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Examining Data

The usual way to examine data in your program is with the print command (abbreviated p), or its synonym inspect. It evaluates and prints the value of an expression of the language your program is written in (see section Using GDB with Different Languages).

print expr
print /f expr
expr is an expression (in the source language). By default the value of expr is printed in a format appropriate to its data type; you can choose a different format by specifying `/f', where f is a letter specifying the format; see section Output formats.
print /f
If you omit expr, GDB displays the last value again (from the value history; see section Value history). This allows you to conveniently inspect the same value in an alternative format.

A more low-level way of examining data is with the x command. It examines data in memory at a specified address and prints it in a specified format. See section Examining memory.

If you are interested in information about types, or about how the fields of a struct or a class are declared, use the ptype exp command rather than print. See section Examining the Symbol Table.


print and many other GDB commands accept an expression and compute its value. Any kind of constant, variable or operator defined by the programming language you are using is valid in an expression in GDB. This includes conditional expressions, function calls, casts, and string constants. It also includes preprocessor macros, if you compiled your program to include this information; see section Compiling for debugging.

GDB supports array constants in expressions input by the user. The syntax is {element, element...}. For example, you can use the command print {1, 2, 3} to build up an array in memory that is malloced in the target program.

Because C is so widespread, most of the expressions shown in examples in this manual are in C. See section Using GDB with Different Languages, for information on how to use expressions in other languages.

In this section, we discuss operators that you can use in GDB expressions regardless of your programming language.

Casts are supported in all languages, not just in C, because it is so useful to cast a number into a pointer in order to examine a structure at that address in memory.

GDB supports these operators, in addition to those common to programming languages:

`@' is a binary operator for treating parts of memory as arrays. See section Artificial arrays, for more information.
`::' allows you to specify a variable in terms of the file or function where it is defined. See section Program variables.
{type} addr
Refers to an object of type type stored at address addr in memory. addr may be any expression whose value is an integer or pointer (but parentheses are required around binary operators, just as in a cast). This construct is allowed regardless of what kind of data is normally supposed to reside at addr.

Program variables

The most common kind of expression to use is the name of a variable in your program.

Variables in expressions are understood in the selected stack frame (see section Selecting a frame); they must be either:


This means that in the function

foo (a)
     int a;
  bar (a);
    int b = test ();
    bar (b);

you can examine and use the variable a whenever your program is executing within the function foo, but you can only use or examine the variable b while your program is executing inside the block where b is declared.

There is an exception: you can refer to a variable or function whose scope is a single source file even if the current execution point is not in this file. But it is possible to have more than one such variable or function with the same name (in different source files). If that happens, referring to that name has unpredictable effects. If you wish, you can specify a static variable in a particular function or file, using the colon-colon (::) notation:


Here file or function is the name of the context for the static variable. In the case of file names, you can use quotes to make sure GDB parses the file name as a single word--for example, to print a global value of x defined in `f2.c':

(gdb) p 'f2.c'::x

This use of `::' is very rarely in conflict with the very similar use of the same notation in C++. GDB also supports use of the C++ scope resolution operator in GDB expressions.

Warning: Occasionally, a local variable may appear to have the wrong value at certain points in a function--just after entry to a new scope, and just before exit.

You may see this problem when you are stepping by machine instructions. This is because, on most machines, it takes more than one instruction to set up a stack frame (including local variable definitions); if you are stepping by machine instructions, variables may appear to have the wrong values until the stack frame is completely built. On exit, it usually also takes more than one machine instruction to destroy a stack frame; after you begin stepping through that group of instructions, local variable definitions may be gone.

This may also happen when the compiler does significant optimizations. To be sure of always seeing accurate values, turn off all optimization when compiling.

Another possible effect of compiler optimizations is to optimize unused variables out of existence, or assign variables to registers (as opposed to memory addresses). Depending on the support for such cases offered by the debug info format used by the compiler, GDB might not be able to display values for such local variables. If that happens, GDB will print a message like this:

No symbol "foo" in current context.

To solve such problems, either recompile without optimizations, or use a different debug info format, if the compiler supports several such formats. For example, GCC, the GNU C/C++ compiler, usually supports the @option{-gstabs+} option. @option{-gstabs+} produces debug info in a format that is superior to formats such as COFF. You may be able to use DWARF 2 (@option{-gdwarf-2}), which is also an effective form for debug info. See section `Options for Debugging Your Program or GNU CC' in Using GNU CC.

See section C and C++, for more info about debug info formats that are best suited to C++ programs.

Artificial arrays

It is often useful to print out several successive objects of the same type in memory; a section of an array, or an array of dynamically determined size for which only a pointer exists in the program.

