Debugging C# on ESP32: A Guide for Developers

Debugging C# on ESP32: A Guide for Developers


The ESP32 microcontroller has become popular for IoT projects due to its great features and affordability.

With the advent of the nanoFramework, developers can now write and debug C# code on ESP32, merging the power of .NET with the versatility of microcontrollers.

This blog post aims to guide you through debugging C# code on an ESP32 device, ensuring a smooth development experience.

The Importance of Debugging

Debugging is a critical part of software development. It involves identifying and resolving bugs or issues in your code. Effective debugging ensures that your IoT applications run reliably and efficiently.

Setting Up for Debugging

Before starting, ensure you have:

  1. An ESP32 board flashed with the nanoFramework firmware.
  2. Visual Studio with the nanoFramework extension installed.

Flashing nanoFramework Firmware

If you haven’t already flashed your ESP32 with the nanoFramework firmware, follow these steps:

  1. Use the nanoFramework Flashing tool to flash the latest firmware to your ESP32 board.
  2. Connect your ESP32 to your PC via a micro USB cable.

Debugging in Visual Studio

Visual Studio provides a robust environment for debugging C# code, and its features extend to applications running on the ESP32 via the nanoFramework.

1. Creating a nanoFramework Project

First, create a nanoFramework project in Visual Studio:

  1. Go to File > New > Project.
  2. Choose a nanoFramework template (e.g., nanoFramework Console Application).
  3. Write some sample C# code for your ESP32.

2. Deploying Your Code

Deploy your code to the ESP32:

  1. Build your project in Visual Studio.
  2. Select the nanoFramework device in the target device dropdown.
  3. Deploy the application to your ESP32 by pressing F5 or clicking the “Start Debugging” button.

3. Setting Breakpoints

Set breakpoints in your code to pause execution and inspect variables and program flow:

  1. In your code in Visual Studio, click on the margin next to the line of code where you want to pause execution. A red dot appears, indicating a breakpoint.
  2. When the program reaches this line, it will pause, allowing you to inspect variables, view call stacks, and step through your code.

4. Inspecting Variables

While paused at a breakpoint, you can inspect the values of variables in your code:

  1. Hover over a variable in your code to see its current value.
  2. Use the Locals window in Visual Studio to view all variables in the current scope.

5. Stepping Through Code

You can step through your code line by line to understand how your program is executing:

  1. Use the “Step Over” (F10) command to execute the current line and move to the next.
  2. Use the “Step Into” (F11) command to dive into functions or methods for a more detailed view.

6. Watching Expressions

Add expressions or variables to the Watch window to monitor their values as your program executes.

7. Debugging Tips

  • Start Simple: Begin with a simple code to ensure your setup works.
  • Regularly Update Firmware: Keep your ESP32’s firmware up to date with the latest nanoFramework releases.
  • Use Serial Output: Utilize console logging to output debug information.
  • Keep an Eye on Memory Usage: Microcontrollers have limited memory. Monitor memory usage to avoid overflow and crashes.


Debugging C# code on an ESP32 with nanoFramework in Visual Studio is a powerful way to develop robust IoT applications.

By leveraging the debugging tools available in Visual Studio, you can efficiently identify and fix issues in your code, leading to more reliable and effective IoT solutions.

With this guide, you’re well-equipped to tackle the challenges of debugging in the exciting world of IoT development with ESP32 and C#.


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.