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Posted 12 Sep 2007

Debugging OnStart Method in .NET Service when Debbuger.Launch Doesn't Work

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Technique to attach a debugger to a starting service project


A lot of workarounds exist to debug the OnStart method of a service. A straight way with Debugger.Launch() is described in How to Debug a Windows Service. But what if this wouldn't work, e.g. on Windows Vista x64? This sample shows a simple method to attach the debugger to the service process and debug the OnStart method.

How It Works

The service process should wait till you have attached the debugger. The service process should not timeout. Just look at the code, it's quite easy.

Using the Code

All you have to do, is to copy this code snippet in your Onstart method of your service class (derived from ServiceBase).

Using Directives

using System.Diagnostics;  // a quite useful namespace for debugging issues
using System.Threading;

OnStart Method

protected override void OnStart(string[] args)
    while (!Debugger.IsAttached)      // Waiting until debugger is attached
        RequestAdditionalTime(1000);  // Prevents the service from timeout
        Thread.Sleep(1000);           // Gives you time to attach the debugger   
    RequestAdditionalTime(20000);     // for Debugging the OnStart method,
                                      // increase as needed to prevent timeouts
    // here is your startup code with breakpoints

Start the service as usual. The service will wait until you attach the debugger to the service process. You can set breakpoints in your start code and debug it.


  • 12th September, 2007: Initial version tested on Vista x64 / VS2005 with a x64 compiled C# project


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


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Comments and Discussions

GeneralSimpler solution Pin
Julien Couvreur13-Sep-07 11:32
memberJulien Couvreur13-Sep-07 11:32 
AnswerRe: Simpler solution - but not nice Pin
MSE-iT13-Sep-07 15:37
memberMSE-iT13-Sep-07 15:37 
GeneralDebugger.Launch(); Pin
Mladen Jankovic12-Sep-07 11:53
memberMladen Jankovic12-Sep-07 11:53 
GeneralRe: Debugger.Launch(); [modified] Pin
MSE-iT12-Sep-07 22:22
memberMSE-iT12-Sep-07 22:22 
GeneralRe: Debugger.Launch(); Pin
Eduard Gomolyako13-Sep-07 1:30
memberEduard Gomolyako13-Sep-07 1:30 
AnswerRe: Debugger.Launch(); Pin
MSE-iT13-Sep-07 2:17
memberMSE-iT13-Sep-07 2:17 
AnswerRe: Debugger.Launch(); Pin
Mladen Jankovic13-Sep-07 5:57
memberMladen Jankovic13-Sep-07 5:57 
AnswerRe: Debugger.Launch(); Pin
MSE-iT13-Sep-07 6:11
memberMSE-iT13-Sep-07 6:11 
GeneralSolution for Debugger.Launch Pin
KyronSr8-Jul-08 8:13
memberKyronSr8-Jul-08 8:13 
I know this is a little out of date, but the reason that you don't see the debugger.launch window is because you do not allow the service to interact with the desktop. Right-click the service and set the "interact with the desktop" to true and you'll see the popup. I verified this in Vista x64 with UAC turned ON.

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Article Copyright 2007 by Thomas Maierhofer (Tom)
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