuggers. It is not intended to be used for thread synchronization. Calling SuspendThread on a thread that owns a synchronization object, such as a mutex or critical section, can lead to a deadlock if the calling thread tries to obtain a synchronization object owned by a suspended thread. To avoid this situation, a thread within an application that is not a debugger should signal the other thread to suspend itself. The target thread must be designed to watch for this signal and respond appropriately.

The proper way to suspend a thread indefinitely is to use a ManualResetEvent. The thread is most likely looping, performing some work. The easiest way to suspend the thread is to have the thread "check" the event each iteration, like so:

while (true)
{
    _suspendEvent.WaitOne(Timeout.Infinite);

    // Do some work...
}

You specify an infinite timeout so when the event is not signaled, the thread will block indefinitely, until the event is signaled at which point the thread will resume where it left off.

You would create the event like so:

ManualResetEvent _suspendEvent = new ManualResetEvent(true);

The true parameter tells the event to start out in the signaled state.

When you want to pause the thread, you do the following:

_suspendEvent.Reset();

And to resume the thread:

_suspendEvent.Set();

You can use a similar mechanism to signal the thread to exit and wait on both events, detecting which event was signaled.

Just for fun I'll provide a complete example:

public class Worker
{
    ManualResetEvent _shutdownEvent = new ManualResetEvent(false);
    ManualResetEVent _pauseEvent = new ManualResetEvent(true);
    Thread _thread;

    public Worker() { }

    public void Start()
    {
        _thread = new Thread(DoWork);
        _thread.Start();
    }

    public void Pause()
    {
        _pauseEvent.Reset();
    }

    public void Resume()
    {
        _pauseEvent.Set();
    }

    public void Stop()
    {
        // Signal the shutdown event
        _shutdownEvent.Set();

        // Make sure to resume any paused threads
        _pauseEvent.Set();

        // Wait for the thread to exit
        _thread.Join();
    }

    public void DoWork()
    {
        while (true)
        {
            _pauseEvent.WaitOne(Timeout.Infinite);

            if (_shutdownEvent.WaitOne(0))
                break;

            // Do the work..
        }
    }
}