Getting the Crashing Stack From a Bugcheck

Sorry for the long delay on posting - I have been slammed lately. I decided to write a post about debugging and take a short break from the bare metal stuff we have been discussing as of late. 🙂

When a bugcheck occurs in Windows, the following basic sequence of events occurs:
1. An exception ("exception" is used in the loosest sense of the term here) occurs that causes the system to call KeBugCheck()
2. The KeBugCheck routine runs on the thread that called KeBugCheck()
3. The BSOD shows up on the screen
This seems like totally useless information so far - and it is. However, for anyone that has ever had to debug a system crash - this sequence can lead to frustration. Why? Because sometimes you need to see what happened as the bugcheck occurred and you need to examine the stack to find valuable clues to aid your debug efforts. Unfortunately you can't see what the stack held because KeBugCheck() ran and overwrote the stack and all its juicy details. This is a real pain! After encountering this problem for the 11th time I added some code to the bugcheck path for Vista and forward that tries to rectify this problem. The additional code saves the current stack off to a separate area in non-paged pool before the bugcheck code runs. This is really useful for debugging in many situations as the bugcheck code pretty much re-uses the whole stack. This is especially useful for finding out what calls were active at the time of the bugcheck or for digging out stack values.
So how do you use it? Well - it is very easy actually. There is a global public symbol in ntoskrnl.exe (et al) called KiPreBugcheckStackSaveArea.
From the debugger you can just do this:
kd> dds KiPreBugcheckStackSaveArea KiPreBugcheckStackSaveArea+3000
This will dump the stack as dwords (you will need to use "dqs" for 64 bit and it will dump qwords) and resolve symbols if the dwords are within the range of a loaded module. The "+3000" comes from the public header value KERNEL_STACK_SIZE. This allows us to dump the entire stack. Here is a snippet from a dump from my machine:
8192bc64  807c70cb storport!RaidpAdapterContinueScatterGather
8192bc68  ad5df8b0
8192bc6c  818b9c58 nt!KeQueryCurrentStackInformation+0xb7
8192bc70  87087030
8192bc74  00000008
8192bc78  ad5e0000
8192bc7c  ad5dd000
8192bc80  ad5dfdb8
8192bc84  ad5e0000
8192bc88  00000000
8192bc8c  00000000
8192bc90  ad5df8d0
8192bc94  818d98e1 nt!KiSavePreBugcheckStack+0x66
8192bc98  819293e0 nt!KiPreBugcheckStackSaveArea
8192bc9c  ad5dd000
8192bca0  00003000
8192bca4  ad5e0000
8192bca8  00000003
8192bcac  ad5dd000
8192bcb0  ad5dfc78
8192bcb4  818d8c2d nt!KeBugCheck2+0x7a
8192bcb8  00000000
Notice that you can see the place on the stack where KeBugCheck was called and KiPreBugcheckStackSaveArea was pushed onto the stack. You can look from this address on the stack and higher to see what was running when the bugcheck occurred (remember the stack grows down to lower addresses). There are a few caveats (aren't there always!). One is that if there are parallel bugchecks occurring - the stack save area only records the first one. I am hoping that the probability of parallel bugchecks is low - although they can occur especially in the face of a machine check. The other caveat is that the addresses of the save area are not the same as the stack. This may seem really obvious but it is an important point to call out as it has bitten me several times! 🙂
Well - I hope that this is useful information for at least one person. Thanks for reading!

Comments (4)
  1. Rhynogruv says:

    fyi – you can use dp(s) for pointer-size-agnostic memory dumping instead of dd(s)/dq(s)

  2. nksingh says:

    This is really useful to know!


    -(One of your next door neighbors).

  3. Shabbir says:

    Why don’t you provide a debugger extension to dump the saved stack.

  4. rClark says:

    I am very happy to come upon this tidbit because I had determined that the bug check took up the stack.  However, when I do dqs (on Windows 7), no symbols are loaded.  Further examination of values on the stack display ????????`????????

    .  What to do?  Thanks

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