Windows Kernel Debugging Training

Windows Kernel Debugging


All software has bugs. When a bug in an application manifests itself, it affects just that one application. Whereas, a bug in a kernel mode driver affects the entire system and often leads to the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). The color of that infamous screen may have changed in recent versions of Windows, but the underlying causes of failure have not.

This course is targeted at security researchers, software developers, support engineers who must regularly analyze and debug Windows kernel mode software. This course builds the necessary foundation for effective kernel debugging with topics such as configuring the debugger, debug symbols, performing basic debugging tasks, debugger scripting, retrieving function parameters from x64 stack, mapping x64 assembler to high-level language constructs, etc. It then dives into various techniques and strategies that can be applied to perform triaging, fault isolation, root cause analysis of crashes and hangs caused by kernel mode drivers. Also, this course touches upon the identification of malicious behavior in the kernel commonly exhibited by rootkits.


This training course focuses on software and security related drivers and does NOT cover issues related to hardware drivers for PCI, USB, Bluetooth devices.

Hands-on Labs

In the hands-on lab exercises, students work on a wide variety of kernel mode crash and hang dumps that have been captured on various versions of Windows ranging from Windows XP to Windows 10. Each memory dump involves applying Windows internals knowledge and a unique set of debugging techniques to go from "!analyze-v" to isolating the module responsible for the crash or hang to determining the root cause of the problem and potential ways of fixing it.


Attendees must have a good working knowledge of the windows kernel. The CodeMachine Windows Kernel Internals course provides the prerequisite Windows kernel knowledge required to get the maximum value from this course.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the architecture and components of Windows Debugger (WinDBG/KD).
  • Be able to use the kernel debugger commands to achieve common debugging tasks.
  • Be able to automate common debugging tasks using debugger scripting.
  • Be able to map X64 assembler to high-level language (C/C++) code constructs.
  • Understand the calling convention, parameter passing, stack usage on 64-bit systems.
  • Be able to retrieve register-based parameters from the x64 call stacks through non-volatile registers.
  • Be able to identify symptoms of system failure/instability, perform bug triaging, and fault isolation.
  • Be able to debug hard-to-reproduce hangs and crashes.
  • Be able to analyze and root cause problems down to a code change in kernel modules.
  • Be able to identify instrumentation code that can be added to drivers to help determine the root cause.
  • Be able to detect kernel mode rootkits in the system.


  • Windows debugger
  • X64 assembler
  • X64 call stacks
  • Reverse engineering
  • Debugger automation
  • Crash dump analysis
  • Debugging deadlocks and hangs
  • Advanced analysis techniques
  • Debugging tools

Course Details

Windows Debugger

The objective of this section is to learn about the kernel debugger, debugging symbols, and debugger usage. It covers topics such as configuring a system for kernel debugging, ramifications of kernel debugging, symbol (.PDB) file contents, resolving issues related to symbol files, using third party debugger extensions, differences between the various memory dump types (complete, kernel, active, automatic) and generating process and system memory dumps manually.

  • Debugger architecture
  • Debugger extensions
  • Debugger command types
  • Symbol files
  • Symbol server
  • Kernel debugging
  • Memory dumps
  • Manual memory dump generation

x64 Assembler

The objective of this section is to learn about the x64 CPU, registers, instructions, and the basics of reading and understanding x64 assembler required for reverse engineering. It covers topics such as x64 instruction set, x64 instruction encoding, absolute and relative offsets, little-endian vs big-endian, sign and zero extension, most frequently used instruction types (data transfer, arithmetic, logical, control flow, etc.), condition flags and conditional jumps, direct and indirect control transfers, basic blocks, control flow graphs.

  • Hardware architecture
  • X64 CPU registers
  • X64 Instruction set
  • Number representation
  • Instruction types
  • Control flow transfer
  • Function basic blocks
  • Common instruction patterns

x64 Call Stacks

The objective of this section is to learn how stacks work on 64-bit systems and how to use knowledge of 64-bit stack layout to retrieve information from the stack. It covers topics such as x64 calling convention, components of x64 stack frame, stack canaries, local variables and parameters, parameter homing space, interpreting the x64 call stack displayed by the debugger, retrieving register-based parameters from the stack and compiler flags affecting stack frame generation.

