Python: How to Tell How Long Windows Has Been Idle

The other day, I received a request to create a script that could tell how long a Windows XP machine had been idle and to alert the user if it had been idle for a certain amount of time. I did a little research with Google and found a couple of ways to accomplish this feat. The only one I was able to get working was a ctypes example, so without further ado, let’s check it out!

The following ctypes-related code was taken from a stackoverflow forum:

from ctypes import Structure, windll, c_uint, sizeof, byref

class LASTINPUTINFO(Structure):
    _fields_ = [
        ('cbSize', c_uint),
        ('dwTime', c_uint),

def get_idle_duration():
    lastInputInfo = LASTINPUTINFO()
    lastInputInfo.cbSize = sizeof(lastInputInfo)
    millis = windll.kernel32.GetTickCount() - lastInputInfo.dwTime
    return millis / 1000.0

If you don’t understand the code above, please ask for help on the ctypes mailing list. I don’t really understand it all either. I get the basic gist, but that’s it. Here’s the snippet I use to make the code above do its thing:

while 1:
    GetLastInputInfo = int(get_idle_duration())
    print GetLastInputInfo
    if GetLastInputInfo == 480:
        # if GetLastInputInfo is 8 minutes, play a sound
        sound = r"c:\windows\media\notify.wav"
        winsound.PlaySound(sound, winsound.SND_FILENAME)
    if GetLastInputInfo == 560:
        # if GetLastInputInfo is 9 minutes, play a more annoying sound
        sound = r"c:\windows\media\ringout.wav"
        winsound.PlaySound(sound, winsound.SND_FILENAME)
        winsound.PlaySound(sound, winsound.SND_FILENAME)
        winsound.PlaySound(sound, winsound.SND_FILENAME)

In my code, I check if the machine has been idle for 8 minutes and 9 minutes. Depending on how long it’s been idle, the code plays a specific wav file with Python winsound module. In our shop, we have certain machines lock themselves if they’ve been idle for 10 minutes. Our users don’t like that too much, so they requested that we warn them with a sound when the machine was about to lock. That is what this script accomplishes. Hopefully you can find a better use for this knowledge.

3 thoughts on “Python: How to Tell How Long Windows Has Been Idle”

  1. Hi,

    You are quite correct. I had originally tried doing a small range, but since this was a one-off script, I decided to just do it even simpler. If I receive complaints about it not making noise, then I'll do what you mentioned.

    Thanks for your readership! Let me know if there are any topics you'd like to know more about in the Python world.

    – Mike

  2. Well,i should have to ask to the phyton group to make a program to interact with the idleness of the computer,it can tell us how long a Windows XP machine had been idle and to alert the user if it had been idle for a certain amount of timeThanks for sharing this to us. G-d bless 😉

Comments are closed.