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Debugging Tools for Windows (WinDbg, KD, CDB, NTSD)

July 2015

Start here for an overview of Debugging Tools for Windows. This tool set includes WinDbg and other debuggers.

3 ways to get Debugging Tools for Windows

  • As part of the WDK

    Install Microsoft Visual Studio and then install the Windows Driver Kit (WDK). Debugging Tools for Windows is included in the WDK. You can get the integrated environment here.

  • As part of the Windows SDK

    Install the Windows Software Development Kit (SDK). Debugging Tools for Windows is included in the Windows SDK. You can get the Windows SDK here.

  • As a standalone tool set

    If you want to download only Debugging Tools for Windows, install the Windows SDK, and, during the installation, select the Debugging Tools for Windows box and clear all the other boxes.

Getting Started with Windows Debugging

To get started with Windows debugging, see Getting Started with Windows Debugging.

To get started with debugging kernel mode drivers, see Debug Universal Drivers - Step by Step Lab (Echo Kernel-Mode). This is a step by step lab that shows how to use WinDbg to debug the sample KMDF echo driver.

Debugging environments

After you install Visual Studio and the WDK, you'll have six available debugging environments. All of these debugging environments provide user interfaces for the same underlying debugging engine, which is implemented in dbgeng.dll. This debugging engine is called the Windows debugger, and the six debugging environments are collectively called the Windows debuggers.

Note  Visual Studio includes its own debugging environment and debugging engine, which together are called the Visual Studio debugger. For information on debugging in Visual Studio, see Visual Studio debugger. If you are looking to debug managed code such as C#, using the Visual Studio is often easiest way to get started.

Windows debuggers

The Windows debuggers can run on x86-based, x64-based, or ARM-based processors, and they can debug code that's running on x86-based, x64-based, or ARM-based processors. Sometimes the debugger and the code being debugged run on the same computer, but other times the debugger and the code being debugged run on separate computers. In either case, the computer that's running the debugger is called the host computer, and the computer that is being debugged is called the target computer. The Windows debuggers support the following versions of Windows for both the host and target computers.

  • Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview

  • Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2

  • Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

  • Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

Symbols and Symbol Files

Symbol files hold a variety of data which are not actually needed when running the binaries, but are very useful when debugging code. For more information about creating and using symbol files, see Symbols for Windows debugging (WinDbg, KD, CDB, NTSD).

Blue Screens and crash dump files

If Windows stops working and displays a blue screen, the computer has shut down abruptly to protect itself from data loss and displays a bug check code. For more information, see Bug Checks (Blue Screens). You analyze crash dump files that are created when Windows shuts down by using WinDbg and other Windows debuggers. For more information, see Crash dump analysis using the Windows debuggers (WinDbg).

Tools and utilities

In addition to the debuggers, Debugging Tools for Windows includes a set of tools that are useful for debugging. For a full list of the tools, see Tools Included in Debugging Tools for Windows.

Additional documentation

For additional information related to Debugging Tools for Windows, see Debugging Resources. For information on what's new in Windows 10, see Debugging Tools for Windows: New for Windows 10.

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