I wanted to test out a neat little library I whipped up over the past week on a fresh image of Windows 7: no Visual Studio and no applications that contain dependencies for my library (which I am able to provide individually and independently of the application, if necessary). I wanted to find out exactly which assembly references were needed and where they needed to be placed.
Fusion Logging to the rescue! Fusion is the .NET runtime's "assembly finder", and is responsible for finding the assemblies that your application needs to run, whether they are in the application executable's folder, an appropriately-named subfolder, the GAC, or wherever. Fusion is essentially "silent" by default but with a few tools and registry tweaks you can force it to be very vocal when it's looking for assemblies.
The first stop for most developers should the Fusion Log Viewer, fuslogvw.exe. This is installed with the .NET SDK and you can find it easily on Win7 by typing "fusion" into the Start menu. All the log viewer does is provide a nice friendly interface over a few registry switches and folder locations where the logs are dumped to.
If you don't have the SDK installed, like I didn't on my fresh Win7 image, you can twiddle some bits in the registry to manually enable logging, redirect the logs to a location that's easier to find, and then manually investigate the logs yourself. Junfeng Zhang's blog post here has a great overview of the different registry values you can set to control logging.
One setting Junfeng does not mention is the HKLM/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Fusion!EnableLog DWORD registry value. Junfeng says: "By default, the log is kept in memory, and is included in FileNotFoundException (If you read FileNotFoundException's document, you will find it has a member called “FusionLog“, surprise!)". However, if the EnableLog registry value isn't present and an assembly load fails, the FusionLog property will only contain a message that says you need to set EnableLog to 1 to see the load failure information. If you set EnableLog in the registry to 1, no log information will be written to disk, but the FusionLog property will show you what you want to see. A handy feature of FileNotFoundException is that if it is thrown due to an assembly loading failure, the message in the FusionLog property is included in the exception message.
Flipping some or all of the aforementioned registry bits might be a good idea on a test or developer machine to help debug loading problems.