How to disable optimizations when debugging Reference Source
When you debug code in the .NET Framework using the newly available Reference Source functionality in VS 2008, you may notice that
many variables are not available for inspection.
This is because you're debugging against retail-optimized code. In many
cases, since you can still step through, this is something that's
But what if you really need to get a better idea of what's going
on? Fortunately, there is a way.
What you need to do is to tell the CLR not to load the pre-JIT (aka NGEN)
images. Here is how to do it.
First, create a CMD file that sets an environment variable, then launches
Visual Studio. I called mine "NoOptDevEnv.cmd", and it's contents are as
cd /d "%ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio
I put this cmd file on my desktop. When I want to disable
optimizations, and only when I want to do this, I launch VS from this
Once in my Visual Studio project, do the following steps:
1) Right click on your project file and choose "Properties"
2) Choose the "Debug" tab and uncheck "Enable the Visual
Studio Hosting Process"
3) Launch your application in the debugger.
Now, you'll see full local and member variable information:
Finally, you may be asking yourself "What is the Visual Studio Hosting
Process (aka VSHost), and what happens if I turn it off?" And this is a
For the most part, disabling VSHost won't have any major impacts, but it will
disable two features that you may be using.
First, you will not be able to do "Debug In Zone", which allows you to debug
a process in the context of a security zone such as "Internet" or
"Intranet". That won't work without VSHost.
Second, Design Time Expression Evaluation for class libraries will also not
work. What that means, for example, is that if you are developing a Class
Library, you won't be able to execute code from it in the Immediate Window while
under the debugger.
In general, I recommend re-enabling VSHost (undo step 2 above) when you are
finished with your debugging.