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February 25, 2020

Toolkit Item: MS Error Lookup Tool


Here’s a handy little item from Microsoft that the company should bundle with Windows 10. It’s called the Microsoft Error Lookup Tool. It’s a command line utility that runs either in cmd.exe or in PowerShell. No need for admin privileges to use this tool, either. The current version of the portable executable file is err_6.4.5. It takes a single option, and will handle an arbitrary number of error codes separated by spaces. Enter the program name by itself to see the help information.

MS Error Lookup Tool Options

The options for the tool may be one of the following strings, which defines output formats and the tables the command reads to extract error message info (copied verbatim from the help info):

+ /:xml – causes the output to be in XML-parseable form.
To understand the output, try it. It’s pretty obvious.
+ /:listTables – lists all the tables below in XML format.
Again, the format is pretty straightforward.
+ /:outputtoCSV – lists all the tables below in CSV format.
+ /:outputtoJS – lists all the tables below for use in JS.
+ /:outputtoCPP – lists all the tables below for a C++ header.
+ /:hresultfromwin32 – prints HRESULT_FROM_WIN32 errors for a C++ header.

Recognized Error Lookup Codes/Values

Input values to the Error Look Tool must take one of the following forms (the program is pretty good at recognizing formats; also copied verbatim from the help info):

1. decorated hex (0x54f)
2. implicit hex (54f)
3. ambiguous (1359)
4. exact string (=ERROR_INTERNAL_ERROR)
5. substring (:INTERNAL_ERROR)

Working with the MS Error Lookup Tool

This morning, I got the error code 0x80070643 after installing a Windows Defender antimalware engine update failed. This is what prompted me to download and use the tool. Here’s the information it provided for me:

Error lookup tool code ouput

As you can read in my Windows Enterprise Desktop blog post for this morning I solved the issue with a quick reboot. But this tool is a little gem, worth keeping around when you have error codes to deal with. Of course, you could hunt for them yourself using the System Error Codes document at the MS Windows Dev Center. Me personally, I prefer a quick-n-easy command line lookup tool, like this one. Your call.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

One Response “Toolkit Item: MS Error Lookup Tool”

  1. February 3, 2020 at 04:50

    Excellent article Ed – looks like the makings of a nice tutorial over at TF.

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