RPC Method Call Crashed COM+ Application – But Which Call Was That?

Recently, while testing our COM+ application it started crashing with c0000005 – Access violation. This is VB6 COM+ called from C# application. The funny thing is, dllhost.exe crashes due to the error but there is no indication which method call crashed it.

Since it is multi-threaded application C# logs loads of RPC Unavailable errors once the COM+ crashes, but nowhere I could find original point where the crash occurred. Actually the thread dies and even if debugged in VS the debugger doesn’t break on this unhandled exception as one would expect, even though it breaks on all other – RPC Unavailable exceptions.

So, the first task in this case, for me at least, would be to find what method is called when the crash occurred. When facing something unexpected like this I resort to WinDbg which I know just enough to get by analysing crash dumps. Necessity on couple of other occasions made me learn the basics so here are some notes.


First we need the crash dump. That’s easily obtained through DebugDiag tool. Instructions on how to get the dump from Microsoft is a bit on the dry side, I prefer instructions with some pictures in it. In this case I needed to select a specific MTS/COM+ application and choose mine from the list. In the list of exceptions I chose C0000005 to generate Full Userdump. Analysing crash dump through DebugDiag tool is normally useful, but in this case did not offer any useful insight.

After exception happens user dump is created and from there on we can use WinDbg. That’s a part of Windows SDK and I selected to install it as Standalone Component. Follow this intro for getting started with WinDbg. Here’s the list of useful commands of which stack commands are particularly useful.

Oh, BTW, you’d better make sure to have debug symbols available for your COM+. In case of VB6 private symbols are rubbish, but at least for exported symbols I got names of methods, otherwise it would’ve been impossible to resolve this.


Lets see what we have in our crash dump:

This dump file has an exception of interest stored in it.
The stored exception information can be accessed via .ecxr.
(2620.1b6c): Access violation - code c0000005 (first/second chance not available)
eax=03d5ba94 ebx=72a1a274 ecx=75ebb100 edx=00a3f140 esi=72a1a008 edi=029df748
eip=75ebb13a esp=00a3f06c ebp=00a3f174 iopl=0         nv up ei pl zr na pe nc
cs=001b  ss=0023  ds=0023  es=0023  fs=003b  gs=0000             efl=00010246
75ebb13a 336c0000        xor     ebp,dword ptr [eax+eax] ds:0023:07ab7528=????????

So _IDispatchProxyVtbl is crashing. Errrr, looks like vtable – we’re trying to call some method on COM+ … well, I know that OK, lets try analysing this exception:

0:013> !analyze -v
75ebb13a 336c0000        xor     ebp,dword ptr [eax+eax]

EXCEPTION_RECORD:  ffffffff -- (.exr 0xffffffffffffffff)
ExceptionAddress: 75ebb13a (oleaut32!_IDispatchProxyVtbl+0x00000026)
ExceptionCode: c0000005 (Access violation)
ExceptionFlags: 00000000
NumberParameters: 2
Parameter[0]: 00000000
Parameter[1]: 07ab7528
Attempt to read from address 07ab7528

PROCESS_NAME:  dllhost.exe
ERROR_CODE: (NTSTATUS) 0xc0000005 - The instruction at 0x%08lx referenced memory at 0x%08lx. The memory could not be %s.
EXCEPTION_CODE: (NTSTATUS) 0xc0000005 - The instruction at 0x%08lx referenced memory at 0x%08lx. The memory could not be %s.
READ_ADDRESS:  07ab7528

75ebb13a 336c0000        xor     ebp,dword ptr [eax+eax]

LAST_CONTROL_TRANSFER:  from 75d904e8 to 75ebb13a

00a3f174 75d904e8 029df170 00216750 00000202 oleaut32!_IDispatchProxyVtbl+0x26
00a3f190 75df5311 110082bb 00a3f380 00000002 rpcrt4!Invoke+0x2a
00a3f598 759daec1 02a7bfb8 002110a8 00178b88 rpcrt4!NdrStubCall2+0x2d6
00a3f5e0 75ebffd3 02a7bfb8 00178b88 002110a8 ole32!CStdStubBuffer_Invoke+0x3c
00a3f604 759dd876 03d5ba00 00178b88 002110a8 oleaut32!CUnivStubWrapper::Invoke+0xcb
00a3f64c 759dddd0 00178b88 0282dde8 03466750 ole32!SyncStubInvoke+0x3c
00a3f698 758f8a43 00178b88 0019ec48 03d5ba00 ole32!StubInvoke+0xb9
00a3f774 758f8938 002110a8 00000000 03d5ba00 ole32!CCtxComChnl::ContextInvoke+0xfa
00a3f790 758f950a 00178b88 00000001 03d5ba00 ole32!MTAInvoke+0x1a
00a3f7bc 759ddccd 00178b88 00000001 03d5ba00 ole32!STAInvoke+0x46
00a3f7f0 759ddb41 d0908070 002110a8 03d5ba00 ole32!AppInvoke+0xab
00a3f8d0 759de1fd 00178b30 028bc878 00000400 ole32!ComInvokeWithLockAndIPID+0x372
00a3f8f8 758f9367 00178b30 00000400 001af3f8 ole32!ComInvoke+0xc5
00a3f90c 758f9326 00178b30 00a3f9cc 00000400 ole32!ThreadDispatch+0x23
00a3f950 75a1c4e7 00230b56 00000400 0000babe ole32!ThreadWndProc+0x161

