Getting Started with Visual Studio Graphics Diagnostics

Applies to: yesVisual Studio noVisual Studio for Mac


This article applies to Visual Studio 2017. If you're looking for the latest Visual Studio documentation, see Visual Studio documentation. We recommend upgrading to the latest version of Visual Studio. Download it here

In this section you'll prepare to use Graphics Diagnostics for the first time, then you'll capture frames from a Direct3D app and examine them in the Graphics Analyzer.


To use Graphics Diagnostics in Visual Studio, you must use Visual Studio Enterprise, Visual Studio Professional, or Visual Studio Community. Other editions, including Visual Studio Code, do not contain this feature.

Download Visual Studio Community or compare Visual Studio editions

Windows prerequisites

The optional Windows feature Graphics Tools provides the capture and playback infrastructure that's required by Graphics Diagnostics on Windows 10 and later.

For information on installing Graphics Tools, see Install Graphics Tools for Windows 10 and later.

Install Graphics Tools for Windows 10 and later

In Windows 10 and later, the Graphics Diagnostics infrastructure is provided by an optional feature of Windows called Graphics Tools. This feature is required to capture and play back graphics information on Windows 10 and later regardless of whether the app being captured targets a previous version of windows or which version of Direct3D it uses. You can choose to install the Graphics Tools feature ahead of time; otherwise it will be installed on-demand the first time you start a Graphics Diagnostics session from Visual Studio.

To install Graphics Tools for Windows 10 and later

  1. In Search, type Apps and features and then open the Apps & features settings.

  2. Choose Optional features.

    On Windows 10, you find optional features n the right-hand side of the Apps & features settings. Choose Optional features.

    On Windows 11, you find optional features in the Apps settings instead of Apps & features. Choose Apps, then Optional features.

    The Optional features settings appear.

  3. In the Optional features settings, choose Add a feature. A list of optional features you can install appears.

  4. Select Graphics Tools from the list of features, then choose Install.

    The Graphics Tools feature is also installed automatically when you install the Windows 10 or Windows 11 SDK.


The optional Graphics Tools feature of Windows 10 and later provides lightweight capture and playback functionality—such as the command-line capture program dxcap.exe—that can be used in support, testing, and diagnostic scenarios on machines where developer tools aren't installed. For more information, see the Command-Line Capture Tool topic.

Using Graphics Diagnostics for the first time

Now that you have everything you need, you're ready to start using Graphics Diagnostics. Just follow these steps.

1 - Create a Direct3D app

If you already have your own Direct3D app to explore Graphics Diagnostics with, great! Otherwise, use one of the following:

  • The DirectX 11 App (Universal Windows) or DirectX 12 App (Universal Windows) project templates for Windows 10 or later.
  • Direct3D 12 UAP sample for Windows 10 or later.

Make sure you can build and run the app before moving on. Choose Build > Build Solution to make sure it builds without errors. Then choose Debug > Start without Debugging (Ctrl + F5) to make sure it runs correctly. Depending on what machine you are testing with the tool, you may need to adjust the platform and debugging target for the sample. For example, to test against the x64 platform on your Visual Studio host machine, choose x64 as the Solution Platform and Local Machine as your debugging target.

2 - Start a Graphics Diagnostics session

Now you're ready to start your first graphics diagnostics session. In Visual Studio, on the main menu, choose Debug, Graphics, Start Graphics Debugging, or just press Alt+F5. This starts your app under Graphics Diagnostics and displays the diagnostics session windows in Visual Studio.


If you're running your app on Windows 10 or later and haven't installed the optional Graphics Tools feature yet, you'll be prompted to do so now. You must install it before you can use Graphics Diagnostics.

3 - Capture Frames

You're ready to capture frames as soon as your app starts.

To capture single frames

  • In Visual Studio, choose the Capture Frame button from the Graphics toolbar or diagnostics session window. Or, if your app has focus, just press the Print Screen key on your keyboard.

To capture a sequence of frames

  • In Visual Studio, in the diagnostic session window, set Frames to capture to the number of frames you want to capture in sequence, then capture the sequence by using any of the methods you described above to capture single frames.

    To capture single frames again, set Frames to capture to 1.

    When you're done capturing frames just exit the app or choose the Stop button from the Graphics toolbar or diagnostic session window.

4 - Examine captured frames in the Graphics Analyzer

Now you're ready to examine the frames you just captured. To start analyzing a frame, choose the frame number of the frame you want to examine from the diagnostic session window. This opens the frame in the Graphics Analyzer, where you can use the Graphics Diagnostics tools to examine how your app uses Direct3D to track down rendering problems, or use the Frame Analysis tool to understand its performance.

If you selected the wrong frame from the diagnostic session window or you want to examine a different frame you can select a new one from the Graphics Analyzer. On the Render Target tab of the graphics log window, under the render target image, expand the Frame List and then choose a different frame to examine.

To learn more about how to use the Graphics Analyzer tools together, see the Examples.

See also