What’s the point of DeferWindowPos?

Raymond Chen


The purpose of

the DeferWindowPos function

is to move multiple child windows at one go.
This reduces somewhat the amount of repainting that goes on
when windows move around.


that DC brush sample from a few months ago

and make the following changes:

HWND g_hwndChildren[2];

OnCreate(HWND hwnd, LPCREATESTRUCT lpcs)
const static COLORREF s_rgclr[2] =
{ RGB(255,0,0), RGB(0,255,0) };
for (int i = 0; i < 2; i++) {
= CreateWindow(TEXT(“static”), NULL,
WS_VISIBLE | WS_CHILD, 0, 0, 0, 0,
hwnd, (HMENU)IntToPtr(s_rgclr[i]), g_hinst, 0);
if (!g_hwndChildren[i]) return FALSE;
return TRUE;

Notice that I’m using the control ID to hold the desired color.
We retrieve it when choosing our background color.

HBRUSH OnCtlColor(HWND hwnd, HDC hdc, HWND hwndChild, int type)
SetDCBrushColor(hdc, (COLORREF)GetDlgCtrlID(hwndChild));
return GetStockBrush(DC_BRUSH);


I threw in a half-second sleep.
This will make the painting a little easier to see.

OnSize(HWND hwnd, UINT state, int cx, int cy)
int cxHalf = cx/2;
NULL, 0, 0, cxHalf, cy,
NULL, cxHalf, 0, cx-cxHalf, cy,


We place the two child windows side by side in our client area.
For our first pass, we’ll use

the SetWindowPos function

to position the windows.

Compile and run this program, and once it’s up, click the maximize box.
Observe carefully which parts of the green rectangle get repainted.

Now let’s change our positioning code to use

the DeferWindowPos function
The usage pattern for the deferred window positioning functions is
as follows:

HDWP hdwp = BeginDeferWindowPos(n);
if (hdwp) hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, …); // 1 [fixed 7/7]
if (hdwp) hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, …); // 2
if (hdwp) hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, …); // 3

if (hdwp) hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, …); // n
if (hdwp) EndDeferWindowPos(hdwp);

There are some key points here.

  • The value you pass to

    the BeginDeferWindowPos function

    is the number of windows you intend to move.
    It’s okay if you get this value wrong, but getting it right
    will reduce the number of internal reallocations.
  • The return value from DeferWindowPos is stored
    back into the hdwp because the return value is not
    necessarily the same as the value originally passed in.
    If the deferral bookkeeping needs to perform a reallocation,
    the DeferWindowPos function returns a handle to the
    new defer information; the old defer information is no longer valid.
    What’s more, if the deferral fails, the old defer information is
    destroyed. This is different from the
    realloc function which leaves the original object
    unchanged if the reallocation fails.
    The pattern p = realloc(p, …) is a memory leak,
    but the pattern hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, …)
    is not.

That second point is important.

Many people get it wrong

Okay, now that you’re all probably scared of this function,
let’s change our repositioning code to take advantage of deferred
window positioning.
It’s really not that hard at all.
(Save these changes to a new file, though. We’ll want to run the old
and new versions side by side.)

OnSize(HWND hwnd, UINT state, int cx, int cy)
HDWP hdwp = BeginDeferWindowPos(2);
int cxHalf = cx/2;
if (hdwp) hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, g_hwndChildren[0],
NULL, 0, 0, cxHalf, cy,
if (hdwp) hdwp = DeferWindowPos(hdwp, g_hwndChildren[1],
NULL, cxHalf, 0, cx-cxHalf, cy,
if (hdwp) EndDeferWindowPos(hdwp);

Compile and run this program, and again, once it’s up, maximize
the window and observe which regions repaint. Observe that there
is slightly less repainting in the new version compared to the old version.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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