Difference in Visual Studio between Start Debugging & Start without Debugging

Visual Studio

Programming is a difficult and time consuming process, and sometimes there might be features you don’t quite remember how they are supposed work. Let’s talk about this simple topic on the difference between Start Debugging  (F5) and Start without Debugging (Ctrl + F5) in Visual Studio.  You probably have seen these menu items under the Debug menu, but you may be confused about the difference between the two options.

  • Start Debugging – When you select this option (press F5 ) to run your application, Visual Studio loads all required symbols, attaches the debugger, and launches the application.  You should be able to see the assembly loading from the Output window. With this option selected:
    • You can pause the execution of application by breakpoints
    • Step through the code
    • Inspect elements
    • Manage all available debugging tools (Watch Window, Data Tips, Diagnostic Tools, etc.)
  • Start Without Debugging – When you select this option (press Ctrl  + F5 ) to run the application, Visual Studio will launch your application without loading the symbols or attaching the Debugger. With this option selected:
    • Application won’t pause if you have any breakpoint within the code
    • You can’t step through the code

So when you want to step through your code, finding issues, and want to leverage all debugging tools you must go for F5 / Start with Debugging Option.


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