I'm facing a peculiar deadlock scenario I never saw before.

I'm trying to debug this deadlock from 3 days and couldn't find how to fix it in a proper way. Hopefully someone would help me out.

We don't have the application's source code so this deadlock must be fixed patching the asm code (no problems patching the binary though).

The scenario

The application is a x86 old online game which uses directx 9 to render graphics (d3d9.dll). From what I could analyse there are 3 threads related to this deadlock. To name, thread #1 is the main thread (which render every frame), thread #2 seems to be a d3d9 worker thread that queue some async resource loading to be processed and drawn out by the thread #1, and then we have the mysterious thread #3 which is related to a feature of the game that basically make a http request to a server and download a texture to display in the game on-the-fly; every time this texture have to be drawn, the main thread creates this thread #3 to process the I/O to download the texture, which will be passed to the thread #2 (d3d9 worker thread) to be finally async processed by the thread #1 (game loop).

After thread #3 gives to thread #2 the texture resources, thread #3 shutdowns itself. This thread #3 is created from crt!_beginthread and shutdown with crt!_endthread.

The deadlock

To sumup: thread #1 (game loop), thread #2 (d3d9 worker thread), thread #3 (downloads texture from http).

The problem occurs when (for some unknown reason) thread #3 is ended without freeing a lock which is being awaited by thread #2. Thread #1 in turn is waiting for thread #2 to acquire the resources to be drawn.

This is different from all other deadlocks I have faced with because the thread that seems to be causing the deadlock doesn't exist anymore when the deadlock occurs. All the other deadlocks I have debugged was pretty much straight forward to find the source of the problem because when isolating the threads in deadlock I simply had to analyse the call stack from each thread to know exactly what was happening. The big problem here is that as thread #3 is dead I don't have its call stack to see the moment it creates the deadlock. So the big question is: how can I find what is happening inside this thread #3 if I can't even see the call stack?

Some WinDbg analysis output after deadlocks occur

0:001> !locks

CritSec +935a060 at 0935a060
WaiterWoken        No
LockCount          2
RecursionCount     1
OwningThread       34fc
EntryCount         0
ContentionCount    21a
*** Locked

Scanned 27 critical sections

0:001> !runaway

  User Mode Time   Thread       Time
   0:2888      0 days 0:00:15.234
  11:2210      0 days 0:00:02.796
  20:15f0      0 days 0:00:01.656
  17:584       0 days 0:00:00.453
  21:2860      0 days 0:00:00.140
  13:8cc       0 days 0:00:00.031
   7:1a70      0 days 0:00:00.031
  23:373c      0 days 0:00:00.015
  14:2fe0      0 days 0:00:00.015
  22:1bf4      0 days 0:00:00.000
  19:3a50      0 days 0:00:00.000
  18:2980      0 days 0:00:00.000
  16:1e0c      0 days 0:00:00.000
  15:2768      0 days 0:00:00.000
  12:3154      0 days 0:00:00.000
  10:2cfc      0 days 0:00:00.000
   9:1e40      0 days 0:00:00.000
   8:1ea8      0 days 0:00:00.000
   5:2b64      0 days 0:00:00.000
   4:338c      0 days 0:00:00.000
   1:3be8      0 days 0:00:00.000

0:001> ~0 kb

 # ChildEBP RetAddr  Args to Child              
00 0019f640 75f48869 000006c0 00000000 0019f688 ntdll!NtWaitForSingleObject+0xc
01 0019f6b4 75f487c2 000006c0 000003e8 00000000 KERNELBASE!WaitForSingleObjectEx+0x99
02 0019f6c8 68bbac92 000006c0 000003e8 0935a040 KERNELBASE!WaitForSingleObject+0x12
03 0019f6dc 68b7d6e4 88760870 0935a040 015c6e38 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::WaitForBatchWorkerThread+0x23
04 0019f6ec 68c403d1 04f0de60 68c403b0 c9e02d57 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::FlushBatchWorkerThread+0xc
05 0019f700 68b78522 0935a040 00000000 00011001 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::LHBatchFlush1+0x21
06 0019f718 68b99daa 04f0de60 68b54020 04f0dd00 d3d9!Flush+0x36
07 0019f9bc 68b6a661 04f0de60 04f0b634 04f08ac0 d3d9!DdBltLH+0x45d8a
08 0019fa94 68be9fcc 00000000 00000000 00000000 d3d9!CSwapChain::PresentMain+0x3a7
09 0019fabc 68be9e57 00000000 00000000 00000000 d3d9!CBaseDevice::PresentMain+0x68
0a 0019faf4 10109099 04f08ac0 00000000 00000000 d3d9!CBaseDevice::Present+0x57
0b 0019fc10 10107a15 04f08ac0 00000000 00000000 DoNPatch!fIDirect3Device9::fPresent+0x2e9
0c 0019fc58 005495e0 00000001 03440be8 03448a70 DoNPatch!NKD_IDirect3DDevice_Present+0x5
0d 0019fc7c 00549367 00000000 03440be8 00000000 SD_Asgard!loc_5494D7+0x109
0e 0019fcc4 0054b7a1 0105a000 03440be8 00b200b0 SD_Asgard!loc_549367
0f 0019fef4 005bb824 00400000 00000000 01503b2d SD_Asgard!loc_54B784+0x1d
10 0019ff80 76d28744 00302000 76d28720 34573170 SD_Asgard!loc_5BB812+0x12
11 0019ff94 76f8582d 00302000 03e96be8 00000000 KERNEL32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0x24
12 0019ffdc 76f857fd ffffffff 76fa6389 00000000 ntdll!__RtlUserThreadStart+0x2f
13 0019ffec 00000000 005cc46f 00302000 00000000 ntdll!_RtlUserThreadStart+0x1b

