Breaking when a module loads


We occasionally get requests for the ability to break when a module loads. WinDbg (the other debugger that Microsoft produces) exposes this as an exception (see the ‘sx’ command), although it isn’t really an exception. Ideally, I think this should be a special kind of breakpoint.


VS doesn’t support this as a first class feature, but as long as you know what module you want to break on, this is very easy to do. I will give you two possible ways to do this:


Using a function breakpoint


Just set a function breakpoint on the DllMain function of the module in question (or _DllMainCRTStartup if you prefer). To do this:



  1. Open the ‘Debug->New Breakpoint’ Dialog (Ctrl-B)
  2. Set function to be ‘{,,<module >.dll}DllMain’

If you don’t have symbols for the dll in question, this is more difficult. Do this:



  1. Start a command prompt that has ‘dumpbin.exe’ on the path
  2. Goto the module you want
  3. Run ‘dumpbin /headers <module> | findstr entry’ you should get something like
    1AE60 entry point (77E7AE60)
  4. Set an address breakpoint on the second number (77E7AE60 in the example)

  5. If the dll is also reloacted, then instead you will need to add the first number (1AE60 in the example) to the address where the module will load


This won’t work with ‘/noentry’ dlls. This also may not work if you have dlls with circular references. In either case, use the registry.


Using the registry



  1. Open up regedit, and goto HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\<dll>
  2. In that key, create a new string value called “BreakOnDllLoad” and set it to “1”.


Comments (6)

  1. anon says:

    Wondering if this is the right place to ask…did Whidbey enhance the display of function static variables and global variables? In 2003 & earlier, you can’t seem to watch static/global variables properly without using some temporary variable.

  2. Gregg Miskelly says:

    I am not aware of this problem. Is this for Native C++ or some other language? For native C++, one issue may be that you need to tell us what dll to look in (if you are interested in a different dll then the current stack frame). Use ‘{,,dll_name}’.

  3. Dmitriy Zaslavskiy says:

    Why not just set breakpoint on

    {,,kernel32.dll}!LoadLibraryExW

    You can then even specify which module to load.

  4. Dmitriy Zaslavskiy says:

    I meant to say you can specify

    on which module to break

  5. Every now and than while debugging I need to either determine when a dll/module is loaded or need to

  6. Wes' Blog says:

    Every now and than while debugging I need to either determine when a dll/module is loaded or need to