Intel® System Debugger (ISD) 2017 for Apollo Lake (APL)

By Soflen Shih, Published: 08/26/2016, Last Updated: 08/26/2016


Intel® System Debugger (ISD) provides users with the capability to debug ME, BIOS, Windows kernel, VxWorks kernel on several kinds of target platforms (including CherryTrail, Haswell, Broxton, Skylake, Kaby Lake, Apollo Lake, Minnowboard, etc.). ISD has three major debugging tools: System Debug, System Trace, and WinDbg extension. System Debug is for BIOS source level debugging; System Trace integrates ME/BIOS/PCH messages plus timestamps showing them together; WinDbg extension can debug Windows kernel before debugging driver is ready. However, in the current design, ISD only supports the DbC cable as the probe for connecting a host PC and an Apollo Lake/Broxton platform. There are some different configurations against other platforms. That's why we especially have an article to elaborate how to use ISD for Apollo Lake.

p.s. The usage of ISD for Broxton is similar as Apollo Lake and Apollo Lake is Broxton's new version (also called Borxton-P), so we don't talk about Broxton here.


1. Preparation

1.1 Hardware Requirement

1.1.1 Probe - DbC

  • Ensure that both ends of the cable plug into a USB3-capable port (typically it have blue plastic guides)
  • Difference between DbC & the standard USB3 cable: standard USB3 Type A to Type A cables typically have the VBus signal wired which causes the target and host having 2 different power planes connected directly together and results in over-current conditions
  • Gen 1 DbC cable is a standard USB3 Type A to Type A cable but with VBUS and USB2 signals (D+/D-) removed. It can be ordered from:


1.1.2 BIOS configuration on  target Apollo Lake

Please use the BIOS which is based on Intel APL reference code v138.34 and later version.

Step 1. Choose Device Manager in BIOS setup menu


Step 2. Select System Setup


Step 3. Choose South Cluster Configuration


Step 4. Select Miscellaneous Configuration


Step 5. Enable the item: DCI enable (HDCIEN)


1.2 Host System Requirement

Intel® System Debugger (ISD) software runs on a host system and we recommend it has the following requirements and configuration at least:

  • 64-bit Windows (Windows 7*, 8.x, 10)
  • 64-bit Linux (Ubuntu 14, Fedora 22)
  • Any Intel i5 Processor, 2GHz or faster
  • 4GB of RAM or higher
  • HDD or SSD with at least 50GB free
  • USB 3.0 Super-speed port

1.3 Intel® System Debugger (ISD) Installation

Go to

Once you get a license no matter it's a 30-days evaluation license, academic license, or purchased license, you can go to Intel® Registration Center (IRC) to download the tool package. Then, you can choose on-line installation or downloading the whole package.


And you can see the content of the package before you start.

Follow the instructions showed during the installation, you can finish the installation in 30 mins and start using ISD.

2. How to Use Intel® System Debugger (ISD)

2.1 System Debugger (XDB)

Demo video: quickly evaluate System Debug - Link

  • Hardware Probe: Intel(R) DCI USB 3.x Debug Class (USB3 cable)
  • Target Platform: Apollo Lake Reference Board ((APL RB)


2.2 System Trace (TraceHub)

Demo video: quickly evaluate System Trace - Link


2.3 WinDbg Extension

Demo video: quickly evaluate WinDbg Extension - Link

Launch WinDbg Extension by clicking the shortcut in the start menu.
Select your target configuration. [0] x64 and [1] - c:\Intel\OpenIPC\Bin (these settings are for Apollo Lake and Broxton).
Then, type in commands:
  1. wdbg = itpkd.WindbgShell()
If the configuration is correct and the connection establishes correctly, you can see WinDbg GUI popping up

Product and Performance Information


Intel's compilers may or may not optimize to the same degree for non-Intel microprocessors for optimizations that are not unique to Intel microprocessors. These optimizations include SSE2, SSE3, and SSSE3 instruction sets and other optimizations. Intel does not guarantee the availability, functionality, or effectiveness of any optimization on microprocessors not manufactured by Intel. Microprocessor-dependent optimizations in this product are intended for use with Intel microprocessors. Certain optimizations not specific to Intel microarchitecture are reserved for Intel microprocessors. Please refer to the applicable product User and Reference Guides for more information regarding the specific instruction sets covered by this notice.

Notice revision #20110804