Tutorial :Getting the current time (in milliseconds) from the system clock in Windows?


How can you obtain the system clock's current time of day (in milliseconds) in C++? This is a windows specific app.


To get the time expressed as UTC, use GetSystemTime in the Win32 API.

SYSTEMTIME st;  GetSystemTime(&st);  

SYSTEMTIME is documented as having these relevant members:

WORD wYear;  WORD wMonth;  WORD wDayOfWeek;  WORD wDay;  WORD wHour;  WORD wMinute;  WORD wSecond;  WORD wMilliseconds;  

As shf301 helpfully points out below, GetLocalTime (with the same prototype) will yield a time corrected to the user's current timezone.

You have a few good answers here, depending on what you're after. If you're looking for just time of day, my answer is the best approach -- if you need solid dates for arithmetic, consider Alex's. There's a lot of ways to skin the time cat on Windows, and some of them are more accurate than others (and nobody has mentioned QueryPerformanceCounter yet).


The easiest (and most direct) way is to call GetSystemTimeAsFileTime(), which returns a FILETIME, a struct which stores the 64-bit number of 100-nanosecond intervals since midnight Jan 1, 1601.

At least at the time of Windows NT 3.1, 3.51, and 4.01, the GetSystemTimeAsFileTime() API was the fastest user-mode API able to retrieve the current time. It also offers the advantage (compared with GetSystemTime() -> SystemTimeToFileTime()) of being a single API call, that under normal circumstances cannot fail.

To convert a FILETIME ft_now; to a 64-bit integer named ll_now, use the following:
ll_now = (LONGLONG)ft_now.dwLowDateTime + ((LONGLONG)(ft_now.dwHighDateTime) << 32LL);

You can then divide by the number of 100-nanosecond intervals in a millisecond (10,000 of those) and you have milliseconds since the Win32 epoch.

To convert to the Unix epoch, subtract 116444736000000000LL to reach Jan 1, 1970.

You mentioned a desire to find the number of milliseconds into the current day. Because the Win32 epoch begins at a midnight, the number of milliseconds passed so far today can be calculated from the filetime with a modulus operation. Specifically, because there are 24 hours/day * 60 minutes/hour * 60 seconds/minute * 1000 milliseconds/second = 86,400,000 milliseconds/day, you could user the modulus of the system time in milliseconds modulus 86400000LL.

For a different application, one might not want to use the modulus. Especially if one is calculating elapsed times, one might have difficulties due to wrap-around at midnight. These difficulties are solvable, the best example I am aware is Linus Torvald's line in the Linux kernel which handles counter wrap around.

Keep in mind that the system time is returned as a UTC time (both in the case of GetSystemTimeAsFileTime() and simply GetSystemTime()). If you require the local time as configured by the Administrator, then you could use GetLocalTime().


A cut-to-the-chase example of Jed's answer above:

const std::string currentDateTime() {    SYSTEMTIME st, lt;    GetSystemTime(&st);    char currentTime[84] = "";    sprintf(currentTime,"%d/%d/%d  %d:%d:%d %d",st.wDay,st.wMonth,st.wYear, st.wHour, st.wMinute, st.wSecond , st.wMilliseconds);    return string(currentTime); }  


Use GetSystemTime, first; then, if you need that, you can call SystemTimeToFileTime on the SYSTEMTIME structure that the former fills for you. A FILETIME is a 64-bit count of 100-nanosecs intervals since an epoch, and so more suitable for arithmetic; a SYSTEMTIME is a structure with all the expected fields (year, month, day, hour, etc, down to milliseconds). If you want to know "how many milliseconds have elapsed since midnight", for example, subtracting two FILETIME structures (one for the current time, one obtained by converting the same SYSTEMTIME after zeroing out the appropriate fields) and dividing by the appropriate power of ten is probably the simplest available approach.


Depending on the needs of your application there are six common options. This Dr Dobbs Journal article will give you all the information (and more) you need on choosing the best one.

In your specific case, from this article:

GetSystemTime() retrieves the current system time and instantiates a SYSTEMTIME structure, which is composed of a number of separate fields including year, month, day, hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds.


Here is some code that works in Windows which I've used in a Open Watcom C project. It should work in C++ It returns seconds (not milliseconds) using _dos_gettime or gettime

  double seconds(void)    {    #ifdef __WATCOMC__    struct dostime_t t;    _dos_gettime(&t);    return ((double)t.hour * 3600 + (double)t.minute * 60 + (double)t.second + (double)t.hsecond * 0.01);    #else    struct time t;    gettime(&t);    return ((double)t.ti_hour * 3600 + (double)t.ti_min * 60 + (double)t.ti_sec + (double)t.ti_hund * 0.01);    

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