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Tips: How to trace VSS, Exchange Writer, Replica Writer and use BETest tool

Tracing the Volume Shadow Copy Service

In the last couple of articles, we’ve discussed about the Volume Shadow Copy service and troubleshooting it. If the issue is still unresolved even after performing those steps, it is required to create a batch file to set the registry entries. Click here for the links about VSS. You can copy and paste the following text to a text file and save it as "EnableVSSTracing.bat" as it will save the tracing information in a file that is known as C:\trace.txt.
net stop swprv
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceFile /t REG_SZ /d C:\trace.txt /f
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceLevel /t REG_DWORD /d 0xffffffff /f
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceEnterExit /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceToFile /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceToDebugger /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceFileLineInfo /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /v TraceForceFlush /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f

Now, let’s discuss about tracing VSS.
1.    First, it is required to modify the Windows Registry to enable the tracing feature. You can click here to enable the tracing feature or you can also run the EnableVSSTracing.bat file that is mentioned above.
2.    Then, reproduce the VSS issue that occurs.
3.    Now, it is required to stop the VSS services once you receive the VSS error.
4.    You can follow the following steps to stop the VSS services.
net stop VSS
net stop SWPRV
5.    Now, you can use the following command to disable the VSS tracing feature.
reg delete HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VSS\Debug\Tracing /f
6.    Then, check if the trace file is generated.
Now, let’s discuss about tracing the Exchange Writer
The Exchange Writer is one of the built-ins of VSS writer that is available with the Microsoft Exchange information store. As we’ve already discussed, the writer runs in the Store.exe process. Most often, the Exchange Writer is used when the VSS requester (VSS backup program) requests a VSS backup from the active database. The tracing is generated in an event trace log (ETL) file like all other components in Exchange Server 2007. From the information store, you can get the following tag for the Exchange Writer.
Tag     Description
TagVSS    You can find only TagVSS for the Exchange Writer in Exchange Server 2007. However, the tag encompasses all the VSS tags that are available in Exchange Server 2003. The default freeze time-out for the Exchange writer is 20 seconds.
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot Initialize
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot OnIdentify
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot OnPrepareBackup
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot OnThaw
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot OnPostSnapshot
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot OnBackupComplete
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot OnPreRestore
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot EcAddComponents
•    Exchange VSS EcPrepareJetInitBackup
•    Exchange VSS Snapshot EcBuildSGArrayFromWriteComp

This portion is about tracing the Replica Writer.

Just like the Exchange Writer, the Exchange Cluster Replica Writer is also a built-in in VSS writer as that is available with the replication service. You can find this writer runs during the M.E.Cluster.Replay.exe process. Moreover, the Exchange Cluster Replica Writer will be used when the VSS requester (VSS backup program) requests a VSS backup from the copy database. Just like other components in Exchange Server 2007, the tracing is generated in ETL format.
You can get the following tag for the Exchange Cluster Replica Writer from the Replica Service.
Tag     Description
ReplicaVssWriterInterop    •    This trace provides the interactions between the VSS writer and the replication service.

Now, let us discuss about using Extra.exe to trace the Replica Writer.
You can also use the Microsoft Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant (Extra.exe) to trace the Exchange VSS writer. Follow the following steps:
1.    First, it is required to run the below command from the Exchange Management Shell:
Set-EventLogLevel "MSExchange Repl\Exchange VSS Writer" -level expert
2.    Now, type extra.exe in the run command and press OK. You can open the run command either by pressing the Windows + R keys or from the start menu.
3.    Then, select “Select a Task” from the Welcome Screen.
4.    After that, click Trace Control and then click OK when you receive a message that states that Exchange does not have a module to interpret traces.
5.    Now, you can specify a location to save the trace file and set its size to 200MB.
6.    When you set with the trace file size, it is required to click “Set manual trace tags” and click to select following trace type check boxes.
o    PFD
o    Fatal
o    Error
o    Warning
o    Info
o    Debug
7.    Now, make sure that you’re selecting the “Cluster.Replay” check box from the Components to trace list.
8.    Make sure that the check box is applicable only for the cluster Exchange environment.
9.    Once it is done, it is required to select any of the following check boxes from the “Trace Tags” list.
o    ReplicaInstance
o    ReplicaVssWriterInterop
10.    Then, select the “Store” check box from the “Components to trace” list.
11.    After that, you can select any of the following check boxes from the “Trace Tags” list.
o    tagVSS
o    tagMostError
12.    Now, click Start Tracing.
13.    Then, start an Exchange VSS backup.
14.    If it fails, it is required to click Stop tracing now in the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant.