You can do this by referring to a contiguous span of memory as an artificial array, using the binary operator `@'. The left operand of `@' should be the first element of the desired array and be an individual object. The right operand should be the desired length of the array. The result is an array value whose elements are all of the type of the left argument. The first element is actually the left argument; the second element comes from bytes of memory immediately following those that hold the first element, and so on. Here is an example. If a program says

int *array = (int *) malloc (len * sizeof (int));

you can print the contents of array with

p *array@len

The left operand of `@' must reside in memory. Array values made with `@' in this way behave just like other arrays in terms of subscripting, and are coerced to pointers when used in expressions. Artificial arrays most often appear in expressions via the value history (see section Value history), after printing one out.

Another way to create an artificial array is to use a cast. This re-interprets a value as if it were an array. The value need not be in memory:

(gdb) p/x (short[2])0x12345678
$1 = {0x1234, 0x5678}

As a convenience, if you leave the array length out (as in `(type[])value') GDB calculates the size to fill the value (as `sizeof(value)/sizeof(type)':

(gdb) p/x (short[])0x12345678
$2 = {0x1234, 0x5678}

Sometimes the artificial array mechanism is not quite enough; in moderately complex data structures, the elements of interest may not actually be adjacent--for example, if you are interested in the values of pointers in an array. One useful work-around in this situation is to use a convenience variable (see section Convenience variables) as a counter in an expression that prints the first interesting value, and then repeat that expression via RET. For instance, suppose you have an array dtab of pointers to structures, and you are interested in the values of a field fv in each structure. Here is an example of what you might type:

set $i = 0
p dtab[$i++]->fv

Output formats

By default, GDB prints a value according to its data type. Sometimes this is not what you want. For example, you might want to print a number in hex, or a pointer in decimal. Or you might want to view data in memory at a certain address as a character string or as an instruction. To do these things, specify an output format when you print a value.

The simplest use of output formats is to say how to print a value already computed. This is done by starting the arguments of the print command with a slash and a format letter. The format letters supported are:

Regard the bits of the value as an integer, and print the integer in hexadecimal.
Print as integer in signed decimal.
Print as integer in unsigned decimal.
Print as integer in octal.
Print as integer in binary. The letter `t' stands for "two". (4)
Print as an address, both absolute in hexadecimal and as an offset from the nearest preceding symbol. You can use this format used to discover where (in what function) an unknown address is located:
(gdb) p/a 0x54320
$3 = 0x54320 <_initialize_vx+396>
The command info symbol 0x54320 yields similar results. See section Examining the Symbol Table.
Regard as an integer and print it as a character constant. This prints both the numerical value and its character representation. The character representation is replaced with the octal escape `\nnn' for characters outside the 7-bit ASCII range.
Regard the bits of the value as a floating point number and print using typical floating point syntax.

For example, to print the program counter in hex (see section Registers), type

p/x $pc

Note that no space is required before the slash; this is because command names in GDB cannot contain a slash.

To reprint the last value in the value history with a different format, you can use the print command with just a format and no expression. For example, `p/x' reprints the last value in hex.

Examining memory

You can use the command x (for "examine") to examine memory in any of several formats, independently of your program's data types.

x/nfu addr
x addr
Use the x command to examine memory.

n, f, and u are all optional parameters that specify how much memory to display and how to format it; addr is an expression giving the address where you want to start displaying memory. If you use defaults for nfu, you need not type the slash `/'. Several commands set convenient defaults for addr.

n, the repeat count
The repeat count is a decimal integer; the default is 1. It specifies how much memory (counting by units u) to display.
f, the display format
The display format is one of the formats used by print (`x', `d', `u', `o', `t', `a', `c', `f'), and in addition `s' (for null-terminated strings) and `i' (for machine instructions). The default is `x' (hexadecimal) initially. The default changes each time you use either x or print.
u, the unit size
The unit size is any of
Halfwords (two bytes).
Words (four bytes). This is the initial default.
Giant words (eight bytes).
Each time you specify a unit size with x, that size becomes the default unit the next time you use x. (For the `s' and `i' formats, the unit size is ignored and is normally not written.)
addr, starting display address
addr is the address where you want GDB to begin displaying memory. The expression need not have a pointer value (though it may); it is always interpreted as an integer address of a byte of memory. See section Expressions, for more information on expressions. The default for addr is usually just after the last address examined--but several other commands also set the default address: info breakpoints (to the address of the last breakpoint listed), info line (to the starting address of a line), and print (if you use it to display a value from memory).

For example, `x/3uh 0x54320' is a request to display three halfwords (h) of memory, formatted as unsigned decimal integers (`u'), starting at address 0x54320. `x/4xw $sp' prints the four words (`w') of memory above the stack pointer (here, `$sp'; see section Registers) in hexadecimal (`x').

Since the letters indicating unit sizes are all distinct from the letters specifying output formats, you do not have to remember whether unit size or format comes first; either order works. The output specifications `4xw' and `4wx' mean exactly the same thing. (However, the count n must come first; `wx4' does not work.)

Even though the unit size u is ignored for the formats `s' and `i', you might still want to use a count n; for example, `3i' specifies that you want to see three machine instructions, including any operands. The command disassemble gives an alternative way of inspecting machine instructions; see section Source and machine code.

