Using Dirent With Msvc Compilers

December 12, 2017 • C++ • 2 minutes to read

At the time of writing this blog, I am developing a C++ version of my Spiks library - libSpikes. I was compiling the libSpikes using Cygwin and MinGW.

If you have used Linux before you can recognise the way Cygwin folder is structured. Cygwin tends to create a complete POSIX environment on the Windows, that means it brings loads of DLL files to compile C++ files. MinGW, on the other hand, brings the functionality of Win 32 API’s and also provides specific POSIX API’s.

Microsoft released MSVC toolset for VS2017 and VS2015, which is an independent installation of their developer tools.

Linux has a fantastic library called dirent.h, I use it for listing the directory contents, Visual C++ does not provide this library (though they use a different way) and creating a custom directory listing was not an answer. So, dirent is a POSIX port of dirent header to Windows.

To use this, do the following:

  1. If you are using the MSVC toolset, you would have to clone the repository from
  2. Copy the dirent.h from the include folder and paste it in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\BuildTools\VC\Tools\MSVC\14.12.25827\include - 14.12.25827 is the build number of the tools that I have installed, yours could be different.

That’s it. You should be able to use it as you would use it in a POSIX. Or you could do something like this:

In my project, I have a folder called libWins; this is where I keep all my 3rd party windows related header files. I copied dirent.h to this folder. Then in the root CMakeLists.txt I have the following



If you are using Visual Studio, then you can add the header file to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\VC\include.

Happy coding.

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