Debugging a stalled Delphi process with Windbg and memory searches

Today I’ve got a process on my machine that is supposed to be exiting, but it has hung. Let’s load it up in Windbg and find what’s up. The program in question was built in Delphi XE2, and symbols were generated by our internal tds2dbg tool (but there are other tools online which create similar .dbg files). As usual, I am writing this up for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s, but if I put it on my blog, it forces me to put in enough detail that even I can understand it when I come back to it!

Looking at the main thread, we can see unit finalizations are currently being called, but the specific unit finalization section and functions which are being called are not immediately visible in the call stack, between InterlockedCompareExchange and FinalizeUnits:

0:000> kb
ChildEBP RetAddr  Args to Child              
0018ff3c 0040908c 0018ff78 0040909a 0018ff5c audit4_patient!System.Sysutils.InterlockedCompareExchange+0x5 [C:\Program Files (x86)\Embarcadero\RAD Studio\9.0\source\rtl\sys\InterlockedAPIs.inc @ 23]
0018ff5c 004094b2 0018ff88 00000000 00000000 audit4_patient!System.FinalizeUnits+0x40 [C:\Program Files (x86)\Embarcadero\RAD Studio\9.0\source\rtl\sys\System.pas @ 17473]
0018ff88 74b7336a 7efde000 0018ffd4 76f99f72 audit4_patient!System..Halt0+0xa2 [C:\Program Files (x86)\Embarcadero\RAD Studio\9.0\source\rtl\sys\System.pas @ 18599]
0018ff94 76f99f72 7efde000 35648d3c 00000000 kernel32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0xe
0018ffd4 76f99f45 01a5216c 7efde000 00000000 ntdll!__RtlUserThreadStart+0x70
0018ffec 00000000 01a5216c 7efde000 00000000 ntdll!_RtlUserThreadStart+0x1b

So, the simplest way to find out where we were was to step out of the InterlockedCompareExchange call. I found myself in System.SysUtils.DoneMonitorSupport (specifically, the CleanEventList subprocedure):

0:000> p
eax=01a8ee70 ebx=01a8ee70 ecx=01a8ee70 edx=00000001 esi=00000020 edi=01a26e80
eip=0042dcb1 esp=0018ff20 ebp=0018ff3c iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=0023  ss=002b  ds=002b  es=002b  fs=0053  gs=002b             efl=00200202
audit4_patient!CleanEventList+0xd:
0042dcb1 33c9            xor     ecx,ecx

After a little more spelunking, and a review of the Delphi source around this function, I found that this was a part of the System.TMonitor support. Specifically, there was a locked TMonitor somewhere that had not been destroyed. I stepped through a loop that was spinning, waiting for the object to be unlocked so its handle could be destroyed, and found a reference to the data in question here:

0:000> p
eax=00000001 ebx=01a8ee70 ecx=01a8ee70 edx=00000001 esi=00000020 edi=01a26e80
eip=0042dcaf esp=0018ff20 ebp=0018ff3c iopl=0         nv up ei pl nz na po nc
cs=0023  ss=002b  ds=002b  es=002b  fs=0053  gs=002b             efl=00200202
audit4_patient!CleanEventList+0xb:
0042dcaf 8bc3            mov     eax,ebx

Looking at the record pointed to by ebx, we had a reference to an event handle handy:

0:000> dd ebx L2
01a8ee70  00000001 00000928

  TSyncEventItem = record
    Lock: Integer;
    Event: Pointer;
  end;

Although Event is a Pointer, internally it’s just cast from an event handle. So I guess that we can probably find another reference to that handle somewhere in memory, corresponding to a TMonitor record:

  TMonitor = record
  strict private
    // ... snip ...
    var
      FLockCount: Integer;
      FRecursionCount: Integer;
      FOwningThread: TThreadID;
      FLockEvent: Pointer;
      FSpinCount: Integer;
      FWaitQueue: PWaitingThread;
      FQueueLock: TSpinLock;

And if we search for that event handle:

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F000000 00000928
01a8ee74  00000928 00000000 0000092c 00000000  (.......,.......
07649334  00000928 002c0127 0012ccb6 0000002e  (...'.,.........
0764aa14  00000928 01200125 004b8472 000037ce  (...%. .r.K..7..
07651e24  00000928 05f60125 01101abc 00000e86  (...%...........
08a47544  00000928 00000000 00000000 00000000  (...............