0:001> ~11 kb

 # ChildEBP RetAddr  Args to Child              
00 04c2fe58 76f4c07a 0935a064 00000000 00000000 ntdll!NtWaitForAlertByThreadId+0xc
01 04c2fe78 76f4bfbe 00000000 00000000 ffffffff ntdll!RtlpWaitOnAddressWithTimeout+0x33
02 04c2febc 76f4beb5 00000004 00000000 00000000 ntdll!RtlpWaitOnAddress+0xa5
03 04c2fefc 76f6b3f1 0935a040 0935a040 00000004 ntdll!RtlpWaitOnCriticalSection+0xb7
04 04c2ff1c 76f6b315 0935a040 04c2ff38 68b7d1e8 ntdll!RtlpEnterCriticalSectionContended+0xd1
05 04c2ff28 68b7d1e8 0935a060 0941a324 04c2ff60 ntdll!RtlEnterCriticalSection+0x45
06 04c2ff38 68b80753 00000001 0935a040 00000001 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::AcquireSynchronization+0x28
07 04c2ff60 68c42021 0941a320 00000001 68c41760 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::ProcessBatch+0x14b
08 04c2ff78 68c4176d 04c2ff94 76d28744 0935a040 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::WorkerThread+0x2d
09 04c2ff80 76d28744 0935a040 76d28720 308c3170 d3d9!CBatchFilterI::LHBatchWorkerThread+0xd
0a 04c2ff94 76f8582d 0935a040 07326be8 00000000 KERNEL32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0x24
0b 04c2ffdc 76f857fd ffffffff 76fa6389 00000000 ntdll!__RtlUserThreadStart+0x2f
0c 04c2ffec 00000000 68c41760 0935a040 00000000 ntdll!_RtlUserThreadStart+0x1b


In the outputs above, the thread id owning the locked critical section (34fc) is the thread #3 (makes the http request), which isn't presented in the !runaway list. In the !runaway list, the thread number 0 is the #1 (game loop) and the thread number 11 is the #2 (d3d9 batch worker). If you need any other data I can gather just ask for it. In this analysis I used IDA Pro 6.9 and WinDbg, but I can get other tool if available.

To end up, sorry for the long text and thanks in advance.

  • Hi @blabb thanks for answering. Don't you think your idea is too risky in a production phase? I can think of so many things that can go wrong doing this kind of patch. It seems to me to be more like a palliative than a real fix to the problem. – André Oliveira Oct 2 '17 at 12:37
  • i don't know so deleted the comment – blabb Oct 2 '17 at 19:37

This is more of a SW dev problem than RE, but you can try using !htrace to find out where the mutex was originally allocated (creation stack trace).

Alternatively, try to figure why the thread #3 exits without releasing the lock. This may be a bit tricky, but if you can repro the two scenartios (with and without releasing the lock), differential debugging may be useful to figure out where the code paths diverge.

  • Hi @Igor thanks for the answer and sorry for the late response. I forgot to mention in the text but I already did !htrace to see if tracking the allocation of the mutex was useful in this context, but I couldn't get nothing from there. Do you know if instead there is a way to trace the critical section lock/unlock? If it could be done I think I can track down exactly where thread #3 is acquiring the lock and trace the code from there to see why it is not being freed. – André Oliveira Oct 2 '17 at 12:30
  • About the ExitThread analysis I already did it too. I traced the execution flow from thread #3 when it causes the deadlock and at least for a upper frame count perspective there is nothing unusual happening, the thread executes its code as any other thread that doesn't generates the deadlock. The problem is probably in the end of the call stack of the thread and I dont have any idea how to trace it down once it has around 300k instructions executed in the threads life time (got it by "wt" command). – André Oliveira Oct 2 '17 at 12:34
  • well, then try to find why it's not freeing the lock in this exit path. Anyway, it's not really an RE issue so I'm not sure what else to suggest. – Igor Skochinsky Oct 2 '17 at 12:36
  • You know how I could analyse an code flow from around 300k instructions in a practical manner? I mean, if I had to trace into every function I will end up quickly analysing the inner works of d3d9.dll and its faults. I thought that if I could somehow while reproducing the deadlock save each thread #3 execution flow, I could then compare where exactly the execution flow from the faulty thread differs from the others. Do you know a way to accomplish this? (or think it could show the problem?) – André Oliveira Oct 2 '17 at 12:42
  • 1
    no specific tool, but check reverseengineering.stackexchange.com/a/2567/60 – Igor Skochinsky Oct 2 '17 at 12:45

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