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x64 debugging on Windows: usually not directly by the IDE, but trough a debug helper process (msvsmon / PAServer / dbkw64_16_0)

Posted by jpluimers on 2012/12/07

While developing x64 applications, most Windows development tools are actually running in x86 mode, and use an intermediate x64 layer to debug the x64 process even for local debugging.

For Visual Studio 2008 and up, this is msvsmon.exe (for Delphi XE2 and up it is PAServer.exe for remote debugging or [WayBack] dbkw64_16_0.exe for local debugging, other tools use a similar mechanism).

The fun thing with Visual Studio is that when msvsmon.exe fails to load locally, you get a misleading error message:

[Microsoft Visual Studio]
Error while trying to run project: Unable to start debugging.
The Microsoft Visual Studio Remote Debugging Monitor has been closed on the remote machine.
[OK]

I found two workarounds myself :

  1. Kill msvsmon.exe if it is running but Visual Studio cannot talk to it
  2. Restart Visual Studio if it cannot start msvsmon.exe

I learned the why from Steve Steiner: he posted the StackOverflow answer explaining msvsmon.exe is also used for local x64 debugging.

Delphi XE2 and up sometimes have a similar cryptic message (I forgot to jolt it down, next time I come across it, I will edit this blog post) and usually killing PAServer.exe or dbkw63*.exe or restarting the IDE solves it.

–jeroen

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