Now one of these should correspond to a TMonitor record. The first entry (01a8ee74) is just part of our TSyncEventItem record, and the next three don’t make sense given that the FSpinCount (the next value in the memory dump) would be invalid. So let’s look at the last one. Counting quickly on all my fingers and toes, I establish that that makes 08a47538 the start of the TMonitor record. And… so we search for a pointer to that.

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F5687000 08a47538
076b1d24  08a47538 08aa3e40 076b1db1 0122fe50  [email protected]>....k.P.".

Just one! But here it gets a little tricky, because the PMonitor pointer is in a ‘hidden’ field at the end of the object. So we need to locate the start of the object.

0:000> dd 076b1d00
076b1d00  0122fe50 00000000 00000000 076b1df1
076b1d10  0122fe50 00000000 00000000 076b0ce0
076b1d20  004015c8 08a47538 08aa3e40 076b1db1
076b1d30  0122fe50 00000000 00000000 076b1d51
... snip ...

I’m just stabbing in the dark here, but that 004015c8 that’s just four bytes back smells suspiciously like an object class pointer. Let’s see:

0:000> da poi(4015c8-38)+1
004016d7  "TObject&"

Ta da! That all fits. A TObject has no data members, so the next 4 bytes should be the TMonitor (search for hfMonitorOffset in the Delphi source to learn more). So we have a TObject being used as a TMonitor lock reference. (Learn about that poi(address-38)+1 magic). But what other naughty object is hanging about, using this TObject as its lock?

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F5687000 076b1d20
098194b0  076b1d20 00000000 00000000 09819449   .k.........I...

Just one. Let’s trawl back in memory just a little bit and have a look at this one.

0:000> dd 09819480  
09819480  00f0f0f0 00ffffff 00000000 09819641
09819490  00447b7c 00000000 00000000 00000000
098194a0  00000000 098150c0 00448338 098195c8
098194b0  076b1d20 00000000 00000000 09819449
... snip ...

0:000> da poi(00448338-38)+1
004483c0  "TThreadList&"

And what does a TThreadList look like?

  TThreadList = class
  private
    FList: TList;
    FLock: TObject;
    FDuplicates: TDuplicates;

Yes, that definitely looks hopeful! That FLock is pointing to our lock TObject… I believe that’s called a Quality Match.

This is still a little bit too generic for me, though. TThreadList is a standard Delphi class used by the bucketload. Let’s try and identify who is using this list and leaving it lying about. First, we’ll quickly have a look at that TThreadList.FList to see if it has anything of interest — that’s the first data member in the object == object+4.

0:000> dd poi(098194ac)
098195c8  00447b7c 00000000 00000000 00000000
... snip ...
0:000> da poi(447b7c-38)+1
00447cad  "TList'"

Yep, it’s a TList. Just making sure. It’s empty, what a shame (TList.FCount is the second data member in the object == 00000000, as is the list pointer itself).

So how else can we find the usage of that TThreadList? Is it TThreadList referenced anywhere then? Break out the search tool again!

0:000> s -[w]d 00400000 L?F5687000 098194a8
076d3410  098194a8 00000000 09819580 00000000  ................

Yes. Just once, again. Again, we scroll back in memory to find the base of that object.

0:000> dd 076d33c0  
076d33c0  08abfe60 00000000 00000000 076d4c39
076d33d0  01616964 0000091c 00001850 00000100
076d33e0  00000001 00000000 00000000 00000000
076d33f0  076d33d0 00000000 01616d38 076d33d0
076d3400  00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
076d3410  098194a8 00000000 09819580 00000000
076d3420  00000000 076d2ea9 0075e518 00000000
076d3430  00401ecc 00000000 00000000 00000000

There was a false positive at 076d33f8, but then magic happened at 076d33d0:

0:000> da poi(01616964-38)+1
016169e8  "TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread&"

Wow! Something real! Let’s dissect this a bit. Looking at the definition of TThread, we have the following data:

