What is CMTrace and What Is It Used For? The Ultimate Guide

CMTrace is a real-time log file viewer for System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) Current Branch and SCCM 2012. I originally wrote a blog post about CMTrace back in 2014, so I thought that it was time to update it with new information about running it you can learn from. In this post, I’ll tell you why I like using CMTrace because you may have noticed that I often refer to it when I need to review SCCM log files. I’ll also tell you where you can find CMTrace and I’ll give you a couple of helpful tips on how to use CMTrace to its full potential!

What Makes CMTrace a Must-Have Tool?

There are numerous reasons to use this tool, but here are a few of my favorites:

-Log files can be reviewed in real time as they are updated, which can save you time.
-Multiple log files can be merged together to create a new one.
-Error messages are highlighted in red automatically.
-Warning messages are highlighted in yellow, making them easy to find and follow.
-You can highlight text based on your own needs as you work through the data log.
-Ability to look-up codes.
-Rows can be filtered based on conditions.

CMTrace Reads All SCCM Log Files

After working with SCCM for a while you will realize that there are almost 200 different Configuration Manager Trace log files. To help you understand what each log file does, the SCCM documentation team listed and documented each one. In order to open and view the complete list, here’s a link to the documentation.

Given that CMTrace can read each log file, I strongly encourage you to give CMTrace a try!

Where Can I Find CMTrace?

SCCM Current Branch

Unlike previous versions of SCCM, the toolkit tools are now included in the installation of SCCM. These tools, which include CMTrace, are updated as required with each cumulative update (CU).

The toolkit is found under the Tools folder. In my case the path to cmtrace.exe is:
E:\Program Files\Microsoft Configuration Manager\tools.

What is CMTrace - Current Branch

Don’t worry. When you first try to access the Tools folder, you will receive the following message: You don’t currently have permission to access this folder. Simply click on the Continue button, adjust the folder permissions and grant yourself access to the folder.

What is CMTrace - Permission

System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager

First, you will need to download the System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager Toolkit.

There are no tricks to installing the System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager Toolkit. Simply install it as you would any other application.

Once the toolkit is downloaded and installed on your computer, the CMTrace location will be within the C:\Program Files (x86)\ConfigMgr 2012 Toolkit R2\ClientTools folder.

What is CMTrace - System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager


A line highlighted in yellow generally indicates that there is a warning message, and a line highlighted in red generally indicates that there is an error message.

Tip #1

If you are troubleshooting something within the SCCM logs it can be useful to highlight the item in order to see it happen in real-time.

What is CMTrace - Tip 1 - Tools

To do this within CMTrace, click on the Tools and Highlight… menu items.

What is CMTrace - Tip 1 - Highlight Text Box

In the Highlight text box enter the text that you want to highlight and then click on the OK button.

What is CMTrace - Tip 1 - Log File

All instances of the text will be highlighted within the log file.

By default, the highlighted text will be shown in yellow. Since this can lead to some confusion because warning messages are also in yellow, I recommend changing the color to something different.

Without changing any of the colors, can you tell which one of the lines above has the highlighted text?

Tip #2

What is CMTrace - Tip 2 - Preferences

To change the default highlighted color, select the File and Preferences… menu items.

What is CMTrace - Tip 2 - Yellow Box

Click on the yellow box next to Use this color for highlighting log entries.

What is CMTrace - Tip 2 - Color

I find that using the color pink really stands out! However, you can use whatever you like, so choose a color and click OK.

What is CMTrace - Tip 2 - OK Button

Finally, click on the OK button. Now all of my highlighted text will be displayed in pink.

What is CMTrace - Tip 2 - Log File

Now you can tell from the screenshot above what line has the highlighted text! In my opinion, you need to change the color of the highlighted text in order to quickly see it, and I think that the color pink is a great alternative.

To see these tips live, view my video demonstration!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me @GarthMJ.

Do you have an idea for a blog post about a Configuration Manager query or reporting topic? Let me know. Your idea might become the focus of my next blog post!

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