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Restarting the FTP Service Orphans a DLLHOST.EXE Process

I was recently creating a new authentication provider using FTP extensibility, and I ran into a weird behavior that I had seen before. With that in mind, I thought my situation would make a great blog subject because someone else may run into it.

Here are the details of the situation: let's say that you are developing a new FTP provider for IIS, and your code changes never seem to take effect. Your provider appears to be working, it's just that any new functionality is not reflected in your provider's behavior. You restart the FTP service as a troubleshooting step, but that does not appear to make any difference.

I'll bypass mentioning any other troubleshooting tasks and cut to the chase - if you read my Changing the Identity of the FTP 7 Extensibility Process blog post a year ago, you will recall that I mentioned that all custom FTP extensibility providers are executed through COM+ in a DLLHOST.exe process. When you restart the FTP service, that should clean up the DLLHOST.EXE process that is being used for FTP extensibility. However, if you are developing custom FTP providers and the DLLHOST.EXE process is not terminated by the FTP service, you may find yourself in a situation where you have a DLLHOST.EXE process in memory that contains an older copy of your provider, which will not be removed from memory until the DLLHOST.EXE process for FTP extensibility has been forcibly terminated.

If you have read some of my earlier blog posts or walkthroughs on IIS.NET, you may have noticed that I generally like to use a few pre-build and post-build commands in my FTP projects; usually I add these commands in order to to automatically register/unregister my FTP providers in the Global Assembly Cache (GAC).

With a little modification and some command-line wizardry, you can automate the termination of any orphaned DLLHOST.EXE processes that are being used for FTP extensibility. With that in mind, here are some example pre-build/post-build commands that will unregister/reregister your provider in the GAC, restart the FTP service, and terminate any orphaned FTP extensibility DLLHOST.EXE processes.

Note: The following syntax was written using Visual Studio 2010; you would need to change "%VS100COMNTOOLS%" to "%VS90COMNTOOLS%" for Visual Studio 2008 or "%VS110COMNTOOLS%" for Visual Studio 2012.

Pre-build Commands:

net stop ftpsvc

call "%VS100COMNTOOLS%\vsvars32.bat">nul

cd /d "$(TargetDir)"

gacutil.exe /uf "$(TargetName)"

for /f "usebackq tokens=1,2* delims=," %%a in (`tasklist /fi "MODULES eq Microsoft.Web.FtpServer.*" /fi "IMAGENAME eq DLLHOST.EXE" /fo csv ^| find /i "dllhost.exe"`) do taskkill /f /pid %%b

Post-build Commands:

call "%VS100COMNTOOLS%\vsvars32.bat">nul

gacutil.exe /if "$(TargetPath)"

net start ftpsvc

The syntax is a little tricky for the FOR statement, so be carefully when typing or copying/pasting that into your projects. For example, you need to make sure that all of the code from the FOR statement through the TASKKILL command are on the same line in your project's properties.

When you compile your provider, Visual Studio should display something like the following:

------ Rebuild All started: Project: FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication, Configuration: Release Any CPU ------
The Microsoft FTP Service service is stopping.
The Microsoft FTP Service service was stopped successfully.

Microsoft (R) .NET Global Assembly Cache Utility. Version 4.0.30319.1
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Assembly: FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=426f62526f636b73, processorArchitecture=MSIL
Uninstalled: FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=426f62526f636b73, processorArchitecture=MSIL
Number of assemblies uninstalled = 1
Number of failures = 0
SUCCESS: The process with PID 12656 has been terminated.
FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication -> C:\Users\dude\Documents\Visual Studio 2010\Projects\FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication\FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication\bin\Release\FtpBlogEngineNetAuthentication.dll
Microsoft (R) .NET Global Assembly Cache Utility. Version 4.0.30319.1
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Assembly successfully added to the cache
The Microsoft FTP Service service is starting.
The Microsoft FTP Service service was started successfully.

========== Rebuild All: 1 succeeded, 0 failed, 0 skipped ==========

If you analyze the output from the build process, you will see that the commands in my earlier samples stopped the FTP service, removed the existing assembly from the GAC, terminated any orphaned DLLHOST.EXE processes, registered the newly-built DLL in the GAC, and then restarted the FTP service.

By utilizing these pre-build/post-build commands, I have been able to work around situations where a DLLHOST.EXE process is being orphaned and caching old assemblies in memory.

Note: This blog was originally posted at
Posted: Jan 30 2013, 18:13 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Filed under: Scripting | FTP | Extensibility
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