All the defaults for the arguments to x are designed to make it easy to continue scanning memory with minimal specifications each time you use x. For example, after you have inspected three machine instructions with `x/3i addr', you can inspect the next seven with just `x/7'. If you use RET to repeat the x command, the repeat count n is used again; the other arguments default as for successive uses of x.

The addresses and contents printed by the x command are not saved in the value history because there is often too much of them and they would get in the way. Instead, GDB makes these values available for subsequent use in expressions as values of the convenience variables $_ and $__. After an x command, the last address examined is available for use in expressions in the convenience variable $_. The contents of that address, as examined, are available in the convenience variable $__.

If the x command has a repeat count, the address and contents saved are from the last memory unit printed; this is not the same as the last address printed if several units were printed on the last line of output.

When you are debugging a program running on a remote target machine (see section Remote debugging), you may wish to verify the program's image in the remote machine's memory against the executable file you downloaded to the target. The compare-sections command is provided for such situations.

compare-sections [section-name]
Compare the data of a loadable section section-name in the executable file of the program being debugged with the same section in the remote machine's memory, and report any mismatches. With no arguments, compares all loadable sections. This command's availability depends on the target's support for the "qCRC" remote request.

Automatic display

If you find that you want to print the value of an expression frequently (to see how it changes), you might want to add it to the automatic display list so that GDB prints its value each time your program stops. Each expression added to the list is given a number to identify it; to remove an expression from the list, you specify that number. The automatic display looks like this:

2: foo = 38
3: bar[5] = (struct hack *) 0x3804

This display shows item numbers, expressions and their current values. As with displays you request manually using x or print, you can specify the output format you prefer; in fact, display decides whether to use print or x depending on how elaborate your format specification is--it uses x if you specify a unit size, or one of the two formats (`i' and `s') that are only supported by x; otherwise it uses print.

display expr
Add the expression expr to the list of expressions to display each time your program stops. See section Expressions. display does not repeat if you press RET again after using it.
display/fmt expr
For fmt specifying only a display format and not a size or count, add the expression expr to the auto-display list but arrange to display it each time in the specified format fmt. See section Output formats.
display/fmt addr
For fmt `i' or `s', or including a unit-size or a number of units, add the expression addr as a memory address to be examined each time your program stops. Examining means in effect doing `x/fmt addr'. See section Examining memory.

For example, `display/i $pc' can be helpful, to see the machine instruction about to be executed each time execution stops (`$pc' is a common name for the program counter; see section Registers).

undisplay dnums...
delete display dnums...
Remove item numbers dnums from the list of expressions to display. undisplay does not repeat if you press RET after using it. (Otherwise you would just get the error `No display number ...'.)
disable display dnums...
Disable the display of item numbers dnums. A disabled display item is not printed automatically, but is not forgotten. It may be enabled again later.
enable display dnums...
Enable display of item numbers dnums. It becomes effective once again in auto display of its expression, until you specify otherwise.
Display the current values of the expressions on the list, just as is done when your program stops.
info display
Print the list of expressions previously set up to display automatically, each one with its item number, but without showing the values. This includes disabled expressions, which are marked as such. It also includes expressions which would not be displayed right now because they refer to automatic variables not currently available.

If a display expression refers to local variables, then it does not make sense outside the lexical context for which it was set up. Such an expression is disabled when execution enters a context where one of its variables is not defined. For example, if you give the command display last_char while inside a function with an argument last_char, GDB displays this argument while your program continues to stop inside that function. When it stops elsewhere--where there is no variable last_char---the display is disabled automatically. The next time your program stops where last_char is meaningful, you can enable the display expression once again.

Print settings

GDB provides the following ways to control how arrays, structures, and symbols are printed.

These settings are useful for debugging programs in any language:

set print address
set print address on
GDB prints memory addresses showing the location of stack traces, structure values, pointer values, breakpoints, and so forth, even when it also displays the contents of those addresses. The default is on. For example, this is what a stack frame display looks like with set print address on:
(gdb) f
#0  set_quotes (lq=0x34c78 "<<", rq=0x34c88 ">>")
    at input.c:530
530         if (lquote != def_lquote)
set print address off
Do not print addresses when displaying their contents. For example, this is the same stack frame displayed with set print address off:
(gdb) set print addr off
(gdb) f
#0  set_quotes (lq="<<", rq=">>") at input.c:530
530         if (lquote != def_lquote)
You can use `set print address off' to eliminate all machine dependent displays from the GDB interface. For example, with print address off, you should get the same text for backtraces on all machines--whether or not they involve pointer arguments.
show print address
Show whether or not addresses are to be printed.

When GDB prints a symbolic address, it normally prints the closest earlier symbol plus an offset. If that symbol does not uniquely identify the address (for example, it is a name whose scope is a single source file), you may need to clarify. One way to do this is with info line, for example `info line *0x4537'. Alternately, you can set GDB to print the source file and line number when it prints a symbolic address:

set print symbol-filename on
Tell GDB to print the source file name and line number of a symbol in the symbolic form of an address.
set print symbol-filename off
Do not print source file name and line number of a symbol. This is the default.
show print symbol-filename
Show whether or not GDB will print the source file name and line number of a symbol in the symbolic form of an address.

