Registry keys to configure Watson and automatically save full dumps locally

Registry keys to configure Watson and automatically save full dumps locally

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You might have noticed that after installing Visual Studio the behavior of crashing programs changes – instead of the standard crash dialog you get the Visual Studio Just-In-Time Debugger:



The behavior of handling crashing programs can be controlled in the registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AeDebug]
"Debugger"="\"C:\\windows\\system32\\vsjitdebugger.exe\" -p %ld -e %ld"

If Auto is not set or is set to 0, you get to choose whether to attach a debugger or not:


If Auto is set to 1, the JIT debugger dialog starts without the prompt above. Visual Studio sets the debugger to vsjitdebugger, which in turn lets you start a Visual Studio instance and attach to the crashing process.

Windows Error Reporting

Another useful registry branch that deals with watsons is:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting\DebugApplications]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting\LocalDumps]

Here’s a good MSDN article that describes these options:

To turn it off, set DontShowUI to 1 and set Disabled to 1 to stop sending reports to Microsoft.

Local Dumps

LocalDumps is interesting. It configures Watson to automatically save a dump of the crashing process in the folder you specify and keep N latest dumps in that folder:


This is really useful if the process doesn’t show the Watson dialog, you can still get the dump for it. Just open your %LOCALAPPDATA%\CrashDumps folder and you’ll see the latest N dumps (I’ve set it to 32). DumpType is 1 for minimal, 2 for full.

  • Regarding HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting\LocalDumps, please note that this only works for managed apps with .Net 4 and up. It has no effect on early versions.

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