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BackgroundService Gotcha: Silent Failures

I know last time I talked about BackgroundService… I don’t want to make this a series or anything, but there is another common “gotcha” when it comes to BackgroundService: exceptions are silently ignored.

If the ExecuteAsync implementation throws an exception, that exception is silently swallowed and ignored. This is because BackgroundService captures the task from ExecuteAsync but never awaits it - i.e., BackgroundService uses fire-and-forget.

Problem Description

This problem will surface as BackgroundService instances just stopping, without any indication of a problem. What actually happens if ExecuteAsync throws an exception is that the exception is captured and placed on the Task that was returned from ExecuteAsync. The problem is that BackgroundService doesn’t observe that task, so there’s no logging and no process crash - the BackgroundService has completed executing but it just sits there doing nothing.

This is not necessarily a problem with BackgroundService; fire-and-forget can be appropriate for “top-level” loops such as a background worker task. However, it would be nice to have logging at least, so this “gotcha” is detectable.

Solution

All top-level loops should have a try/catch with some kind of reporting if something goes wrong. ExecuteAsync implementations are top-level loops, so they should have a top-level try that catches all exceptions:

public class MyBackgroundService : BackgroundService
{
    private readonly ILogger<MyBackgroundService> _logger;
    public MyBackgroundService(ILogger<MyBackgroundService> logger) => _logger = logger;

    protected override Task ExecuteAsync(CancellationToken stoppingToken)
    {
        try
        {
            // Implementation
        }
        catch (Exception ex) when False(() => _logger.LogCritical(ex, "Fatal error"))
        {
            throw;
        }
    }

    private static bool False(Action action) { action(); return false; }
}

I recommend you combine this solution with the solution from last time that uses Task.Run to avoid startup problems:

public class MyBackgroundService : BackgroundService
{
    private readonly ILogger<MyBackgroundService> _logger;
    public MyBackgroundService(ILogger<MyBackgroundService> logger) => _logger = logger;

    protected override Task ExecuteAsync(CancellationToken stoppingToken) => Task.Run(async () =>
    {
        try
        {
            // Implementation
        }
        catch (Exception ex) when False(() => _logger.LogCritical(ex, "Fatal error"))
        {
            throw;
        }
    });

    private static bool False(Action action) { action(); return false; }
}