Debugging Protocol Handlers

Integral to testing and debugging your protocol handler implementations is understanding how protocol handlers are launched.

This topic is organized as follows:

About Debugging Protocol Handlers

The SearchIndexer process (searchindexer.exe) launches one copy of the SearchProtocolHost process (SearchProtocolHost.exe) in the system context and another copy in the user context. Then, the protocol handlers are loaded in the SearchProtocolHost process as needed. They are not unloaded until the search service is stopped. The same instance of a protocol handler is reused any number of times while the service is running.

The SearchIndexer and SearchProtocolHost processes communicate frequently during indexing. If you pause or stop the SearchProtocolHost process to debug, the SearchIndexer will launch a new SearchProtocolHost process, invalidating your debugging session. Also, if you attach your debugger directly to the SearchProtocolHost process, you can break handle-inheritance from searchindexer.exe to searchprotocolhost.exe, and the two processes will be unable to communicate.

To avoid these problems, you need to notify the search service that you are debugging, and you need to attach the debugger to the SearchIndexer process with instructions to debug child processes, as described next.

Setting Up Debugging

Follow these steps to set up debugging for your protocol handler.

  1. Notify the search service that you are debugging by setting the DebugFilters value to 1 in the registry:

       Windows Search
          Gathering Manager
             DebugFilters = 1
  2. Attach a debugger using the Image File Execution Options registry key:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
       Image File Execution Options
             Debugger = <path to debugger> <debugger options> 

    The options for a sample debugger are described in the following table.

    Example using the ntsd debugger  

    Debugger = C:\debuggers\ntsd.exe -odGx -c: "sxe ld mydll.dll;g"

    -oTells ntsd.exe to debug child prcoesses.
    -dPipes ntsd.exe through the kernel debugger to ensure the debugger is lauched on the right desktop (system context).
    -gTells ntsd.exe to exit immediately when the child terminates.
    -xDisables first-chance break on access violation exceptions. The second occurrence of an access violation will break into the debugger.
    -cSets the order of commands passed ntsd.exe.



  3. Restart searchindexer.exe under the debugger using compmgmt.msc, services.msc, or a command window with commands similar to the following:
    net stop wsearch
    <copy new DLLs for debugging>
    net start wsearch

To distinguish between a SearchProtocolHost process running in the system context and one running in the user context, you can review the environment strings. With ntsd.exe, for example, you can use extension command !peb to display a formatted view of the information in the process environment block (PEB).

Additional Resources

Related topics

Developing Protocol Handlers
Understanding Protocol Handlers
Notifying the Index of Changes
Adding Icons and Context Menus
Code Sample: Shell Extensions for Protocol Handlers
Creating a Search Connector for a Protocol Handler
Installing and Registering Protocol Handlers



Community Additions