  • Function calls and stacks
  • Call stacks and stack frames
  • Calling convention
  • Stack pointer
  • Non-volatile registers
  • Function prolog and epilog
  • Interpreting call stacks
  • Retrieving function parameters

Reverse Engineering

The objective of this section is to learn how to map x64 assembler to high-level language (C/C++) code constructors. It covers topics such as CPU register usage, identifying access to function parameters, local variables, global variables, structures fields, array elements, list nodes, etc., determining branch conditions, backtracking execution based on register and memory state, identifying code transformation due to compiler optimizations.

  • Register usage
  • Variable types
  • Global variables
  • Local variables and parameters
  • Structure layout
  • Arrays
  • Compiler optimization
  • Control flow analysis

Debugger Automation

The objective of this section is to learn about the debugger's scripting support and how to use it to automate common debugging and analysis tasks. It covers topics such as appropriate usage of MASM and C++ expression evaluators, debugger command pipelines, rules for developing and executing debugger scripts, using pseudo-registers, and aliases to reduce script complexity, formatting debugger output and other automation techniques.

  • Expression evaluators
  • Pseudo Registers
  • Dereferencing Memory
  • Iterators
  • Macros
  • Debugger scripts
  • Control flow tokens
  • Aliases
  • String Comparison

Crash Dump Analysis

The objective of this section is to learn about why and how bug-checks happen, bug triaging, and fault isolation. It covers topics such as conditions leading to system bugchecks, common causes of dump generation failures, interpreting the information from debuggers’ automated analysis, using bugcheck information to determine the appropriate register context, performing sanity check on registers, obtaining system state using debugger extensions to identify runtime anomalies, triaging bugs and isolating faulty modules.

  • System bugchecks
  • Crash dump generation
  • Types of bugchecks
  • Automated analysis
  • Module identification
  • Context switching
  • Hardware failures
  • Examining system state

Debugging Deadlocks and Hangs

The objective of this section is to learn about debugging and analyzing systems hangs and performance issues. It covers topics such as types of hangs, waitable locks available in kernel mode (mutexes, fast mutexes, ERESOURCES, push-locks), spin-locks (exclusive spin-locks, reader writer), causes of deadlocks, deadlock detection, dependency analysis, debugging blocked power state transitions, identifying stalls in the storage path, tracking pending I/O requests, identifying overconsumption of system resources and finding the culprits.

  • Causes of hangs
  • Classic deadlocks
  • Deadlock with spinlocks
  • Deadlock analysis
  • Driver power state failure
  • I/O request stalls
  • Resource exhaustion

Advanced Analysis Techniques

The objective of this section is to learn deep analysis techniques that can be used to root cause problems into specific bugs in kernel modules. It covers topics such as recognizing stack patterns, determining debugging workflow, debugging invalid memory access at various IRQLs, common causes of pool corruption, identifying corruption patterns, debugging double faults, debugging multi-driver interactions, finding artifacts of kernel mode rootkits.

  • Debugging strategies
  • Stack patterns
  • Invalid memory access
  • Pool corruption
  • Structure corruption
  • Stack corruption and overflows
  • Rootkit IoCs

Debugging Tools

The objective of this section is to learn about live debugging tools that can be used to collect information that can help with debugging crashes and hangs. It covers topics such as usage of driver verifier to enable runtime verification of drivers, analyzing driver verifier bug-checks, debugging problems caused by improper resource cleanup, adding custom instrumentation to drivers, capturing live triage and full memory dumps.

  • Driver verifier
  • Special pool and pool tracking
  • Unloaded module tracking
  • Run time stack capture
  • Gflags
  • Object reference tracking
  • LiveKD and KDbgCtrl