How do I convert a Win32 exception code to a string?


I'm reluctantly having to deal with Win32 structured exceptions again. I'm trying to generate a string describing an exception. Most of it is straightforward, but I'm stuck on something basic: how can I convert an exception code (the result of GetExceptionCode(), or the ExceptionCode member of an EXCEPTION_RECORD) into a string describing the exception?

I'm looking for something that will convert eg 0xC0000005 to "Access Violation". Is it just a call to FormatMessage()?

asked on Stack Overflow Oct 27, 2011 by Alan Stokes • edited Oct 27, 2011 by Puppy

4 Answers


Structured exception codes are defined through NTSTATUS numbers. Although someone from MS suggests using FormatMessage() to convert NTSTATUS numbers to strings, I would not do this. Flag FORMAT_MESSAGE_FROM_SYSTEM is used to convert result of GetLastError() into a string, so it makes no sense here. Using flag FORMAT_MESSAGE_FROM_HMODULE along with ntdll.dll will lead to incorrect results for some codes. E.g., for EXCEPTION_ACCESS_VIOLATION you will get The instruction at 0x, which is not very informative :) .

When you look at the strings that are stored in ntdll.dll it becomes obvious that many of them are supposed to be used with the printf() function, not with the FormatMessage(). For example, the string for EXCEPTION_ACCESS_VIOLATION is:

The instruction at 0x%08lx referenced memory at 0x%08lx. The memory could not be %s.

%0 is treated by FormatMessage() as the escape sequence meaning message terminator, not an insert. Inserts are %1 to %99. That's why flag FORMAT_MESSAGE_IGNORE_INSERTS does not make any difference.

You might want to load the string from ntdll.dll and pass it to vprintf() but you will need to prepare arguments exactly as the string specifies (e.g. for EXCEPTION_ACCESS_VIOLATION it's unsigned long, unsigned long, char*). And this approach has major drawback: any change in the number, order or size of arguments in ntdll.dll may break your code.

So it's safer and easier to hard code the strings into your own code. I find it dangerous to use strings prepared by someone else without coordination with me :) and moreover for other function. This is just one more possibility for malfunction.

answered on Stack Overflow Oct 9, 2015 by 4LegsDrivenCat • edited Nov 17, 2019 by 4LegsDrivenCat


Source: KB259693 (archived)

answered on Stack Overflow Oct 27, 2011 by MSalters • edited Apr 27, 2019 by SWdV

It is complicated to correctly manage the stream format some of the NTSTATUS strings have. You should consider converting it into a Win32 message with RtlNtStatusToDosError(), which comes in header Winternl.h. You'll need to have ntdll.lib in your linker input.

Example implementation:

// Returns length of resulting string, excluding null-terminator.
// Use LocalFree() to free the buffer when it is no longer needed.
// Returns 0 upon failure, use GetLastError() to get error details.
DWORD FormatNtStatus(NTSTATUS nsCode, TCHAR **ppszMessage) {

    // Get handle to ntdll.dll.
    HMODULE hNtDll = LoadLibrary(_T("NTDLL.DLL"));

    // Check for fail, user may use GetLastError() for details.
    if (hNtDll == NULL) return 0;

    // Call FormatMessage(), note use of RtlNtStatusToDosError().
        hNtDll, RtlNtStatusToDosError(nsCode), MAKELANGID(LANG_NEUTRAL, SUBLANG_DEFAULT),
        (LPTSTR)ppszMessage, 0, NULL);

    // Free loaded dll module and decrease its reference count.

    return dwRes;
answered on Stack Overflow May 14, 2017 by Laa Laa • edited May 14, 2017 by Laa Laa

I suggest that you use bugslayer. Just call GetFaultReason with the EXCEPTION_POINTERS.

Additionally you could walk the stack using GetFirstStackTraceString and GetNextStackTraceString.

answered on Stack Overflow Apr 27, 2019 by AnArrayOfFunctions

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