Manage exceptions with the debugger in Visual Studio

An exception is an indication of an error state that occurs while a program is being executed. You can tell the debugger which exceptions or sets of exceptions to break on, and at which point you want the debugger to break. When the debugger breaks, it shows you where the exception was thrown. You can also add or delete exceptions. With a solution open in Visual Studio, use Debug > Windows > Exception Settings to open the Exception Settings window.

Provide handlers that respond to the most important exceptions. Also learn how to configure the debugger to always break execution for some exceptions.

When an exception occurs, the debugger writes an exception message to the Output window. It may break execution in the following cases when:

  • An exception is thrown that isn't handled.
  • The debugger is configured to break execution before any handler is invoked.
  • You have set Just My Code, and the debugger is configured to break on any exception that isn't handled in user code.

Note

ASP.NET has a top-level exception handler that shows error pages in a browser. It doesn't break execution unless Just My Code is turned on. For an example, see Tell the debugger to continue on user-unhandled exceptions below.

Note

In a Visual Basic application, the debugger manages all errors as exceptions, even if you use On Error-style error handlers.

Tell the debugger to break when an exception is thrown

The debugger can break execution at the point where an exception is thrown, so you may examine the exception before a handler is invoked.

In the Exception Settings window (Debug > Windows > Exception Settings), expand the node for a category of exceptions, such as Common Language Runtime Exceptions. Then select the check box for a specific exception within that category, such as System.AccessViolationException. You can also select an entire category of exceptions.

Checked AccessViolationException

Tip

You can find specific exceptions by using the Search window in the Exception Settings toolbar, or use search to filter for specific namespaces (such as System.IO).

If you select an exception in the Exception Settings window, debugger execution will break wherever the exception is thrown, no matter whether it's handled. Now the exception is called a first chance exception. For example, here are a couple of scenarios:

  • In the following C# console application, the Main method throws an AccessViolationException inside a try/catch block.

    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        try
        {
            throw new AccessViolationException();
            Console.WriteLine("here");
        }
        catch (Exception e)
        {
            Console.WriteLine("caught exception");
        }
        Console.WriteLine("goodbye");
    }
    

    If you have AccessViolationException checked in Exception Settings, execution will break on the throw line when you run this code in the debugger. You can then continue execution. The console should display both lines:

    caught exception
    goodbye
    

    but it doesn't display the here line.

  • A C# console application references a class library with a class that has two methods. One method throws an exception and handles it, while a second method throws the same exception but doesn't handle it.

    public class Class1
    {
        public void ThrowHandledException()
        {
            try
            {
                throw new AccessViolationException();
            }
            catch (AccessViolationException ave)
            {
                Console.WriteLine("caught exception" + ave.Message);
            }
        }
    
        public void ThrowUnhandledException()
        {
            throw new AccessViolationException();
        }
    }
    

    Here's the Main() method of the console application:

    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        Class1 class1 = new Class1();
        class1.ThrowHandledException();
        class1.ThrowUnhandledException();
    }
    

    If you have AccessViolationException checked in Exception Settings, execution will break on the throw line in both ThrowHandledException() and ThrowUnhandledException() when you run this code in the debugger.

To restore the exception settings to the defaults, choose the Restore the list to the default settings button:

Restore defaults in Exception Settings

Tell the debugger to continue on user-unhandled exceptions

If you are debugging .NET or JavaScript code with Just My Code, you can tell the debugger to prevent breaking on exceptions that aren't handled in user code but are handled elsewhere.

  1. In the Exception Settings window, open the shortcut menu by right-clicking a column label, and then select Show Columns > Additional Actions. (If you've turned off Just My Code, you won't see this command.) A third column named Additional Actions appears.

    Additional Actions column

    For an exception that shows Continue when unhandled in user code in this column, the debugger continues if that exception isn't handled in user code but is handled externally.

  2. To change this setting for a particular exception, select the exception, right-click to show the shortcut menu, and select Continue When Unhandled in User Code. You may also change the setting for an entire category of exceptions, such as the entire Common Language Runtime exceptions).

    **Continue when unhandled in user code** setting

For example, ASP.NET web applications handle exceptions by converting them to an HTTP 500 status code (Exception handling in ASP.NET Web API), which may not help you determine the source of the exception. In the example below, the user code makes a call to String.Format() that throws a FormatException. Execution breaks as follows:

Breaks on user-unhandled exception

Add and delete exceptions

You can add and delete exceptions. To delete an exception type from a category, select the exception, and choose the Delete the selected exception from the list button (the minus sign) on the Exception Settings toolbar. Or you may right-click the exception and select Delete from the shortcut menu. Deleting an exception has the same effect as having the exception unchecked, which is that the debugger won't break when it's thrown.

To add an exception:

  1. In the Exception Settings window, select one of the exception categories (for example, Common Language Runtime).

  2. Choose the Add an exception to the selected category button (the plus sign).

    **Add an exception to the selected category** button

  3. Type the name of the exception (for example, System.UriTemplateMatchException).

    Type the exception name

    The exception is added to the list (in alphabetical order) and automatically checked.

To add an exception to the GPU Memory Access Exceptions, JavaScript Runtime Exceptions, or Win32 Exceptions categories, include the error code and the description.

Tip

Check your spelling! The Exception Settings window doesn't check for the existence of an added exception. So if you type Sytem.UriTemplateMatchException, you'll get an entry for that exception (and not for System.UriTemplateMatchException).

Exception settings are persisted in the solution's .suo file, so they apply to a particular solution. You can't reuse specific exception settings across solutions. Now only added exceptions are persisted; deleted exceptions aren't. You may add an exception, close and reopen the solution, and the exception will still be there. But if you delete an exception and close/reopen the solution, the exception will reappear.

The Exception Settings window supports generic exception types in C# but not in Visual Basic. To break on exceptions like MyNamespace.GenericException<T>, you must add the exception as MyNamespace.GenericException`1. That is, if you've created an exception like this code:

public class GenericException<T> : Exception
{
    public GenericException() : base("This is a generic exception.")
    {
    }
}

You can add the exception to Exception Settings using the previous procedure:

adding generic exception

Add conditions to an exception

Use the Exception Settings window to set conditions on exceptions. Currently supported conditions include the module name(s) to include or exclude for the exception. By setting module names as conditions, you can choose to break for the exception only on certain code modules. You may also choose to avoid breaking on particular modules.

Note

Adding conditions to an exception is new in Visual Studio 2017.

To add conditional exceptions:

  1. Choose the Edit conditions button in the Exception Settings window, or right-click the exception and choose Edit Conditions.

    Conditions for an exception

  2. To add extra required conditions to the exception, select Add Condition for each new condition. Additional condition lines appear.

    Extra conditions for an exception

  3. For each condition line, type the name of the module, and change the comparison operator list to Equals or Not Equals. You may specify wildcards (\*) in the name to specify more than one module.

  4. If you need to delete a condition, choose the X at the end of the condition line.

See also

Continue execution after an exception
How to: Examine system code after an exception
How to: Use native run-time checks
Use run-time checks without the C run-time library
Tutorial: Learn to debug using Visual Studio