Difference Between DWORD and Unsigned Int in C++

Muhammad Husnain Feb 03, 2023
Difference Between DWORD and Unsigned Int in C++

This article will cover the general use of DWORD in C++, and it’s fundamentally different from unsigned int even though they currently have the same value.

Difference Between DWORD and unsigned int in C++

By definition, the unsigned int is at least 16 bits long. The unsigned int is usually platform-specific.

The DWORD means Double Word.

As Microsoft WORD is 16 bits long, DWORD is 32 bits across all platforms. Furthermore, DWORD is not a type in C++; it is instead defined in <windows.h>.

Use a DWORD whenever the code is expecting a DWORD, even though (as of writing this article) the unsigned int would work just as well.

Future versions of C++ could have a slightly different definition of the unsigned int (which would still adhere to the C++ guidelines), whereas the DWORD is unlikely to change.

Microsoft chose to define its DWORD and why many other API developers choose to define their types.

Microsoft had to work around the issues of different CPU architectures, i.e., having 16-bit and 32-bit processors, and lately, 64-bit processors.

In the 1980s, C++ compilers were not standardized as well. There was a certain degree of compatibility needed between different OSes.

Furthermore, the same development API (now known as WinAPI) was used for desktops, mobile chips, embedded systems, and servers.

Hence, having type definitions like DWORD helped when working between different systems, programming languages, compilers, etc.

Muhammad Husnain avatar Muhammad Husnain avatar

Husnain is a professional Software Engineer and a researcher who loves to learn, build, write, and teach. Having worked various jobs in the IT industry, he especially enjoys finding ways to express complex ideas in simple ways through his content. In his free time, Husnain unwinds by thinking about tech fiction to solve problems around him.