Dr. Watson

Updated: 06/16/2017 by Computer Hope

dr. watsonAbout Dr. Watson

Dr. Watson is a software utility included with Microsoft Windows that is used to help detect, decode, and log errors that are encountered while Windows or Windows programs are running.

A user can run Dr. Watson by clicking Start, Run, and type drwatson and clicking Ok. The Windows NT and 2000 Version of Dr. Watson can be run by clicking Start, Run, type drwtsn32. When running Dr. Watson, you should see either a new task on your toolbar or on your Windows notification area indicating that Dr. Watson is running in the background. If errors are frequently occurring, run Dr. Watson to help get additional information about the error.

When Dr. Watson encounters an error, the error is logged under the file "drwtsn32.log" or "user.dmp" when running Microsoft Windows NT or Windows 2000. When running Microsoft Windows 95, 98 or ME, the file is logged with a .WLG file extension and stored under the \Windows\Drwatson or \Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\DrWatson folder. For example, 10.wlg and drwtsn32.txt are examples of Dr. Watson files.

Tip: If your computer is encountering errors often, load Dr. Watson into the startup folder to load the program each time the computer boots.


Dr. Watson basic troubleshooting

  1. If errors are being encountered with a specific program, ensure that the latest software updates have been downloaded for that program.
  2. Users running Microsoft Windows 95, 98 can double-click the Dr. Watson icon on the Windows notification area to view errors and obtain a system snapshot of the computer. Additional detailed information can also be seen by clicking the View option and selecting the Advanced view.
  3. Users running Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP can decode the error by reviewing our below instruction on how to decode Dr. Watson errors.
  4. Verify that another program running in the background is not causing the problem by end tasking all TSRs.
  5. If after following the above steps you continue to receive Dr. Watson errors, attempt to reinstall the application you are running or contact the manufacturer or developer of the software program or computer.

How do I disable Dr. Watson in Windows NT?

Dr. Watson by default is always running on computers running Microsoft Windows NT. To disable Dr. Watson remove it from the Registry. Note: review our Registry page for additional information about the Registry and its dangers.

Open the below folders and keys.


Locate and delete the key AeDebug.

How to decode Dr. Watson errors

The below information applies to users who are running Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP and viewing the drwtsn32.log file. Each Dr. Watson error is appended to the end of the drwtsn32.log file. Therefore, you may need to scroll to the end of the file to determine the exact error.

Application exception occurred:
App: .\Release\Mcshield.exe (pid=508)
When: 11/3/2001 @ 13:54:08.489
Exception number: c0000005 (access violation)

The first portion of the drwtsn32.log file, as shown in the above example, gives us information about the program, the time, and the exception. As you can see from the above example, this error is occurring in mcshield.exe, which is a part of McAfee Virus Scan. We next see the date and time when this error occurred and the exception number.

Unless the software was compiled with debugging symbols, your information about what is causing the error will be limited. As you can see from the example below, the function has no available debugging symbols; this makes debugging much more difficult. Additional information about debugging symbols can be found at this Microsoft's MSDN article.

function: <nosymbols>
           01500878 89d5             mov     ebp,edx
           0150087a 89de             mov     esi,ebx
           0150087c 890c24           mov     [esp],ecx              ss:0172eae8=000000af
           0150087f 85db             test    ebx,ebx
           01500881 7c15             jl      01503998
           01500883 31c0             xor     eax,eax
           01500885 8a02             mov     al,[edx]                     ds:0000001c=??
           01500887 01d8             add     eax,ebx
           01500889 8d50ff           lea     edx,[eax+0xff]         ds:00a7d5d2=????????
           0150088c 8b4704           mov     eax,[edi+0x4]          ds:0279a0a8=????????
   FAULT ->0150088f 8b08             mov     ecx,[eax]              ds:00000000=????????
           01500891 ff511c           call    dword ptr [ecx+0x1c]   ds:00a7d681=????????
           01500894 39c2             cmp     edx,eax
           01500896 7604             jbe     0150399c
           01500898 31c0             xor     eax,eax
           0150089a eb54             jmp     01508bf0
           0150089c 837c241400       cmp   dword ptr [esp+0x14],0x0 ss:021ac0bb=????????
           015008a1 7513             jnz     015093b6
           015008a3 8b5c2418         mov     ebx,[esp+0x18]         ss:021ac0bb=????????
           015008a7 89f2             mov     edx,esi
           015008a9 31c9             xor     ecx,ecx
           015008ab 89f8             mov     eax,edi
*----> Stack Back Trace <----*
   FramePtr ReturnAd Param#1  Param#2  Param#3  Param#4  Function Name
   0172F0B8 C9CAE3C0 8DD7C0C1 F99FC687 CBCCD2F9 D6D2CAC1 !<nosymbols> 
   D1C0C91D 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000 <nosymbols> 

If a function is found, attempt to search for the function through Microsoft's support database or contact the software developer to obtain additional information about why the error is occurring.

Users running other versions of Windows can view the Dr. Watson information by opening the Dr. Watson program (c:\winnt\system32\drwtsn32.exe NOT drwatson.exe) and viewing the diagnostics information and suggestions. A snapshot of the system configuration can also be seen by clicking the View option and selecting "Advanced View".