C++ Threading Using std::async instead of std::thread


std::async is also able to make threads. Compared to std::thread it is considered less powerful but easier to use when you just want to run a function asynchronously.

Asynchronously calling a function

#include <future>
#include <iostream>

unsigned int square(unsigned int i){
    return i*i;

int main() {
    auto f = std::async(std::launch::async, square, 8);
    std::cout << "square currently running\n"; //do something while square is running
    std::cout << "result is " << f.get() << '\n'; //getting the result from square

Common Pitfalls

  • std::async returns a std::future that holds the return value that will be calculated by the function. When that future gets destroyed it waits until the thread completes, making your code effectively single threaded. This is easily overlooked when you don't need the return value:

    std::async(std::launch::async, square, 5);
    //thread already completed at this point, because the returning future got destroyed
  • std::async works without a launch policy, so std::async(square, 5); compiles. When you do that the system gets to decide if it wants to create a thread or not. The idea was that the system chooses to make a thread unless it is already running more threads than it can run efficiently. Unfortunately implementations commonly just choose not to create a thread in that situation, ever, so you need to override that behavior with std::launch::async which forces the system to create a thread.

  • Beware of race conditions.

More on async on Futures and Promises