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How to: Launch a Stand-Alone Application with the Profiler and Collect Application Statistics by Using the Command Line

This topic describes how to use Visual Studio Profiling Tools command-line tools to start a stand-alone (client) application and collect performance statistics by using the sampling method.

A profiling session has three parts:

  • Starting the application by using the profiler.

  • Controlling data collection.

  • Ending the profiling session.


Command-line tools of the Profiling Tools are located in the \Team Tools\Performance Tools subdirectory of the Visual Studio installation directory. On 64-bit computers, both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of the tools are available. To use the profiler command-line tools, you must add the path to the PATH environment variable of the Command Prompt window or add it to the command itself. For more information, see Specifying the Path to Profiling Tools Command Line Tools.

To start a target application by using the profiler, you use the VSPerfCmd /start and /launch options to initialize the profiler and start the application. You can specify /start and /launch and their respective options on a single command line.

You can also add the /globaloff option to pause data collection at the start of the target application. You then use /globalon to start to collect data.

To start an application by using the Profiler

  1. Open a Command Prompt window.

  2. Start the profiler. Type:

    VSPerfCmd /start:sample /output:OutputFile [Options]

    • The /start:sample option initializes the profiler.

    • The /output:OutputFile option is required with /start. OutputFile specifies the name and location of the profiling data (.vsp) file.

    You can use any of the following options with the /start:sample option.




    Specifies a Windows performance counter to be collected during profiling.


    Use with /wincounter only. Specifies the number of milliseconds between Windows performance counter collection events. Default is 500 ms.


    Specifies an Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) event to be collected during profiling. ETW events are collected in a separate (.etl) file.

  3. Start the target application. Type:VSPerfCmd /launch:appName [Options] [Sample Event]

    You can use one or more of the following options with the /launch option.




    Specifies a string that contains the command-line arguments to be passed to the target application.


    Starts the target command-line application in a separate window.

    By default, performance data is sampled every 10,000,000 non-halted processor clock cycles. This is approximately one time every 10 seconds on a 1GHz processor. You can specify one of the following options to change the clock cycle interval or to specify a different sampling event.

    Sample event



    Changes the sampling interval to the number of non-halted clock cycles that are specified by Interval.


    Changes the sampling event to page faults. If Interval is specified, sets the number of page faults between samples. Default is 10.


    Changes the sampling event to system calls from the process to the operating system kernel (syscalls). If Interval is specified, sets the number of calls between samples. Default is 10.


    Changes the sampling event and interval to the processor performance counter and interval that are specified in Config.

When the target application is running, you can control data collection by starting and stopping the writing of data to the profiler data file by using VSPerfCmd.exe options. Controlling data collection enables you to collect data for a specific part of program execution, such as starting or shutting down the application.

To start and stop data collection

  • The following pairs of options start and stop data collection. Specify each option on a separate command line. You can turn data collection on and off multiple times.



    /globalon /globaloff

    Starts (/globalon) or stops (/globaloff) data collection for all processes.

    /processon:PID /processoff:PID

    Starts (/processon) or stops (/processoff) data collection for the process specified by the process ID (PID).

    /attach:{PID|ProcName} /detach[:{PID|ProcName}]

    /attach starts to collect data for the process specified by the PID or process name (ProcName). /detach stops data collection for the specified process or for all processes if a specific process is not specified.

  • You can also use the VSPerfCmd.exe /mark option to insert a profiling mark into the data file. The /mark command adds an identifier, a time stamp, and an optional user-defined text string. Marks can be used to filter the data in profiler reports and data views.

To end a profiling session, the profiler must not be attached to any profiled process and the profiler must be explicitly shut down. You can detach the profiler from an application that was profiled by using the sampling method by closing the application or by calling the VSPerfCmd /detach option. You then call the VSPerfCmd /shutdown option to turn the profiler off and close the profiling data file. The VSPerfClrEnv /off command clears the profiling environment variables.

To end a profiling session

  1. Perform one of the following steps to detach the profiler from the target application:

    • Close the target application.


    • Type VSPerfCmd /detach

  2. Shut down the profiler. Type:

    VSPerfCmd /shutdown

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