Use !htrace to debug handle leak

Windbg Debugger’s !htrace extension is very handy to debug handle leak.

The process essentially boils down to the following simple steps:

1.       Enable trace

2.       Take a snapshot

3.       Run scenario

4.       Show the diff

On step 4, !htrace will show all the extra opened handles after the last snapshot, along with the callstack if available. This greatly helps to debug what handles are leak, and by whom.

Like any other resource leak detection tool, there will be false positives. You need to understand what is a real leak, and what is just a transient allocation.




The !htrace extension displays stack trace information for one or more handles.


User-Mode Syntax

!htrace [Handle [Max_Traces]] 
!htrace -enable [Max_Traces]
!htrace -snapshot
!htrace -diff
!htrace -disable
!htrace -? 

Kernel-Mode Syntax

!htrace [Handle [Process [Max_Traces]]] 
!htrace -? 



Specifies the handle whose stack trace will be displayed. If Handle is 0 or omitted, stack traces for all handles in the process will be displayed.


(Kernel mode only) Specifies the process whose handles will be displayed. If Process is 0 or omitted, then the current process is used. In user mode, the current process is always used.


Specifies the maximum number of stack traces to display. In user mode, if this parameter is omitted, then all the stack traces for the target process will be displayed.


(User mode only) Enables handle tracing and takes the first snapshot of the handle information to use as the initial state by the -diff option.


(User mode only) Takes a snapshot of the current handle information to use as the initial state by the -diff option.


(User mode only) Compares current handle information with the last snapshot of handle information that was taken. Displays all handles that are still open.


(User mode only; Windows Server 2003 and later only) Disables handle tracing. In Windows XP, handle tracing can be disabled only by terminating the target process.


Displays some brief Help text for this extension in the Debugger Command window.


Windows NT 4.0


Windows 2000


Windows XP and later



Before !htrace can be used, Application Verifier must be activated for the target process, and the Detect invalid handle usage option must be selected. By activating Application Verifier, stack trace information is saved each time the process opens a handle, closes a handle, or references an invalid handle. It is this stack trace information that !htrace displays. For more information, see Application Verifier.

The following example displays information about all handles in process 0x81400300:

kd> !htrace 0 81400300
Process 0x81400300
ObjectTable 0xE10CCF60

Handle 0x7CC – CLOSE:
0x8018FCB9: ntoskrnl!ExDestroyHandle+0x103
0x801E1D12: ntoskrnl!ObpCloseHandleTableEntry+0xE4
0x801E1DD9: ntoskrnl!ObpCloseHandle+0x85
0x801E1EDD: ntoskrnl!NtClose+0x19
0x010012C1: badhandle!mainCRTStartup+0xE3
0x77DE0B2F: KERNEL32!BaseProcessStart+0x3D
Handle 0x7CC – OPEN:
0x8018F44A: ntoskrnl!ExCreateHandle+0x94
0x801E3390: ntoskrnl!ObpCreateUnnamedHandle+0x10C
0x801E7317: ntoskrnl!ObInsertObject+0xC3
0x77DE23B2: KERNEL32!CreateSemaphoreA+0x66
0x010011C5: badhandle!main+0x45
0x010012C1: badhandle!mainCRTStartup+0xE3
0x77DE0B2F: KERNEL32!BaseProcessStart+0x3D
0x8018F709: ntoskrnl!ExMapHandleToPointerEx+0xEA
0x801E10F2: ntoskrnl!ObReferenceObjectByHandle+0x12C
0x801902BE: ntoskrnl!NtSetEvent+0x6C
0x80154965: ntoskrnl!_KiSystemService+0xC4
0x010012C1: badhandle!mainCRTStartup+0xE3
0x77DE0B2F: KERNEL32!BaseProcessStart+0x3D
Handle 0x7DC – CLOSE:
0x8018FCB9: ntoskrnl!ExDestroyHandle+0x103
0x801E1D12: ntoskrnl!ObpCloseHandleTableEntry+0xE4
0x801E1DD9: ntoskrnl!ObpCloseHandle+0x85
0x801E1EDD: ntoskrnl!NtClose+0x19
0x010012C1: badhandle!mainCRTStartup+0xE3
0x77DE0B2F: KERNEL32!BaseProcessStart+0x3D
Handle 0x7DC – OPEN:
0x8018F44A: ntoskrnl!ExCreateHandle+0x94
0x801E3390: ntoskrnl!ObpCreateUnnamedHandle+0x10C
0x801E7317: ntoskrnl!ObInsertObject+0xC3
0x77DE265C: KERNEL32!CreateEventA+0x66
0x010011A0: badhandle!main+0x20
0x010012C1: badhandle!mainCRTStartup+0xE3
0x77DE0B2F: KERNEL32!BaseProcessStart+0x3D

Parsed 0x6 stack traces.
Dumped 0x5 stack traces.

Additional Information

For information about handles, see the Microsoft Windows SDK documentation and Microsoft Windows Internals by Mark Russinovich and David Solomon. To display further information about a specific handle, use the !handle extension.

© 2007 Microsoft Corporation
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Comments (3)

  1. Koby Kahane says:

    !htrace is an awesome extension, easily one of my favorites.

    I recall debugging a registry handle leak in third-party code and a desktop handle leak in in-house code, among other things, using this great tool.

    A great example of the added value of dbgeng extensions given to Windbg over alternative debuggers such Ollydbg, Visual Studio, etc.

    I think that in a more general sense, some great capabilities of App Verifier are unknown to the developer community at large and should be evangelized more.

    Hopefully options providing finer granularity will be added to the !htrace extension command in future DTW releases, allowing filtering handles based on their type and filtering stack traces based on the contents, !findstack style, and so on.

  2. Norman Diamond says:

    The link to


    doesn’t work in Internet Explorer, even though I have the MSDN library installed.

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