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MSBuild binary log overview

Starting with MSBuild 15.3 a new binary log format is introduced, to complement the existing file and console loggers.


  • completeness (more information than the most detailed file log)
  • build speed (doesn't slow the build down nearly as much as the diagnostic-level file log)
  • smaller disk size (10-20x more compact than a file log)
  • structure (preserves the exact build event args that can later be replayed to reconstruct the exact events and information as if a real build was running). File logs erase structure and are harder to parse (especially for multicore /m builds). Build analyzer tools are conceivable that could benefit from the structure in a binary log. An API is available to load and query binary logs.
  • optionally collect the project files (and all imported targets files) used during the build. This can help analyzing the logs and even view preprocessed source for all projects (with all imported projects inlined).

See for more information.

Creating a binary log during a build

Use the new /bl switch to enable the binary logger:

> msbuild.exe MySolution.sln /bl

By default the binary log file is named msbuild.binlog and it is written to the current directory. To specify a custom log file name and/or path, pass it after a colon:

> msbuild.exe MySolution.sln /bl:out.binlog

You can use the binary logger simultaneously with other loggers, such as text file (/fl) and console loggers. They are independent and having a binary log side-by-side with other logs may be beneficial (for sending a log to other people or running automatic build analysis tools that rely on the exact build event structure without having to parse text logs).

When using the binary logger all other log formats are technically redundant since you can later reconstruct all the other logs from the binary log. To turn off console logging, pass the /noconlog switch. Builds will usually be much faster if you don't pass the console and file loggers.

Collecting projects and imports source files

By default the binary logger will collect the source code of all project files and all imported project/targets files used during the build. You can control this behavior:

  • /bl:ProjectImports=None (do not collect project and imports files)
  • /bl:ProjectImports=Embed (default - embed in the .binlog file)
  • /bl:ProjectImports=ZipFile (produce a separate file next to the log file that contains the files)

Note that only *.csproj, *.targets and other MSBuild project formats are collected. No other source files (*.cs, *.cpp etc) are collected.

If the binary log contains the projects/imports files the MSBuild Structured Log Viewer will display all the files contained in the log, let you search through them and even display preprocessed view for any project where all imported projects are inlined (similar to msbuild /pp switch).

Replaying a binary log

Instead of passing the project/solution to MSBuild.exe you can now pass a binary log to "build". This will replay all events to all other loggers (just the console by default). Here's an example of replaying a .binlog file to the diagnostic verbosity text log:

> msbuild.exe msbuild.binlog /noconlog /flp:v=diag;logfile=diag.log

Creating a binary log with older MSBuild versions

It is also possible to use the BinaryLogger with older MSBuild versions, such as MSBuild 14.0. For this you'll need the StructuredLogger.dll available here:

Alternatively you can download/install the NuGet package and use the StructuredLogger.dll provided by it.

Once you have the StructuredLogger.dll on disk you can pass it to MSBuild like this:

> msbuild.exe /logger:BinaryLogger,"path\to\StructuredLogger.dll";msbuild.binlog

Using MSBuild Structured Log Viewer

You can use the MSBuild Structured Log Viewer tool to view .binlog files:

Collecting binary logs from Visual Studio builds

If you need to capture a binary log in Visual Studio, instead of the command line, you'll need a Visual Studio plugin:

After installing that, enable logging and run your build (more details).

Binary log file format

The implementation of the binary logger is here:

It is a GZipStream-compressed binary stream of serialized BuildEventArgs objects. The event args objects are serialized and deserialized using:

Incrementing the file format

Every .binlog file has the first three bytes that indicate the file version. The current file format version is 9 (00 00 09).

When incrementing the file format, keep this in mind:

The format is backwards compatible, i.e. MSBuild will be able to play back .binlog files created with an older version of MSBuild. The Viewer will also be able to open files of any older version. Since the viewer updates automatically and I can push out updates easily, we can consider the Viewer is always able to read all .binlogs.

However MSBuild of version 15.3 won't be able to read .binlogs created with MSBuild version 15.6. This means the format is unfortunately not forwards-compatible. It is not self-describing, i.e. it doesn't carry its schema around for performance and compactness reasons. This is not a problem with a Viewer because Viewer is always up-to-date (there isn't an "old version" of the Viewer unless people go to great lengths to prevent it from auto-updating).