Another situation where it is helpful to show symbol filenames and line numbers is when disassembling code; GDB shows you the line number and source file that corresponds to each instruction.

Also, you may wish to see the symbolic form only if the address being printed is reasonably close to the closest earlier symbol:

set print max-symbolic-offset max-offset
Tell GDB to only display the symbolic form of an address if the offset between the closest earlier symbol and the address is less than max-offset. The default is 0, which tells GDB to always print the symbolic form of an address if any symbol precedes it.
show print max-symbolic-offset
Ask how large the maximum offset is that GDB prints in a symbolic address.

If you have a pointer and you are not sure where it points, try `set print symbol-filename on'. Then you can determine the name and source file location of the variable where it points, using `p/a pointer'. This interprets the address in symbolic form. For example, here GDB shows that a variable ptt points at another variable t, defined in `hi2.c':

(gdb) set print symbol-filename on
(gdb) p/a ptt
$4 = 0xe008 <t in hi2.c>

Warning: For pointers that point to a local variable, `p/a' does not show the symbol name and filename of the referent, even with the appropriate set print options turned on.

Other settings control how different kinds of objects are printed:

set print array
set print array on
Pretty print arrays. This format is more convenient to read, but uses more space. The default is off.
set print array off
Return to compressed format for arrays.
show print array
Show whether compressed or pretty format is selected for displaying arrays.
set print elements number-of-elements
Set a limit on how many elements of an array GDB will print. If GDB is printing a large array, it stops printing after it has printed the number of elements set by the set print elements command. This limit also applies to the display of strings. When GDB starts, this limit is set to 200. Setting number-of-elements to zero means that the printing is unlimited.
show print elements
Display the number of elements of a large array that GDB will print. If the number is 0, then the printing is unlimited.
set print repeats
Set the threshold for suppressing display of repeated array elelments. When the number of consecutive identical elements of an array exceeds the threshold, GDB prints the string "<repeats n times>", where n is the number of identical repetitions, instead of displaying the identical elements themselves. Setting the threshold to zero will cause all elements to be individually printed. The default threshold is 10.
show print repeats
Display the current threshold for printing repeated identical elements.
set print null-stop
Cause GDB to stop printing the characters of an array when the first NULL is encountered. This is useful when large arrays actually contain only short strings. The default is off.
show print null-stop
Show whether GDB stops printing an array on the first NULL character.
set print pretty on
Cause GDB to print structures in an indented format with one member per line, like this:
$1 = {
  next = 0x0,
  flags = {
    sweet = 1,
    sour = 1
  meat = 0x54 "Pork"
set print pretty off
Cause GDB to print structures in a compact format, like this:
$1 = {next = 0x0, flags = {sweet = 1, sour = 1}, \
meat = 0x54 "Pork"}
This is the default format.
show print pretty
Show which format GDB is using to print structures.
set print sevenbit-strings on
Print using only seven-bit characters; if this option is set, GDB displays any eight-bit characters (in strings or character values) using the notation \nnn. This setting is best if you are working in English (ASCII) and you use the high-order bit of characters as a marker or "meta" bit.
set print sevenbit-strings off
Print full eight-bit characters. This allows the use of more international character sets, and is the default.
show print sevenbit-strings
Show whether or not GDB is printing only seven-bit characters.
set print union on
Tell GDB to print unions which are contained in structures and other unions. This is the default setting.
set print union off
Tell GDB not to print unions which are contained in structures and other unions. GDB will print "{...}" instead.
show print union
Ask GDB whether or not it will print unions which are contained in structures and other unions. For example, given the declarations
typedef enum {Tree, Bug} Species;
typedef enum {Big_tree, Acorn, Seedling} Tree_forms;
typedef enum {Caterpillar, Cocoon, Butterfly}

struct thing {
  Species it;
  union {
    Tree_forms tree;
    Bug_forms bug;
  } form;

struct thing foo = {Tree, {Acorn}};
with set print union on in effect `p foo' would print
$1 = {it = Tree, form = {tree = Acorn, bug = Cocoon}}
and with set print union off in effect it would print
$1 = {it = Tree, form = {...}}
set print union affects programs written in C-like languages and in Pascal.

