WinDBG help

WinDBG is a great, free tool. It is more powerful than Visual Studio's built-in debugger, but is harder to use (kind of like gdb on Linux). You can retrieve the latest version from Microsoft's web site. You should end up with two versions of the tool: the 32-bit debugger and the 64-bit debugger. If you already have it installed or if you are using the packaged Chromium toolchain (which includes windbg) then you can launch it using tools\win\windbg32.bat or tools\win\windbg64.bat. These batch files find and run the appropriate version, wherever it is.

Initial setup

Once you're started, you may wish to fix a few things. If you have run WinDbg before and saved any workspaces, you may wish to start with a clean slate by deleting the key HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windbg using your favorite registry editor.
  1. Set the environment variable _NT_SYMBOL_PATH, as per Symbol path for Windows debuggers (e.g., File -> Symbol Search Path), to:


  2. Configure WinDbg to use a sensible window layout by navigating explorer to "C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\Debuggers\x64\themes" and double-clicking on standard.reg.
  3. Launch windbg.exe and:
    1. In the menu File, Source File Path..., set the path to srv*.
      • If you have a local checkout of the source, you can just point Source Path to the root of your code (src). Multiple paths are separated by semicolons.
      • If you want to download the individual source files to a given directory, add the destination to the path like so: srv*c:\path\to\downloaded\sources;c:\my\checkout\src
    2. In the menu ViewSource language file extensions..., add cc=C++ to have automatic source colors.
    3. Optionally, customize the window layout as desired via the View menu, and dock the windows as you want them to be. Note that the UI allows multiple "Docks" and each Dock can have multiple tiled panels in it, and each panel can have multiple tabbed windows. You may want to have source files to be tabbed on the same panel, and visible at the same time as local variables and the stack and command windows. It is useful to realize that by default windbg creates a workspace per debugged executable or minidump, so each target can have its own configuration. The "default" workspace is applied to new targets.
    4. Optionally, run additional customization commands such as:
      1. .asm no_code_bytes
        • disables display of opcodes
      2. .prompt_allow -sym -dis -ea -reg -src
        • Disables display of symbol for the current instruction, disassembled instructions, effective address of current instruction, current state of registers and source line for the current instruction
      3. .srcfix
        • Enables source server. This tells the debugger to use information in the Chrome PDBs to download the correct version of all necessary source files.
    5. Use File, Save Workspace to make this new configuration the default for all future execution.
    6. Exit windbg.
  4. In Windows Explorer, associate .dmp extension with windbg.exe. You may have to manually add -z to the open command like so: "...\windbg.exe" -z "%1" to make this work properly. Alternatively, run windbg.exe -IA
  5. Register as the default just in time debugger: windbg.exe -I
To set your symbol and source environment variables permanently, you can run the following commands:

setx _NT_SYMBOL_PATH SRV*c:\code\symbols*;SRV*c:\code\symbols*
setx _NT_SOURCE_PATH SRV*c:\code\source;c:\my\checkout\src

Common commands

  • dt this->member_
    • Displays the data
  • x chrome*!*function_name
    • Finds a symbol.
  • .open -a [symbol address or complete symbol name found by using x]
    • Opens the source file containing the specified symbol. Pretty neat.
  • k
    • Displays the stack.
    • kP: Show all parameters.
    • kM: Show links to each stack frame.
    • Clicking on the links shifts into the other stack frame, allowing you to browse locals, etc.
    • ?? [data name]
      • Quick evaluation of a C++ symbol (local variable, etc). You don't need to specify this-> for member variables but it's slower if you don't.
    • dv [/V]
      • Displays local variables
    • dt varname
      • Displays a variable.
    • dd address
      • Displays the contents of memory at the given address (as doubles... dc, dw, dq etc)
    • dt -r1 type address
      • Displays an object of the given type stored at the given address, using 1 level of recursion.
    • uf symbol
      • Disassembles a function showing source line number.
    • !stl
      • Displays some stl structures (visualizer)
    • dt -n <type>
      • Displays a type forcing the name to the supplied type (when there are problematic characters in the name)
    • ~*n
      • Freezes all threads
    • ~4m
      • Thaws thread number 4
    • Ctrl-Shift-I
      • Sets the selected source line to be the next line to be executed
    • F5, Ctrl-Shift-F5, F9, F10, F11
      • Run, restart, toggle breakpoint, step over, step into.
    One of the major benefits of WinDBG for debugging Chromium is its ability to automatically debug child processes. This allows you to skip all the complicated instructions above. The easiest way to enable this is to check "Debug child processes also" in the "Open Executable" dialog box when you start debugging or start "windbg.exe -o".  NOTE that on 64-bit Windows you may need to use the 64-bit WinDbg for this to work. You can switch dynamically the setting on and off at will with the .childdbg 1|0 command, to follow a particular renderer creation. You can also attach to a running process (F6) and even detach without crashing the process (.detach)

    Common commands when working with a crash

    • !analyze -v
      • Displays a basic crash analysis report.
    • .ecxr
      • Switch the context to the exception record.
    • dds address
      • Displays symbols following address (as in a stack or vtable)
    • k = address address address
      • Rebuilds a call stack assuming that address is a valid stack frame.
    • lm vmchr*
      • Lists verbose information about all modules with a name that starts with ch
    • ln address
      • Lists all symbols that match a given address (dedups a symbol).
    • .load wow64exts
      • On a 64-bit debugger, load the 32-bit extensions so that the current architecture can be switched
    • .effmach x86
      • Switches the current architecture to 32-bit.
    • .effmach x86; k = @ebp @ebp @ebp
      • Shows the 32-bit call stack from a 64-bit dump
    For more info, see this example of working with a crash dump, consult the program help (really, it's exhaustive!), see Common windbg commands or use your favorite search engine.

    Random handy hints

    To set attach to child processes, and also skip the first breakpoint and the extra breakpoint on process exit (this gives you a pretty responsive Chrome you can debug):

    sxn ibp
    sxn epr
    .childdbg 1

    You can also get this effect by using the -g -G -o options when launching windbg, as in:

    windbg -g -G -o chrome.exe

    To automatically attach to processes you want to run over and over with complex command lines, just attach WinDBG to your command prompt and then .childdbg 1 the command prompt - any processes launched from there will automatically be debugged. H/T pennymac@

    To set a breakpoint in the current process you can use this module/function syntax, among others:

    bp msvcrt!invalid_parameter

    To apply this to future processes that are created (assuming child process debugging is enabled) you can use this syntax, which says to run the bp command whenever a new process is created:

    sxe -c "bp msvcrt!invalid_parameter" cpr

    If you want a chance to do this when you first launch the browser process then you need to launch it without -g (so that the first breakpoint will be hit). You will probably then want to disable the "Create process" breakpoint and "Initial breakpoint" with these commands:

    sxn ibp; sxn epr;

    These are equivalent to going to Debug-> Event Filters and setting "Create process" and "Initial breakpoint" to "Ignore".

    Always use --user-data-dir when starting Chrome built with branding=Chrome or else you're going to have a bad time.