Brief discussion about BETest tool
BETest is also a VSS requester and is capable of testing advanced backup and restore operations. Moreover, you can use this tool to test an application’s use of complex VSS features as follows.
•    Incremental and differential backup
•    Complex restore options, such as authoritative restore
•    Rollforward options
Besides, the BETest tool is used to take a VSS backup of an Exchange storage group and to test the Exchange VSS writer. It is capable of performing most of the operations that a VSS requestor can perform. If you wish, you can use the tool to take a VSS Snapshot of the active and replica databases on the Exchange Server 2007. You can download the BETest here.
You can use the following steps to use the BETest tool.
1.    If you install the BETest tool, it will get installed in the following directory.
C:\Program Files(x86)\Microsoft\VSSSDK72\TestApps\betest\obj\i386
2.    Then, run following command to obtain a list of available writers:
betest.exe > AvailableWriters.txt
3.    Once it is done, it is required to create a Components.txt file to specify the VSS components for BETest.
4.    Here, the components file uses the following format to specify options.
"": "" {"target" # "new target", ...}, ..."" : '",...";
5.    Now, it is required to get the value for the WriterId entry for use with the Components.txt file. You can refer to the following steps.
1.    First, open the AvailableWriters.txt file by using a text editor, such as Notepad.
2.    Search for the following text:
Microsoft Exchange Writer
3.    Note the value for the WriterId field. For example, 76fe1ac4-15f7-4bcd-987e-8e1acb462fb7.
6.    Now, it is required to determine the path for the placeholder in the Components.txt file.
7.    You can check the path in one of the following formats.
o    
o    \
o     (if no logical path exists)
For example, Microsoft Exchange Server\Microsoft Information Store\\.
8.    Now, you can add the values to the Components.txt file.
9.    Then, you can save the changes to the file. Check out the below example.
"{76fe1ac4-15f7-4bcd-987e-8e1acb462fb7}":"Microsoft Exchange Server\Microsoft Information Store\\68e5b198-468e-4328-8e8d-8d5276b8e355 ";
Here, the first GUID refers to the Exchange writer in this example and the second GUID refers to a specific storage group. If you have multiple storage groups, you can run the BETest tool against only one. If you wish to obtain the GUID for a particular storage group, you can go with the LDP.exe tool or the Get-StorageGroup cmdlet. It is required to note the value of objectGUID in the details pane if you’re using the LDP tool.
CN=First Storage Group,CN=InformationStore,CN=,CN=Servers,CN=First Administrative Group,CN=Administrative Groups,CN=First Organization,CN=Organizations,CN=Microsoft Exchange,CN=Services,CN=Configuration,DC=fourthcoffee,DC=com
You can use the following command at the Exchange Management Shell to get the storage group GUID from the command line.
Get-StorageGroup  |fl Guid
As streaming backups are only supported from the active storage groups, it is required to use a VSS backup to backup a passive database copy.
For a CCR replica copy
"{76fe1ac4-15f7-4bcd-987e-8e1acb462fb7}":"Microsoft Exchange Server\Microsoft Information Store\Replica\\ ";
For an LCR replica copy
"{76fe1ac4-15f7-4bcd-987e-8e1acb462fb7}":"Microsoft Exchange Server\Microsoft Information Store\Replica\\68e5b198-468e-4328-8e8d-8d5276b8e355 ";
10.    Once the Components.txt file has been saved, you can run the following command to start BETest. This command is capable of creating a backup in the C:\BETest directory and you can use it without the /E option.
BETEST.exe /B /E /T 1 /S output.XML /C components.txt /D c:\betest > Output.txt

11.    If you find that the backup is unsuccessful, it is required to examine the contents of the Output.txt file to review the error messages.
B  y

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