These settings are of interest when debugging C++ programs:

set print demangle
set print demangle on
Print C++ names in their source form rather than in the encoded ("mangled") form passed to the assembler and linker for type-safe linkage. The default is on.
show print demangle
Show whether C++ names are printed in mangled or demangled form.
set print asm-demangle
set print asm-demangle on
Print C++ names in their source form rather than their mangled form, even in assembler code printouts such as instruction disassemblies. The default is off.
show print asm-demangle
Show whether C++ names in assembly listings are printed in mangled or demangled form.
set demangle-style style
Choose among several encoding schemes used by different compilers to represent C++ names. The choices for style are currently:
Allow GDB to choose a decoding style by inspecting your program.
Decode based on the GNU C++ compiler (g++) encoding algorithm. This is the default.
Decode based on the HP ANSI C++ (aCC) encoding algorithm.
Decode based on the Lucid C++ compiler (lcc) encoding algorithm.
Decode using the algorithm in the C++ Annotated Reference Manual. Warning: this setting alone is not sufficient to allow debugging cfront-generated executables. GDB would require further enhancement to permit that.
If you omit style, you will see a list of possible formats.
show demangle-style
Display the encoding style currently in use for decoding C++ symbols.
set print object
set print object on
When displaying a pointer to an object, identify the actual (derived) type of the object rather than the declared type, using the virtual function table.
set print object off
Display only the declared type of objects, without reference to the virtual function table. This is the default setting.
show print object
Show whether actual, or declared, object types are displayed.
set print static-members
set print static-members on
Print static members when displaying a C++ object. The default is on.
set print static-members off
Do not print static members when displaying a C++ object.
show print static-members
Show whether C++ static members are printed or not.
set print pascal_static-members
set print pascal_static-members on
Print static members when displaying a Pascal object. The default is on.
set print pascal_static-members off
Do not print static members when displaying a Pascal object.
show print pascal_static-members
Show whether Pascal static members are printed or not.
set print vtbl
set print vtbl on
Pretty print C++ virtual function tables. The default is off. (The vtbl commands do not work on programs compiled with the HP ANSI C++ compiler (aCC).)
set print vtbl off
Do not pretty print C++ virtual function tables.
show print vtbl
Show whether C++ virtual function tables are pretty printed, or not.

Value history

Values printed by the print command are saved in the GDB value history. This allows you to refer to them in other expressions. Values are kept until the symbol table is re-read or discarded (for example with the file or symbol-file commands). When the symbol table changes, the value history is discarded, since the values may contain pointers back to the types defined in the symbol table.

The values printed are given history numbers by which you can refer to them. These are successive integers starting with one. print shows you the history number assigned to a value by printing `$num = ' before the value; here num is the history number.

To refer to any previous value, use `$' followed by the value's history number. The way print labels its output is designed to remind you of this. Just $ refers to the most recent value in the history, and $$ refers to the value before that. $$n refers to the nth value from the end; $$2 is the value just prior to $$, $$1 is equivalent to $$, and $$0 is equivalent to $.

For example, suppose you have just printed a pointer to a structure and want to see the contents of the structure. It suffices to type

p *$

If you have a chain of structures where the component next points to the next one, you can print the contents of the next one with this:

p *$.next

You can print successive links in the chain by repeating this command--which you can do by just typing RET.

Note that the history records values, not expressions. If the value of x is 4 and you type these commands:

print x
set x=5

then the value recorded in the value history by the print command remains 4 even though the value of x has changed.

show values
Print the last ten values in the value history, with their item numbers. This is like `p $$9' repeated ten times, except that show values does not change the history.
show values n
Print ten history values centered on history item number n.
show values +
Print ten history values just after the values last printed. If no more values are available, show values + produces no display.

Pressing RET to repeat show values n has exactly the same effect as `show values +'.

Convenience variables

GDB provides convenience variables that you can use within GDB to hold on to a value and refer to it later. These variables exist entirely within GDB; they are not part of your program, and setting a convenience variable has no direct effect on further execution of your program. That is why you can use them freely.

Convenience variables are prefixed with `$'. Any name preceded by `$' can be used for a convenience variable, unless it is one of the predefined machine-specific register names (see section Registers). (Value history references, in contrast, are numbers preceded by `$'. See section Value history.)

You can save a value in a convenience variable with an assignment expression, just as you would set a variable in your program. For example:

set $foo = *object_ptr

would save in $foo the value contained in the object pointed to by object_ptr.

Using a convenience variable for the first time creates it, but its value is void until you assign a new value. You can alter the value with another assignment at any time.

Convenience variables have no fixed types. You can assign a convenience variable any type of value, including structures and arrays, even if that variable already has a value of a different type. The convenience variable, when used as an expression, has the type of its current value.

show convenience
Print a list of convenience variables used so far, and their values. Abbreviated show conv.

One of the ways to use a convenience variable is as a counter to be incremented or a pointer to be advanced. For example, to print a field from successive elements of an array of structures:

set $i = 0
print bar[$i++]->contents

Repeat that command by typing RET.

Some convenience variables are created automatically by GDB and given values likely to be useful.

The variable $_ is automatically set by the x command to the last address examined (see section Examining memory). Other commands which provide a default address for x to examine also set $_ to that address; these commands include info line and info breakpoint. The type of $_ is void * except when set by the x command, in which case it is a pointer to the type of $__.
The variable $__ is automatically set by the x command to the value found in the last address examined. Its type is chosen to match the format in which the data was printed.
The variable $_exitcode is automatically set to the exit code when the program being debugged terminates.

