Finding ASP.Net Core Error Logs on IIS

I don't think there are many IT tasks more frustrating than troubleshooting Microsoft technologies on Windows. These things are simply not made so that anyone knows what's going on, and the really brutal stuff happens when you combine Windows, IIS and Asp.Net Core. Correct me if I'm wrong, but by default it's not configured to report any errors anywhere, unless you run it in a console. And if you want to troubleshoot a deployment that isn't working, be prepared to spend hours finding out what the hell has happened. NOT fixing the error, just identifying it.

There's a myriad of places where logged messages could appear, and this seems to depend on the error type: if you knew what's going on you'd probably be able to guess where the message is, but in that case you wouldn't need the error logs in the first place. And if you ask Google, you'll find sites that list these options for you. I'll try to list them here:

  • IIS access log - useless for this as it lists successful requests
  • HTTPERR - for errors, but in my IIS it's empty even if my web app falls apart. It's in C:\Windows\System32\LogFiles\HTTPERR
  • Event Log - they say that Asp.Net errors appear in the Application section here. But Asp.Net Core doesn't seem to respect that.
  • Detailed error page - this doesn't seem to exist anymore (even though it can be turned on in IIS configuration). Some sites suggest that the only solution is to implement our own!
  • Adding a custom logger - serilog works great, but I need to change the source code to use it. Why would that be necessary? I was unable to find a way to just configure logging to save messages to a file - it can do this to console, but to a file, it seems, not. There isn't even a standard config entry for the log file name, you have to add your own configuration logic.
  • Failed request tracing - this, in fact, does produce some results but again it also hides a lot. It seems to be good for errors in the IIS pipeline, but when my Asp.Net Core application broke, the trace showed a warning (!) that a component in the pipeline returned a 500 internal server error. But what error exactly, it didn't say.
  • Stdout error loging in web.config - finally something useful, it can be turned on without modifying the code and it helped me see the actual error, after 4-5 hours of fighting the damn thing (note that you need to create the log folder yourself and possibly give the web app permissions to write to it). But this is seemingly just part of the solution, I'm guessing it works only if Asp.Net Core works. If not, see above.

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