SXSTRACE is a command-line tool used in Windows operating systems to trace and diagnose issues with Side-by-Side (SxS) assemblies. Side-by-Side assemblies help manage multiple versions of applications and their components running on the same system. This tool is most effective when troubleshooting application startup errors due to missing or incompatible shared libraries.


The general syntax for SXSTRACE is as follows:

sxstrace Parse -logfile:[path_to_logfile] -outfile:[path_to_outputfile]

This command must be used in two phases:

  1. Trace – Collect the necessary log information.
  2. Parse – Convert the binary log file into human-readable form.

Tracing Phase Syntax:

sxstrace Trace -logfile:[path_to_logfile]

Parsing Phase Syntax:

sxstrace Parse -logfile:[path_to_logfile] -outfile:[path_to_outputfile]

Both logfile and outfile paths are required parameters.


  • Trace
    Initiates the tracing process. This option should be followed by -logfile specifying the path where the log should be saved.

  • Parse
    Converts the generated binary log file to a human-readable format. Requires the specification of both -logfile (input) and -outfile (output).

  • -logfile:[path_to_logfile]
    Specifies the path where the log file will be saved during the tracing or where to read from during parsing.

  • -outfile:[path_to_outputfile]
    Specifies the path where the parsed, readable content will be saved. Used only with the Parse option.


Example 1: Starting a Trace

To start tracing Side-by-Side configurations, use:

sxstrace Trace -logfile:C:\temp\myTrace.etl

Example 2: Parsing the Trace Log

After collecting the trace, parse the log with:

sxstrace Parse -logfile:C:\temp\myTrace.etl -outfile:C:\temp\myTrace.txt

Review myTrace.txt for detailed information on the SxS configuration.

Common Issues

  • Permission Issues: Ensure you run cmd with administrative privileges to avoid permission denials.
  • File Paths: Incorrect file paths can lead to errors in logging or parsing. Double-check the specified paths.
  • Logfile Overwrite: The tracing process can overwrite existing files without warning. Use unique file names or backup existing files.


SXSTRACE can be integrated into diagnostic scripts or used in conjunction with event viewer entries related to application failures. For automation, you can script the trace collection and parsing as part of system maintenance routines:

sxstrace Trace -logfile:%temp%\appTrace.etl && sxstrace Parse -logfile:%temp%\appTrace.etl -outfile:%temp%\appTrace.txt

This script automatically starts a trace, then parses the log, saving the output to a text file.

  • EVENTVWR: Event Viewer can be used to view application and system logs that might indicate why an application failed to start.
  • DEPENDENCY WALKER (depends.exe): A third-party utility to check for missing dependencies or incompatible versions.

For further details and advanced options, refer to Microsoft’s official documentation or the help command:

sxstrace /?

This will display a brief help message with basic command usage.