On HP-UX systems, if you refer to a function or variable name that begins with a dollar sign, GDB searches for a user or system name first, before it searches for a convenience variable.


You can refer to machine register contents, in expressions, as variables with names starting with `$'. The names of registers are different for each machine; use info registers to see the names used on your machine.

info registers
Print the names and values of all registers except floating-point and vector registers (in the selected stack frame).
info all-registers
Print the names and values of all registers, including floating-point and vector registers (in the selected stack frame).
info registers regname ...
Print the relativized value of each specified register regname. As discussed in detail below, register values are normally relative to the selected stack frame. regname may be any register name valid on the machine you are using, with or without the initial `$'.

GDB has four "standard" register names that are available (in expressions) on most machines--whenever they do not conflict with an architecture's canonical mnemonics for registers. The register names $pc and $sp are used for the program counter register and the stack pointer. $fp is used for a register that contains a pointer to the current stack frame, and $ps is used for a register that contains the processor status. For example, you could print the program counter in hex with

p/x $pc

or print the instruction to be executed next with

x/i $pc

or add four to the stack pointer(5) with

set $sp += 4

Whenever possible, these four standard register names are available on your machine even though the machine has different canonical mnemonics, so long as there is no conflict. The info registers command shows the canonical names. For example, on the SPARC, info registers displays the processor status register as $psr but you can also refer to it as $ps; and on x86-based machines $ps is an alias for the EFLAGS register.

GDB always considers the contents of an ordinary register as an integer when the register is examined in this way. Some machines have special registers which can hold nothing but floating point; these registers are considered to have floating point values. There is no way to refer to the contents of an ordinary register as floating point value (although you can print it as a floating point value with `print/f $regname').

Some registers have distinct "raw" and "virtual" data formats. This means that the data format in which the register contents are saved by the operating system is not the same one that your program normally sees. For example, the registers of the 68881 floating point coprocessor are always saved in "extended" (raw) format, but all C programs expect to work with "double" (virtual) format. In such cases, GDB normally works with the virtual format only (the format that makes sense for your program), but the info registers command prints the data in both formats.

Normally, register values are relative to the selected stack frame (see section Selecting a frame). This means that you get the value that the register would contain if all stack frames farther in were exited and their saved registers restored. In order to see the true contents of hardware registers, you must select the innermost frame (with `frame 0').

However, GDB must deduce where registers are saved, from the machine code generated by your compiler. If some registers are not saved, or if GDB is unable to locate the saved registers, the selected stack frame makes no difference.

Floating point hardware

Depending on the configuration, GDB may be able to give you more information about the status of the floating point hardware.

info float
Display hardware-dependent information about the floating point unit. The exact contents and layout vary depending on the floating point chip. Currently, `info float' is supported on the ARM and x86 machines.

Vector Unit

Depending on the configuration, GDB may be able to give you more information about the status of the vector unit.

info vector
Display information about the vector unit. The exact contents and layout vary depending on the hardware.

Operating system auxiliary information

GDB provides interfaces to useful OS facilities that can help you debug your program.

When GDB runs on a Posix system (such as GNU or Unix machines), it interfaces with the inferior via the ptrace system call. The operating system creates a special sata structure, called struct user, for this interface. You can use the command info udot to display the contents of this data structure.

info udot
Display the contents of the struct user maintained by the OS kernel for the program being debugged. GDB displays the contents of struct user as a list of hex numbers, similar to the examine command.

Some operating systems supply an auxiliary vector to programs at startup. This is akin to the arguments and environment that you specify for a program, but contains a system-dependent variety of binary values that tell system libraries important details about the hardware, operating system, and process. Each value's purpose is identified by an integer tag; the meanings are well-known but system-specific. Depending on the configuration and operating system facilities, GDB may be able to show you this information. For remote targets, this functionality may further depend on the remote stub's support of the `qPart:auxv:read' packet, see section Remote configuration.

info auxv
Display the auxiliary vector of the inferior, which can be either a live process or a core dump file. GDB prints each tag value numerically, and also shows names and text descriptions for recognized tags. Some values in the vector are numbers, some bit masks, and some pointers to strings or other data. GDB displays each value in the most appropriate form for a recognized tag, and in hexadecimal for an unrecognized tag.

Memory region attributes

Memory region attributes allow you to describe special handling required by regions of your target's memory. GDB uses attributes to determine whether to allow certain types of memory accesses; whether to use specific width accesses; and whether to cache target memory.

Defined memory regions can be individually enabled and disabled. When a memory region is disabled, GDB uses the default attributes when accessing memory in that region. Similarly, if no memory regions have been defined, GDB uses the default attributes when accessing all memory.

