C# rethrow an exception: how to get the exception stack in the IDE?

There has been discussion here before about the correct way to rethrow an exception. This question, instead, is about how to get useful behavior from Visual Studio when using rethrow.

Consider this code:

   static void foo() {
        throw new Exception("boo!");

    static void Main(string[] args) {
        try {
        } catch (Exception x) {
            // do some stuff

The exception that comes out has the correct stack trace, showing foo() as the source of the exception. However, the GUI Call Stack window only shows Main, whereas I was expecting it to show the exception's call stack, all the way to foo.

When there is no rethrow, I can use the GUI to very quickly navigate the call stack to see what call caused the exception and how we got there.

With the rethrow I'd like to be able to do the same thing. Instead, the call stack that the GUI shows is of no use to me. I have to copy the exception details to the clipboard, paste it to Notepad, and then manually navigate to whichever function of the call stack I'm interested in.

By the way, I get the same behavior if I add [MethodImpl(MethodImplOptions.NoInlining | MethodImplOptions.NoOptimization)] or if I change the catch to just catch (Exception).

My question is: given that the code I have uses rethrow, can someone suggest a convenient way to navigate the call stack associated with the exception? I'm using Visual Studio 2010.


The debugger breaks at the throw in Main because that exception is unhandled. By default, the debugger will only break on unhandled exceptions. Once you've stopped at Main, the call stack for the original exception from foo is present in the exception, but all of the other context has been lost (e.g. locals, stack/memory state).

It sounds like you want the debugger to break on the throw in foo, so you should tell the debugger to break on first-chance exceptions:

  1. Debug ยป Exceptions... (Ctrl+Alt+E)
  2. Check "Thrown" for the exception types you care about (in this case, Commange Language Runtime Exceptions)
  3. Click OK
  4. Start debugging

In this case, the debugger will break immediately when foo throws an exception. Now, you can examine the stack, locals, etc., in the context of the original exception. If you continue execution (F5), the debugger will break again on the rethrow in Main.

Taking another approach, if you're running VS2010 Ultimate, you can also use IntelliTrace to "debug backwards" to see parameters, threads, and variables at the time of the exception. See this MSDN article for details. (Full disclosure: I work on a team closely related to IntelliTrace).

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