Dr Watson

by Wayne Maples [Published on 20 April 2004 / Last Updated on 20 April 2004]

Dr. Watson is a program error debugger that detects and diagnoses program errors and creates User.dmp and DrWtsn32.log files to contain the diagnostic data. In Windows NT these files are stored in the %systemroot% folder. In Windows 2000, these files are stored in the %systemdrive%\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\DrWatson folder. For Windows XP, these files are stored in the %systemdrive%\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Dr Watson folder. The DrWtsn32.log file is appended each time a program error occurs; the User.dmp file is overwritten each time.

To turn off the Dr Watson debugger, apply the following Windows NT / Windows 2000 / Windows XP registry hack:

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AeDebug
Name: Auto
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 disable
Value: 1 enable

To re-enable Dr Watson, you can change Auto back to 1 or from the command line type drwtsn -i.

To change the folder for log files, apply the following Windows NT / Windows 2000 / Windows XP registry hack:

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: LogFilePath
Type: REG_SZ

This is the registry key containing most of the values for Dr Watson including AppendToLogFile, CrashDumpFile (change from default name user.dmp), CreateCrashDump, MaximumCrashes, SoundNotification, VisualNotification, and Wavefile.

The AppendToLogFile value controls whether Dr. Watson creates a new log file or appends data to the old log file for each application error that occurs:

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: AppendToLogFile
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 new
Value: 1 append

The CrashDumpFile value controls the path and filename to use when creating a crash dump file :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: CrashDumpFile
Type: REG_EXPAND_SZ

The CreateCrashDump value controls whether Dr. Watson creates a crash dump file after an application crash has occured :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: CreateCrashDump
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 disable
Value: 1 enable

The DumpAllThreads value controls whether Dr. Watson should dump the contents of all threads during an application error :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: DumpAllThreads
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 disable
Value: 1 enable

The DumpSymbols value controls whether Dr. Watson should dump the contents of the symbol tables during an application error :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: DumpSymbols
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 disable
Value: 1 enable

The SoundNotification value controls whether Dr. Watson plays a wav file when an application error occurs :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: SoundNotification
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 disable
Value: 1 enable

The WaveFile value specifies the path and filename of the wave file to be played during an application error :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: SoundNotification
Type: REG_EXPAND_SZ

The VisualNotification value controls whether Dr. Watson displays a popup message box when it encounters an application error :

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\DrWatson
Name: VisualNotification
Type: REG_DWORD
Value: 0 disable
Value: 1 enable

There are various debugger utilities besides Dr Watson. Lotus Notes replaces Dr Watson with its debugger. To switch back to Dr Watson, should another debugger be enabled, apply the following Windows NT / Windows 2000 registry hack:

Hive: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
Key: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AeDebug
Name: Debugger
Type: REG_SZ
Value: drwtsn32 -p %ld -e %ld -g

Microsoft kb article:

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