Don't dump Vista just yet; instead, let Vista do the dumping! (30 Jun 2007)

The other day, I was contemplating various approaches to retrofit a feature into Vista which its new implementation of Windows Error Reporting apparently took away from us. What I and a couple of folks in the Windows Error Reporting discussion forum were desperately missing were crashdumps. On Vista, WER only produces minidumps if Microsoft's Winqual servers ask it to. So if a customer reports a crash, and your application isn't registered with Winqual, it becomes a lot more difficult than on XP systems to get a crash dump file to analyse the problem.

I already suggested a couple of workarounds, but they call came with their own quirks or inconveniences. None of them was 100% satisfying.

Which actually was good news to me, as this inspired me to develop a ruthless, but lucrative plot: I would sue the living daylights out of the poor folks in Redmond, based on a charge of malicious removal of vital features from their operating system, win the trial with fanfare, and then retreat to my newly-acquired beach villa on a remote island, my only connection to my former life being the ultra-hyper-gargantomanically-fast direct Internet connection via my own private satellite parked in stationary orbit 36000 km above Brod mansion.

It wasn't meant to be.

The bubble burst after a mouse click at the right time in the wrong place. For all eternity, cursed shall be the day I was taught to use the right mouse button.

Once more, I had run my crashme.exe test application which causes an access violation on purpose. I had the Windows Task Manager running. The WER dialog popped up, but for some reason, instead of using that dialog, I right-clicked the process entry in the Task Manager window.

And there it was: The "Create Dump File" option, which I had not noticed anytime before.


And indeed, this option does what it promises: It produces a dump file which can be loaded into the debugger to inspect the cause of the crash.

So if an application crashes on Vista, and you want to create crashdump information and send it to the developer of the application right away, here's how:

  • Configure Windows Error Reporting so that it asks you explicitly what to do when a crash occurs ("Problem Reports and Solutions/Change Settings/Ask me to check if a problem occurs")
  • Run and test the app until it crashes
  • Do not click any of the options in the WER dialog just yet. Instead, open the Task Manager and go to the "Processes" tab. Right-click the entry for the crashing app, and select "Create Dump File".

There's even a Knowledge Base article on this feature.

Sigh. There goes the beach villa.



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