Not really useful. I’ve analysed exceptions before and this command’s output was much more useful on those occasions.
So lets see the stack (knf shows the stack with  frame number and size of the frame):

0:013> knf
#   Memory  ChildEBP RetAddr
00           00a3f174 75d904e8 oleaut32!_IDispatchProxyVtbl+0x26
01        1c 00a3f190 75df5311 rpcrt4!Invoke+0x2a
02       408 00a3f598 759daec1 rpcrt4!NdrStubCall2+0x2d6
03        48 00a3f5e0 75ebffd3 ole32!CStdStubBuffer_Invoke+0x3c
04        24 00a3f604 759dd876 oleaut32!CUnivStubWrapper::Invoke+0xcb
05        48 00a3f64c 759dddd0 ole32!SyncStubInvoke+0x3c
06        4c 00a3f698 758f8a43 ole32!StubInvoke+0xb9
07        dc 00a3f774 758f8938 ole32!CCtxComChnl::ContextInvoke+0xfa
08        1c 00a3f790 758f950a ole32!MTAInvoke+0x1a
09        2c 00a3f7bc 759ddccd ole32!STAInvoke+0x46
0a        34 00a3f7f0 759ddb41 ole32!AppInvoke+0xab

None of these are my Dlls, these are all COM+ infrastructure calls. The size of that rpcrt4!NdrStubCall2 is big enough to rouse suspicion. rpcrt4.dll is part of RPC Architecture and NdrStubCall2 is server-side entry point for RPC Stubs.
We’re nearly there, lets dump the raw stack:

0:013> kd
00a3f174  00a3f190
00a3f178  75d904e8 rpcrt4!Invoke+0x2a
00a3f17c  029df170
00a3f180  00216750
00a3f184  00000202
00a3f188  00000002
00a3f18c  00a3f380
00a3f190  00a3f598
00a3f194  75df5311 rpcrt4!NdrStubCall2+0x2d6
00a3f198  110082bb MyDll!__vba+0x71
00a3f19c  00a3f380
00a3f1a0  00000002
00a3f1a4  e28df787
00a3f1a8  02a7bfb8
00a3f1ac  00178b88
00a3f1b0  00000000
00a3f1b4  00178b88

So the highlighted line looks like something I’m looking for, just not really informative. It seems like it might be a pointer to somewhere in vtable? Lets see:

0:013> u 110082bb
110082bb e9c0d80000      jmp     MyDll!MyObject::Method1+0x50 (11015b80)
110082c0 816c2404ffff0000 sub     dword ptr [esp+4],0FFFFh
110082c8 e923df0000      jmp     MyDll!MyObject::Method2+0x330 (110161f0)
110082cd 816c2404ffff0000 sub     dword ptr [esp+4],0FFFFh
110082d5 e966e30000      jmp     MyDll!MyObject::Method3+0x140 (11016640)
110082da 816c2404ffff0000 sub     dword ptr [esp+4],0FFFFh
110082e2 e949e50000      jmp     MyDll!MyObject::Method4+0x1c0 (11016830)
110082e7 816c2404ffff0000 sub     dword ptr [esp+4],0FFFFh

And there it is (note, these are not real method names, __vba is real though). That is the culprit. Well, not really, there was some interoperability issue. The culprit was .NET code, I was passing COM+ objects back and forth, and done something in between to mess up the things. At any rate it was faster to rewrite the method than to chase the exact problem since the method in question is used only for testing.

However, if I hadn’t been able to figure out the name of the method I would’ve never been in the position to even consider a fix.
For proper debugging and analysis of RPC calls see Remote Procedure Call debugging. As I said before, I know enough to get by and in this case, luckily, I didn’t need to dig deeper. On a couple of other occasions I had to and will follow up in further posts.

In Short

  • Get the dump
  • Fire up WinDbg
  • !analyze -v to analyse exception
  • knf – to get the call stack
  • kd – to dump the raw stack
  • u address to disassemble at address

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