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The underlying idea is simple Some number of threads are managed auto matically by each thread pool The number of threads is based on a combi nation of configuration and dynamic information about the runtime machine's capacity and load Programs queue work items that should run concurrently and the thread pool makes sure the work gets done To sup port this, the pool manages a few things: a work queue, a set of threads that dequeue and execute items from that queue, and the decisions about how to grow and shrink the set of threads and how to assign work to threads In some sense, the thread pool is a cooperative scheduler that can throttle the amount of active work going on at once to avoid overhead due to pre emptively scheduling work items that exceeds the number of processors available Most people are better off using a thread pool and forgetting most of what was explained in 3, Threads Many of the difficult issues around thread lifetime and management are handled for you by the pool, and there are fewer things to get wrong If you don't use a thread pool, you have to manage the global work throttling problem, which tends to be complicated This is particularly true if your code is composed in the same process with other third party components that also use concurrency Using a common thread pool helps to ensure thread resources are balanced appropriately Only if the thread pool path has proven to be ineffective should explicit threading even be explored There are of course a few exceptions to this
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rule of thumb, such as if you need to employ a high priority dedicated daemon thread to perform some special, important, and regularly occur ring activity, and so on, but these cases are certainly exceptions rather than the rule Whenever you find yourself creating a thread, ask: "Is there a way I could do this by using the thread pool instead " You'll be much happier in the end
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Three Ways: Windows Vista, Windows Legacy, and CLR Since I've hyped up the thread pool quite a bit now, it's probably time to look at some specific details Both Windows and the CLR offer different variants of the thread pool idea that are entirely different components and provide different APls These disparate pool components are unaware of each other and, hence, can "fight" with one another for resources in the same process The practical impact of this design isn't terrible and only matters if you're doing managed-native interop The impact is that you could end up with twice the optimal number of threads Windows has offered a native thread pool since Windows 2000 Windows Vista comes with an entirely new architecture and implementation (where much of the logic has been moved into user-mode) and offers a newly refac tored set of APls, several new capabilities, and superior performance Though the Vista pool is the preferred choice for any new native code, you will have to decide whether using the new Vista thread pool is worth sacri ficing support for legacy OS platforms If you need to run on Windows Server 2003 and /or Windows XP, for example, you'll need to use the legacy thread pool APls These still exist in Windows Server 2008 and Vista for backwards compatibility The old thread pool APls on Vista have been reimplemented on top of the new ones, so even if you code to the legacy APls you'll see improved performance when moving to Windows Vista If you're writing in managed code, you should use the CLKs thread pool instead The APls are similar to the legacy native APls In fact, I encourage all readers, whether they are programming in native or man aged code, to read this entire chapter The CLR's thread pool was a fork of the old Win32 thread pool, so many of the legacy problems that the Vista pool solves are currently present in managed code While it's certainly possible to P/ lnvoke to access the new Vista thread pool from managed
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