When a memory region is defined, it is given a number to identify it; to enable, disable, or remove a memory region, you specify that number.

mem lower upper attributes...
Define a memory region bounded by lower and upper with attributes attributes..., and add it to the list of regions monitored by GDB. Note that upper == 0 is a special case: it is treated as the the target's maximum memory address. (0xffff on 16 bit targets, 0xffffffff on 32 bit targets, etc.)
delete mem nums...
Remove memory regions nums... from the list of regions monitored by GDB.
disable mem nums...
Disable monitoring of memory regions nums.... A disabled memory region is not forgotten. It may be enabled again later.
enable mem nums...
Enable monitoring of memory regions nums....
info mem
Print a table of all defined memory regions, with the following columns for each region:
Memory Region Number
Enabled or Disabled.
Enabled memory regions are marked with `y'. Disabled memory regions are marked with `n'.
Lo Address
The address defining the inclusive lower bound of the memory region.
Hi Address
The address defining the exclusive upper bound of the memory region.
The list of attributes set for this memory region.


Memory Access Mode

The access mode attributes set whether GDB may make read or write accesses to a memory region.

While these attributes prevent GDB from performing invalid memory accesses, they do nothing to prevent the target system, I/O DMA, etc. from accessing memory.

Memory is read only.
Memory is write only.
Memory is read/write. This is the default.

Memory Access Size

The acccess size attributes tells GDB to use specific sized accesses in the memory region. Often memory mapped device registers require specific sized accesses. If no access size attribute is specified, GDB may use accesses of any size.

Use 8 bit memory accesses.
Use 16 bit memory accesses.
Use 32 bit memory accesses.
Use 64 bit memory accesses.

Data Cache

The data cache attributes set whether GDB will cache target memory. While this generally improves performance by reducing debug protocol overhead, it can lead to incorrect results because GDB does not know about volatile variables or memory mapped device registers.

Enable GDB to cache target memory.
Disable GDB from caching target memory. This is the default.

Copy between memory and a file

You can use the commands dump, append, and restore to copy data between target memory and a file. The dump and append commands write data to a file, and the restore command reads data from a file back into the inferior's memory. Files may be in binary, Motorola S-record, Intel hex, or Tektronix Hex format; however, GDB can only append to binary files.

dump [format] memory filename start_addr end_addr
dump [format] value filename expr
Dump the contents of memory from start_addr to end_addr, or the value of expr, to filename in the given format. The format parameter may be any one of:
Raw binary form.
Intel hex format.
Motorola S-record format.
Tektronix Hex format.
GDB uses the same definitions of these formats as the GNU binary utilities, like `objdump' and `objcopy'. If format is omitted, GDB dumps the data in raw binary form.
append [binary] memory filename start_addr end_addr
append [binary] value filename expr
Append the contents of memory from start_addr to end_addr, or the value of expr, to the file filename, in raw binary form. (GDB can only append data to files in raw binary form.)
restore filename [binary] bias start end
Restore the contents of file filename into memory. The restore command can automatically recognize any known BFD file format, except for raw binary. To restore a raw binary file you must specify the optional keyword binary after the filename. If bias is non-zero, its value will be added to the addresses contained in the file. Binary files always start at address zero, so they will be restored at address bias. Other bfd files have a built-in location; they will be restored at offset bias from that location. If start and/or end are non-zero, then only data between file offset start and file offset end will be restored. These offsets are relative to the addresses in the file, before the bias argument is applied.

How to Produce a Core File from Your Program

A core file or core dump is a file that records the memory image of a running process and its process status (register values etc.). Its primary use is post-mortem debugging of a program that crashed while it ran outside a debugger. A program that crashes automatically produces a core file, unless this feature is disabled by the user. See section Commands to specify files, for information on invoking GDB in the post-mortem debugging mode.

Occasionally, you may wish to produce a core file of the program you are debugging in order to preserve a snapshot of its state. GDB has a special command for that.

generate-core-file [file]
gcore [file]
Produce a core dump of the inferior process. The optional argument file specifies the file name where to put the core dump. If not specified, the file name defaults to `', where pid is the inferior process ID. Note that this command is implemented only for some systems (as of this writing, GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Unixware, and S390).

Character Sets

If the program you are debugging uses a different character set to represent characters and strings than the one GDB uses itself, GDB can automatically translate between the character sets for you. The character set GDB uses we call the host character set; the one the inferior program uses we call the target character set.

For example, if you are running GDB on a GNU/Linux system, which uses the ISO Latin 1 character set, but you are using GDB's remote protocol (see section Remote debugging) to debug a program running on an IBM mainframe, which uses the EBCDIC character set, then the host character set is Latin-1, and the target character set is EBCDIC. If you give GDB the command set target-charset EBCDIC-US, then GDB translates between EBCDIC and Latin 1 as you print character or string values, or use character and string literals in expressions.

GDB has no way to automatically recognize which character set the inferior program uses; you must tell it, using the set target-charset command, described below.

