How To: Collect ETL/WPT tracing diagnostics when you can never logon to the host.

First, guess who's back?!

Me! I left Microsoft of my own accord last year. I came back. I wrote this about my experience, I hope you enjoy it.

There and back again, an IT tale…

Anyways, I was asked a few times recently, Dude, how do you collect an ETW trace for boot/logon if the machine never lets you logon? Is this a chicken/egg scenario?! We need the trace to find out why we never get to desktop, we can't get the trace because we can't get to desktop to stop it?!

Well friends, I'm here to say you can in fact collect your hard won trace!

For your problem node(s) just get a trace started. How if you can't logon to desktop? Easy, here are some options for you:

– Safe mode w/Network copy the Windows Performance Toolkit folder onto the troubled node.

Run Xbootmgr -trace boot -traceflags dispatcher+latency

If SafeMode doesn't work

– Boot up system. Don't logon. Copy WPT directory onto system.

PSExec / scheduled task as system/autoexec.bat the command (guess) "xbootmgr -trace boot -traceflags dispatcher+latency

Now that the system has a xbootmgr trace and is shutting down and rebooting….

Wait to logon, when prompted, do so.

wait 3-4 minutes

– PSExec to the machine. xperf -d C:\directory\merge.etl

If psexec didn't work

set a scheduled task remotely or locally in safe mode if that works, to run xperf -d C:\directory\merge.etl in some directory you made.

(tasks need to run in system context).

Problems with this? Don't get it? Ask questions/comment please. I'm here, for you.



  1. Hi Jeff
    "If SafeMode doesn’t work

    – Boot up system. Don’t logon. Copy WPT directory onto system."
    You forgot to tell us how you would accomplish this part, since safe mode is failing how else can we get to the copy part?

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