So I was troubleshooting a bug with a co-worker the other day and what we were seeing was a little confusing, and it turned out to be a difference in when I/O gets pended in the system. The basic scenario was that we were calling ZwQueryDirectoryFile to do some testing of a filter driver that was changing the directory query results. In testing without the driver installed, the return value from ZwQueryDirectoryFile was always STATUS_PENDING. So the assumption was made that this would continue to always be true.

Well as soon as our filter was installed and we changed the results of the query, the api started returning immediately. Our code was assuming that then I/O would be pending and was waiting on the handle and checking the IoStatusBlock for the results, and it just wasn’t looking correct: the IoStatusBlock was showing STATUS_SUCCESS when we thought our filter had returned STATUS_NO_SUCH_FILE. After figuring out what was going on, I thought I would write a bit about how pending I/O works in the kernel.

When an API call is made, there are times when it can be immediately determined what result should be returned. For example, if you pass a bad parameter, the system doesn’t need to pend the I/O because it can return STATUS_INVALID_PARAMETER immediately. In this case, ZwQueryDirectoryFile would just return STATUS_INVALID_PARAMETER as its result, and the IoStatusBlock should be ignored.

If the API call returns STATUS_PENDING, only then should the caller wait on the handle to be signaled and then check the value of the IoStatusBlock parameter to determine the outcome of the I/O operation.

In our specific case, our filter driver was populating the results and returning STATUS_NO_SUCH_FILE. This was changing the behavior of the test call to ZwQueryDirectoryFile from sending the request to disk and pending the I/O (the behavior without our driver) to returning the status code immediately.

So it seems that a correct way to call one of these functions should look something like the following:

IO_STATUS_BLOCK IoStatusBlock;
NTSTATUS status = ZwQueryDirectoryFile( ... );
if ( STATUS_PENDING == status )
{
   ZwWaitForSingleObject( ... );
   status = IoStatusBlock.Status;
}
// Do something with the result of the query directory call

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