Over the course of the last few months, I've really put lots of effort into understanding and utilizing WinDbg. As a primarily C# developer, this meant also becoming intimately familiar with the SOS extension. Though a bit tedious, this exercise has already paid rich dividends in my debugging experience. As powerful and handy as SOS is, however, it has some annoying limitations and quirks. My personal peeves with SOS, combined with my desire to learn to write a WinDbg extension, led me to develop SOSEX, a debugging extension for managed code that begins to alleviate some of my frustrations with SOS. SOSEX (available in x86 and x64 versions) provides 8 easy-to-use commands: !dumpgen (dumps the contents of a GC generation), !gcgen (indicates the GC generation of a given object), !refs (lists all references to and from the specified object), !bpsc (breakpoint, source code), !bpmo (breakpoint, method offset), !vars (dump all args and local variables), !isf (inspect static field) and !dlk (deadlock detection).
The rest of this post will provide a bit more detail about each command and how they can save you time. Use the !help command for a list of commands and !help <command name> for the syntax and usage of each command.
With SOS, you can dump the contents of the heap like so:
0:000> !dumpheap -short00000642787c7370 00000642787c7388 00000642787c73b0 00000642787c7410 00000642787c7440 00000642787c7498 00000642787c74f0...
The problem with this is that there is no easy way to tell from the output which generation each object belongs to. You can follow up the call to !dumpheap with !eeheap -gc, which will provide the necessary information to determine generations. However, determining the contents of, say, generation 2 using this method is very tedious. Here's the output of !eeheap -gc for a dual-processor system in server GC mode:
0:000> !eeheap -gcNumber of GC Heaps: 2------------------------------Heap 0 (0000000002264180)generation 0 starts at 0x000000007fff0098generation 1 starts at 0x000000007fff0080generation 2 starts at 0x000000007fff0068ephemeral segment allocation context: none segment begin allocated size0000000002271b80 00000642787c7370 0000064278809088 0x0000000000041d18(269592)000000007fff0000 000000007fff0068 0000000080002fe8 0x0000000000012f80(77696)Large object heap starts at 0x00000000ffff0068 segment begin allocated size00000000ffff0000 00000000ffff0068 00000000ffff80c8 0x0000000000008060(32864)Heap Size 0x5ccf8(380152)------------------------------Heap 1 (0000000002264e00)generation 0 starts at 0x00000000bfff0098generation 1 starts at 0x00000000bfff0080generation 2 starts at 0x00000000bfff0068ephemeral segment allocation context: none segment begin allocated size00000000bfff0000 00000000bfff0068 00000000bfff00b0 0x0000000000000048(72)Large object heap starts at 0x000000010fff0068 segment begin allocated size000000010fff0000 000000010fff0068 000000010fff0080 0x0000000000000018(24)Heap Size 0x60(96)------------------------------GC Heap Size 0x5cd58(380248)
As you can see, you have a lot of work to do in order to pick through the output of !dumpheap and compare object addresses to the segment addresses provided by !eeheap -gc. Enter SOSEX's !dumpgen command. Using !dumpgen, you can easily determine the contents of a given generation simply by providing the number of the generation you wish to examine:
0:000> !dumpgen 200000642787c7370 24 System.Object00000642787c7388 38 System.String STRVAL=length00000642787c73b0 94 System.String STRVAL=ArgumentOutOfRange_MustBeNonNegNum00000642787c7410 46 System.String STRVAL=startIndex00000642787c7440 84 System.String STRVAL=ArgumentOutOfRange_StartIndex00000642787c7498 86 System.String STRVAL=ArgumentOutOfRange_IndexLength00000642787c74f0 42 System.String STRVAL=capacity...
Conversely, if you know an object's address and you wish to know what generation it belongs to, you can simply provide the address of the object to the !gcgen command.
Though not a replacement, the !refs command supplements SOS's !gcroot command by allowing you to view the immediate references from and to a given object.
0:000> !refs 0000000080000db8Objects referenced by 0000000080000db8 (System.Threading.Mutex):0000000080000ef0 32 Microsoft.Win32.SafeHandles.SafeWaitHandle
Objects referencing 0000000080000db8 (System.Threading.Mutex):0000000080000e08 72 System.Threading.Mutex+<>c__DisplayClass30000000080000e50 64 System.Runtime.CompilerServices.RuntimeHelpers+CleanupCode
The sample output above shows only heap references, but !refs will also list all references from handles, stacks, registers and the freachable queues.
The !dlk command allows you to easily spot deadlocks in your application if you suspect deadlock to be the cause of an application hang. If !dlk detects deadlock, the output will list the sync blocks that are held as well as the sync blocks for which each thread is waiting, as well as the type, method, IL offset, and, if symbols are available, the source code and line number at which each thread is waiting:
0:010> !dlkDeadlock detected:CLR thread 4 holds sync block 00000000024c6970 OBJ:000000007fff0f80[System.String] STRVAL=SYNC1 waits sync block 00000000024c6928 OBJ:000000007fff0fa8[System.String] STRVAL=SYNC2CLR thread 5 holds sync block 00000000024c6928 OBJ:000000007fff0fa8[System.String] STRVAL=SYNC2 waits sync block 00000000024c6970 OBJ:000000007fff0f80[System.String] STRVAL=SYNC1CLR Thread 4 is waiting at ConsoleTestApp.ConsoleTestApp.MonitorDeadlockThreadProc()+0xa4(IL) [C:\dev\ConsoleTestApp\ConsoleTestApp.cs, line 195]CLR Thread 5 is waiting at ConsoleTestApp.ConsoleTestApp.MonitorDeadlockThreadProc()+0xa4(IL) [C:\dev\ConsoleTestApp\ConsoleTestApp.cs, line 195]
1 deadlock detected.
As you can see, !dlk makes it dead simple to troubleshoot this common kind of deadlock in managed code. One important caveat holds true for !dlk: it only works for deadlocks on "sync blocks". Put more simply, it will only spot locks created by Monitor.Enter (which is used by the C# lock keyword). !dlk will not catch deadlock on other types of synchronization objects, such as mutexes and semaphores.
Although managed debugging with WinDbg has become more supported in later builds, it is still difficult to get managed source code breakpoints to work correctly. With the !bpsc command, it is now simple to set source code breakpoints. !bpsc allows you to set a breakpoint in a source code file at a specified line number and, optionally, column number. I've often wanted to stop the execution of my application either deep inside a method in the BCL or in one of my own methods in a build for which I have no symbols. Though SOS provides the handy !bpmd command, !bpmd only allows you to set a breakpoint on the first instruction of a method. This is often not effective for more difficult debugging scenarios. The !bpmo command now provides a means for you to set a breakpoint at specific IL offset within a given type and method.
Once you are stopped at a breakpoint, you need an easy means to inspect the contents of method arguments, local variables and instance and static fields. !vars dumps the values of arguments and local variables. If symbols are available, !vars will display the names of the local variables. Names of arguments are (with rare exception) provided even without symbols. In order to inspect member variables, first call !vars and then provide the value of "this" to the sos!do command. Using SOS, it is a bit of a cumbersome process to view the contents of static fields. The !isf command makes it simple by allowing you to simply specify the type and field name to inspect.
I hope you enjoy using SOSEX as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Please provide bug reports and feature requests either in the comments for this post or via the "email" link on my home page. I owe many thanks to John Robbins, who provided some key feature ideas for SOSEX as well as some valuable testing time. John has also written a nice blog post describing how he uses SOSEX in his own debugging. Thanks, John!
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