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IIS error tracing – How to use Process Monitor to diagnose IIS errors in Windows servers

IIS error tracing – How to use Process Monitor to diagnose IIS errors in Windows servers

In our role as Outsourced Tech Support for web hosts, trouble-shooting and maintaining IIS web servers is something our engineers do on a regular basis.

We’ve seen that, in Windows dedicated servers and VPS, users sometimes request assistance in troubleshooting HTTP errors. The IIS errors may not be very descriptive, and the log files may not contain all necessary information.

What is Microsoft Process Monitor?

For such cases, we use Microsoft Process Monitor to exactly pin point what is causing the error. Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity.

You can download this from:

Process monitor can be used to capture what happens in the back-end when you access a web page in the browser. It has a convenient filter option, which you can customize to focus on only those events related to the domain or status you are investigating.

For example, if you have an “Access is denied” error, put a filter on the domain file path, and further focus with the status. The log will then display which process tried to access the file.

Now, right-click on the event, and select “Properties” to find out exactly what’s causing the error.

Note: It is very important to note that Process monitor is resource hungry! Never leave the “Capture” ON with the default settings as this could easily lead the server to go down.

You can either use the “Drop filtered events” option to capture only the events you want, or just run the capture for a very short time as explained below.

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How to use process monitor to capture the events

1. Open Process Monitor.
2. Customize your filter options based on the error you are investigating.
3. Turn off “Capture” (Ensure the Red Cross mark on the Capture icon)
4. Keep the website you want to trace ready in the browser.
5. Turn on “Capture”
6. Immediately refresh the website
7. Once the loading of webpage is done, turn of “Capture”
8. You can see a list of what and all happened during the time when the site was accessed. Right-click on the relevant event, and select properties to see the reason for the error.

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If you’d like know how to perform IIS error tracing for your Windows web servers, feel free to contact us.



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