076d33d0  01616964  class pointer TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread
076d33d4  0000091c  TThread.FHandle
076d33d8  00001850  TThread.FThreadID
076d33dc  00000100  TThread.FCreateSuspended, .FTerminated, .FSuspended, .FFreeOnTerminate (watch that endianness!)
076d33e0  00000001  TThread.FFinished
076d33e4  00000000  TThread.FReturnValue
076d33e8  00000000  TThread.FOnTerminate.Code
076d33ec  00000000  TThread.FOnTerminate.Data
076d33f0  076d33d0  TThread.FSynchronize.TThread (= Self)
076d33f4  00000000  padding
076d33f8  01616d38  TThread.FSynchronize.FMethod.Code (= last Synchronize target method)
076d33fc  076d33d0  TThread.FSynchronize.FMethod.Data (= Self)
076d3400  00000000  TThread.FSynchronize.FProcedure
076d3404  00000000  TThread.FSynchronize.FProcedure
076d3408  00000000  TThread.FFatalException
076d340c  00000000  TThread.FExternalThread

Then, into TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread:

076d3410  098194a8  TAnatomyDiagramTileLoaderThread.FTiles: TThreadList

So… we can tell that the thread has exited (FFinished == 1), and verify that by looking at running threads, looking for thread id 1850:

0:000> ~
.  0  Id: 1c98.1408 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efdd000 Unfrozen
   1  Id: 1c98.16c8 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efda000 Unfrozen
   2  Id: 1c98.11a0 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ee1c000 Unfrozen
   3  Id: 1c98.1bbc Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ee19000 Unfrozen
   4  Id: 1c98.10dc Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ee04000 Unfrozen
   5  Id: 1c98.12f0 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7edfb000 Unfrozen
   6  Id: 1c98.1d38 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efaf000 Unfrozen
   7  Id: 1c98.1770 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7edec000 Unfrozen
   8  Id: 1c98.1044 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ede3000 Unfrozen
   9  Id: 1c98.bf4 Suspend: 1 Teb: 7ede0000 Unfrozen
  10  Id: 1c98.b3c Suspend: 1 Teb: 7efd7000 Unfrozen

Furthermore, the handle is invalid:

0:000> !handle 91c
Could not duplicate handle 91c, error 6

That suggests that the object has already been destroyed. But that the TThreadList hasn’t.

And sure enough, when I looked at the destructor for TAnatomyDiagramTileLoadThread, we clear the TThreadList, but we never free it!

Now, another way we could have caught this was to turn on leak detection. But leak detection is not always perfect, especially when you get some libraries that *cough* have a lot of false positives. And of course while we could have switched on heap leak detection, that involves rebuilding and restarting the process and losing the context along the way, with no guarantee we’ll be able to reproduce it again!

While this approach does feel a little tedious, and we did have some luck in this instance with freed objects not being overwritten, and the values we were searching for being relatively unique, it does nevertheless feel pretty deterministic, which must be better than the old “try-it-and-hope” debugging technique.

8 thoughts on “Debugging a stalled Delphi process with Windbg and memory searches

  1. Thanks to your article I now know about tds2dbg – I’d been trying to use map2dbg before, but without much success.

    When I debug using the dbg files generated by tds2dbg, windbg doesn’t show local variables. I understand (this might be wrong) that the dbg files do contain the correct info but it’s not used by windbg. How do get around this limitation? Do you have a tds2dbg that generates pdb files that do permit local variables to be displayed? Or do you not find it a limitation that local variables aren’t visible?

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Currently local variables are not exported to the .dbg file. In theory .dbg supports local variable debug info but it’s not trivial to convert from the tds variable data to the dbg, which is why it hasn’t been done yet. .pdb is not formally documented by Microsoft. Frankly, I find it frustrating not having named local variables in windbg but the effort required to make that possible has meant it has not been a priority.

  2. Hello,
    You mention an internal tds2dbg tool – I’ve been trying to get other publicly available tools for TDS parsing to work to no avail. Would you be able to share it?

        1. Well, the source is there in both cases, so you could answer that question yourself 😉

          But it no longer has any significant differences — we maintained our own version internally years ago, but that is no longer necessary; the code is copied into the Keyman repo now to simplify dependency management.

          Mind you, I’m not a big fan of pointing people to SourceForge any more, given the rabbit warren of misleading advertising plastering the site. 🙂

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