Here are the commands for controlling GDB's character set support:

set target-charset charset
Set the current target character set to charset. We list the character set names GDB recognizes below, but if you type set target-charset followed by TABTAB, GDB will list the target character sets it supports.
set host-charset charset
Set the current host character set to charset. By default, GDB uses a host character set appropriate to the system it is running on; you can override that default using the set host-charset command. GDB can only use certain character sets as its host character set. We list the character set names GDB recognizes below, and indicate which can be host character sets, but if you type set target-charset followed by TABTAB, GDB will list the host character sets it supports.
set charset charset
Set the current host and target character sets to charset. As above, if you type set charset followed by TABTAB, GDB will list the name of the character sets that can be used for both host and target.
show charset
Show the names of the current host and target charsets.
show host-charset
Show the name of the current host charset.
show target-charset
Show the name of the current target charset.

GDB currently includes support for the following character sets:

Seven-bit U.S. ASCII. GDB can use this as its host character set.
The ISO Latin 1 character set. This extends ASCII with accented characters needed for French, German, and Spanish. GDB can use this as its host character set.
Variants of the EBCDIC character set, used on some of IBM's mainframe operating systems. (GNU/Linux on the S/390 uses U.S. ASCII.) GDB cannot use these as its host character set.

Note that these are all single-byte character sets. More work inside GDB is needed to support multi-byte or variable-width character encodings, like the UTF-8 and UCS-2 encodings of Unicode.

Here is an example of GDB's character set support in action. Assume that the following source code has been placed in the file `charset-test.c':

#include <stdio.h>

char ascii_hello[]
  = {72, 101, 108, 108, 111, 44, 32, 119,
     111, 114, 108, 100, 33, 10, 0};
char ibm1047_hello[]
  = {200, 133, 147, 147, 150, 107, 64, 166,
     150, 153, 147, 132, 90, 37, 0};

main ()
  printf ("Hello, world!\n");

In this program, ascii_hello and ibm1047_hello are arrays containing the string `Hello, world!' followed by a newline, encoded in the ASCII and IBM1047 character sets.

We compile the program, and invoke the debugger on it:

$ gcc -g charset-test.c -o charset-test
$ gdb -nw charset-test
GNU gdb 2001-12-19-cvs
Copyright 2001 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

We can use the show charset command to see what character sets GDB is currently using to interpret and display characters and strings:

(gdb) show charset
The current host and target character set is `ISO-8859-1'.

For the sake of printing this manual, let's use ASCII as our initial character set:

(gdb) set charset ASCII
(gdb) show charset
The current host and target character set is `ASCII'.

Let's assume that ASCII is indeed the correct character set for our host system -- in other words, let's assume that if GDB prints characters using the ASCII character set, our terminal will display them properly. Since our current target character set is also ASCII, the contents of ascii_hello print legibly:

(gdb) print ascii_hello
$1 = 0x401698 "Hello, world!\n"
(gdb) print ascii_hello[0]
$2 = 72 'H'

GDB uses the target character set for character and string literals you use in expressions:

(gdb) print '+'
$3 = 43 '+'

The ASCII character set uses the number 43 to encode the `+' character.

GDB relies on the user to tell it which character set the target program uses. If we print ibm1047_hello while our target character set is still ASCII, we get jibberish:

(gdb) print ibm1047_hello
$4 = 0x4016a8 "\310\205\223\223\226k@\246\226\231\223\204Z%"
(gdb) print ibm1047_hello[0]
$5 = 200 '\310'

If we invoke the set target-charset followed by TABTAB, GDB tells us the character sets it supports:

(gdb) set target-charset
ASCII       EBCDIC-US   IBM1047     ISO-8859-1
(gdb) set target-charset

We can select IBM1047 as our target character set, and examine the program's strings again. Now the ASCII string is wrong, but GDB translates the contents of ibm1047_hello from the target character set, IBM1047, to the host character set, ASCII, and they display correctly:

(gdb) set target-charset IBM1047
(gdb) show charset
The current host character set is `ASCII'.
The current target character set is `IBM1047'.
(gdb) print ascii_hello
$6 = 0x401698 "\110\145%%?\054\040\167?\162%\144\041\012"
(gdb) print ascii_hello[0]
$7 = 72 '\110'
(gdb) print ibm1047_hello
$8 = 0x4016a8 "Hello, world!\n"
(gdb) print ibm1047_hello[0]
$9 = 200 'H'

As above, GDB uses the target character set for character and string literals you use in expressions:

(gdb) print '+'
$10 = 78 '+'

The IBM1047 character set uses the number 78 to encode the `+' character.

Caching Data of Remote Targets

GDB can cache data exchanged between the debugger and a remote target (see section Remote debugging). Such caching generally improves performance, because it reduces the overhead of the remote protocol by bundling memory reads and writes into large chunks. Unfortunately, GDB does not currently know anything about volatile registers, and thus data caching will produce incorrect results when volatile registers are in use.

set remotecache on
set remotecache off
Set caching state for remote targets. When ON, use data caching. By default, this option is OFF.
show remotecache
Show the current state of data caching for remote targets.
info dcache
Print the information about the data cache performance. The information displayed includes: the dcache width and depth; and for each cache line, how many times it was referenced, and its data and state (dirty, bad, ok, etc.). This command is useful for debugging the data cache operation.

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