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Debugging Windows Services under Visual Studio .NET

, 14 Aug 2006 CPOL
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How to 'fudge' Windows Services code so that it can be debugged under Visual Studio .NET.

Introduction

Normally, debugging a Windows service under Visual Studio .NET is painful. Windows services won't actually run directly within Visual Studio .NET, so the usual technique is to install and start the Windows service and then attach a debugger to it. An alternative approach is to pull the guts out of the service, stick it in a separate library, and then build some other app (e.g., a console app) to sit in front of it. This approach uses neither of those techniques.

When building a C# Windows Service project in Visual Studio, it will leave you with a class containing quite a few methods including a Main(), such as this:

// The main entry point for the process
static void Main()
{
    System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase[] ServicesToRun;

    // More than one user Service may run within the same process. To add
    // another service to this process, change the following line to
    // create a second service object. For example,
    //
    // ServicesToRun = new 
    //      System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase[] {new Service1(), 
    //      new MySecondUserService()};
    //

    ServicesToRun = new System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase[] { new Service1() };
    System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase.Run(ServicesToRun);
}

Obviously, it's the Main() above that ends up executing the service, and it's the Main() that this approach manipulates so that the Windows Service can be debugged directly within Visual Studio .NET.

Using the example above (and removing some of the comments), here's how:

// The main entry point for the process
static void Main()
{
#if (!DEBUG)
    System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase[] ServicesToRun;
    ServicesToRun = new System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase[] { new Service1() };
    System.ServiceProcess.ServiceBase.Run(ServicesToRun);
#else
    // Debug code: this allows the process to run as a non-service.
    // It will kick off the service start point, but never kill it.
    // Shut down the debugger to exit
    Service1 service = new Service1();
    service.<Your Service's Primary Method Here>();
    // Put a breakpoint on the following line to always catch
    // your service when it has finished its work
    System.Threading.Thread.Sleep(System.Threading.Timeout.Infinite);
#endif 
}

It's crude, but effective (CBE - also known as Commander of the British Empire Wink | ;) ). Run the service in debug mode to debug it, compile and install it as a release build, and it's a full and proper Windows service.

You may still wish to pull the guts out of your service into a separate library for unit testing. But this approach allows you to work with almost all of your service code as an actual service.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Lee Humphries
Founder md8n
Australia Australia
If it ain't broke - that can be arranged.
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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralGreat Article!! Pin
Member 1115878016-Oct-14 6:26
memberMember 1115878016-Oct-14 6:26 
QuestionIt doesn't work for existing windows service code Pin
Member 784108626-May-14 1:24
memberMember 784108626-May-14 1:24 
AnswerRe: It doesn't work for existing windows service code Pin
Lee Humphries26-May-14 13:01
professionalLee Humphries26-May-14 13:01 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Sagar Shivdas Raut13-Mar-14 3:44
memberSagar Shivdas Raut13-Mar-14 3:44 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
SharadGNair14-Aug-13 0:43
memberSharadGNair14-Aug-13 0:43 
QuestionI’m still getting the message after changing code. Pin
Luis Fernando Forero Guzman19-Dec-12 6:20
memberLuis Fernando Forero Guzman19-Dec-12 6:20 
AnswerRe: I’m still getting the message after changing code. Pin
Lee Humphries19-Dec-12 12:45
memberLee Humphries19-Dec-12 12:45 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
menarenprvn22-Oct-12 5:19
membermenarenprvn22-Oct-12 5:19 
QuestionVery nice - be careful of OnStart Pin
Ritchie Annand11-Sep-12 9:43
memberRitchie Annand11-Sep-12 9:43 
QuestionHow to handle the Stop request Pin
Bernhard Hiller23-May-12 4:33
memberBernhard Hiller23-May-12 4:33 
AnswerRe: How to handle the Stop request Pin
Lee Humphries23-May-12 14:07
memberLee Humphries23-May-12 14:07 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
David Rodriguez29-Apr-12 10:45
memberDavid Rodriguez29-Apr-12 10:45 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
eka80824-Apr-12 5:50
membereka80824-Apr-12 5:50 
QuestionSo Cool! Pin
Marlene Deyo20-Mar-12 5:18
memberMarlene Deyo20-Mar-12 5:18 
QuestionLife saver! Pin
Chris Maunder12-Oct-11 12:54
adminChris Maunder12-Oct-11 12:54 
AnswerRe: Life saver! Pin
kicker20129-Jul-12 3:57
memberkicker20129-Jul-12 3:57 
QuestionTry Windows Service Helper Pin
breakpoint20-Sep-11 17:44
memberbreakpoint20-Sep-11 17:44 
GeneralSimple things are often the best! Pin
Member 385355321-Jul-11 22:48
memberMember 385355321-Jul-11 22:48 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
DragonLord664-May-11 0:24
memberDragonLord664-May-11 0:24 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
cable beach20-Apr-11 18:30
membercable beach20-Apr-11 18:30 
GeneralDebugging Windows service in simple way Pin
Krishna Mohan Reddy N8-Apr-11 4:53
memberKrishna Mohan Reddy N8-Apr-11 4:53 
GeneralRe: Debugging Windows service in simple way Pin
Lee Humphries10-Apr-11 14:50
memberLee Humphries10-Apr-11 14:50 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
rohancragg7-Jan-11 0:11
memberrohancragg7-Jan-11 0:11 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
visionmaster50529-Dec-10 10:12
membervisionmaster50529-Dec-10 10:12 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
alexdresko17-Nov-10 10:40
memberalexdresko17-Nov-10 10:40 

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