This post is focused to hooking up WinDBG to a VM. There are multiple ways to do attach debuggers to physical machines, each with it's specific pluses and minuses (please note, however, that this list changes often since Microsoft keeps improving the tools, which is awesome). Also, please note that in most cases you'll use two machines, a target (the machine you want to debug) and a host (the debugger host). If I remember correctly there used to be a way to attach WinDBG to the kernel it was running on, which was useful to inspect various kernel structures, but I don't think that's supported anymore, and anyway with VMs this is easy to do and much more flexible. Anyway, here are the main ways to attach to machines (that I'm aware of at the time of writing this):
- serial cable connection. This is pretty universal, works on all Windows versions and it's been tested for a very long time. However, not many machine have serial ports anymore, and serial is really slow. But it's really the solution that's most likely to work for all cases.
- USB connection. I've never actually used this, I think I tried once but gave up for some reason I can't remember (and I was left with the impression that it's quite finicky). This is also only available on Vista and newer.
- 1394 (or firewire). I've used this a lot, it's really fast and pretty easy to set up. The downside is that it's expensive because it needs specialized hardware (like firewire cards and cables). This is available since XP and I highly recommend it if you need to work with real hardware and a VM won't work for you.
- network. I've not used this at all since it's pretty new (Win8+) but it should be pretty awesome since you don't have to be physically connected to the machine you're trying to debug (which limits the usefulness of the other methods, since if you work in a larger group you'll often have to debug things on machines that are not in your office so you'll have to figure out a way to connect to them).
However, we're not talking about physical machines here so you should be able to just read the memory of the VM from the host, right ? Well, as it turns out, you can. There is a tool called VirtualKD, that actually does this and it has a couple of features that really help with driver development. There is a tutorial on how to install VirtualKD so please follow the steps there. Once you have everything working (the way I test that it's working is to boot up the VM and then breaking in the debugger. At that point the VM should freeze (please note that it might grab your mouse and you'll need to press some key combination (Ctrl+Alt for VMWare) to release it). Then I return to WinDBG and press F5 to resume running the VM) it's time to build and install a minifilter. This is what WinDBG should look like once it's connected properly and paused and resumed the VM:
- So now let's build a minifilter. Using the steps described in the previous post, let's try to build the passThrough minifilter. Try to build the checked version for the platform you've set up your VM to use (basically, for my Win7 x86 VM I'll start the "x86 Checked Build Environment" under the Windows 7 folder and build there). Once it's built I'd like to add a breakpoint in DriverEntry() (which is basically the main() function for drivers) to break in the debugger once the filter loads. So please just add a breakpoint (a call to DbgBreakPoint();) somewhere in DriverEntry() and rebuild the driver (bcz again)).
- Now we need to copy two files to the VM. Those two files are the actual driver (objchk_win7_x86\i386\passThrough.sys in my case) and the inf file (passThrough.inf). Put these two in the same directory and copy them to the VM through the shared folder.
- And finally we need to install the minifilter on the VM. So now we're switching to the VM. Open the shared folder, find the passThrough folder, right-click on passThrough.inf and select Install (which will require administrator privileges).
- Then we need to start an elevated CMD window from where we'll run "fltmc load passThrough".
- If everything is fine and the minifilter is loading then we'll trigger the breakpoint, which will freeze the VM. So we'll need to switch back to the debugger and unfreeze it (F5 again or use "g" command to allow execution to continue).
- After that we should see passthrough loaded and attached to all the volumes in your VM.