SymInitialize function (dbghelp.h)

Initializes the symbol handler for a process.


BOOL IMAGEAPI SymInitialize(
  [in]           HANDLE hProcess,
  [in, optional] PCSTR  UserSearchPath,
  [in]           BOOL   fInvadeProcess


[in] hProcess

A handle that identifies the caller. This value should be unique and nonzero, but need not be a process handle. However, if you do use a process handle, be sure to use the correct handle. If the application is a debugger, use the process handle for the process being debugged. Do not use the handle returned by GetCurrentProcess. The handle used must be unique to avoid sharing a session with another component, and using GetCurrentProcess can have unexpected results when multiple components are attempting to use dbghelp to inspect the current process. Using GetCurrentProcess when debugging another process will also cause functions like SymLoadModuleEx to have unexpected results.

This parameter cannot be NULL.

[in, optional] UserSearchPath

The path, or series of paths separated by a semicolon (;), that is used to search for symbol files. If this parameter is NULL, the library attempts to form a symbol path from the following sources:

  • The current working directory of the application
  • The _NT_SYMBOL_PATH environment variable
  • The _NT_ALTERNATE_SYMBOL_PATH environment variable
Note that the search path can also be set using the SymSetSearchPath function.

[in] fInvadeProcess

If this value is TRUE, enumerates the loaded modules for the process and effectively calls the SymLoadModule64 function for each module.

Return value

If the function succeeds, the return value is TRUE.

If the function fails, the return value is FALSE. To retrieve extended error information, call GetLastError.


The SymInitialize function is used to initialize the symbol handler for a process. In the context of the symbol handler, a process is a convenient object to use when collecting symbol information. Usually, symbol handlers are used by debuggers and other tools that need to load symbols for a process being debugged.

The handle passed to SymInitialize must be the same value passed to all other symbol handler functions called by the process. It is the handle that the functions use to identify the caller and locate the correct symbol information. When you have finished using the symbol information, call the SymCleanup function to deallocate all resources associated with the process for which symbols are loaded.

The search for symbols files is performed recursively for all paths specified in the UserSearchPath parameter. Therefore, if you specify the root directory in a search, the whole drive is searched, which can take significant time. Note that the directory that contains the executable file for the process is not automatically part of the search path. To include this directory in the search path, call the GetModuleFileNameEx function, then add the path returned to UserSearchPath.

A process that calls SymInitialize should not call it again unless it calls SymCleanup first. If the call to SymInitialize set fInvadeProcess to TRUE and you simply need to reload the module list, use the SymRefreshModuleList function.

All DbgHelp functions, such as this one, are single threaded. Therefore, calls from more than one thread to this function will likely result in unexpected behavior or memory corruption. To avoid this, call SymInitialize only when your process starts and SymCleanup only when your process ends. It is not necessary for each thread in the process to call these functions.

To call the Unicode version of this function, define DBGHELP_TRANSLATE_TCHAR.


For an example, see Initializing the Symbol Handler.


Requirement Value
Target Platform Windows
Header dbghelp.h
Library Dbghelp.lib
DLL Dbghelp.dll
Redistributable DbgHelp.dll 5.1 or later

See also

DbgHelp Functions