The LLDB Debugger

Manual Symbolication with LLDB

LLDB is separated into a shared library that contains the core of the debugger, and a driver that implements debugging and a command interpreter. LLDB can be used to symbolicate your crash logs and can often provide more information than other symbolication programs:

  • Inlined functions
  • Variables that are in scope for an address, along with their locations

The simplest form of symbolication is to load an executable:

(lldb) target create --no-dependents --arch x86_64 /tmp/a.out

We use the "--no-dependents" flag with the "target create" command so that we don't load all of the dependent shared libraries from the current system. When we symbolicate, we are often symbolicating a binary that was running on another system, and even though the main executable might reference shared libraries in "/usr/lib", we often don't want to load the versions on the current computer.

Using the "image list" command will show us a list of all shared libraries associated with the current target. As expected, we currently only have a single binary:

(lldb) image list
[  0] 73431214-6B76-3489-9557-5075F03E36B4 0x0000000100000000 /tmp/a.out 

Now we can look up an address:

(lldb) image lookup --address 0x100000aa3
      Address: a.out[0x0000000100000aa3] (a.out.__TEXT.__text + 131)
      Summary: a.out`main + 67 at main.c:13

Since we haven't specified a slide or any load addresses for individual sections in the binary, the address that we use here is a file address. A file address refers to a virtual address as defined by each object file.

If we didn't use the "--no-dependents" option with "target create", we would have loaded all dependent shared libraries:

(lldb) image list
[  0] 73431214-6B76-3489-9557-5075F03E36B4 0x0000000100000000 /tmp/a.out 
[  1] 8CBCF9B9-EBB7-365E-A3FF-2F3850763C6B 0x0000000000000000 /usr/lib/system/libsystem_c.dylib 
[  2] 62AA0B84-188A-348B-8F9E-3E2DB08DB93C 0x0000000000000000 /usr/lib/system/libsystem_dnssd.dylib 
[  3] C0535565-35D1-31A7-A744-63D9F10F12A4 0x0000000000000000 /usr/lib/system/libsystem_kernel.dylib 

Now if we do a lookup using a file address, this can result in multiple matches since most shared libraries have a virtual address space that starts at zero:

(lldb) image lookup -a 0x1000
      Address: a.out[0x0000000000001000] (a.out.__PAGEZERO + 4096)

      Address: libsystem_c.dylib[0x0000000000001000] (libsystem_c.dylib.__TEXT.__text + 928)
      Summary: libsystem_c.dylib`mcount + 9

      Address: libsystem_dnssd.dylib[0x0000000000001000] (libsystem_dnssd.dylib.__TEXT.__text + 456)
      Summary: libsystem_dnssd.dylib`ConvertHeaderBytes + 38

      Address: libsystem_kernel.dylib[0x0000000000001000] (libsystem_kernel.dylib.__TEXT.__text + 1116)
      Summary: libsystem_kernel.dylib`clock_get_time + 102

To avoid getting multiple file address matches, you can specify the name of the shared library to limit the search:

(lldb) image lookup -a 0x1000 a.out
      Address: a.out[0x0000000000001000] (a.out.__PAGEZERO + 4096)

Defining Load Addresses for Sections

When symbolicating your crash logs, it can be tedious if you always have to adjust your crashlog-addresses into file addresses. To avoid having to do any conversion, you can set the load address for the sections of the modules in your target. Once you set any section load address, lookups will switch to using load addresses. You can slide all sections in the executable by the same amount, or set the load address for individual sections. The "target modules load --slide" command allows us to set the load address for all sections.

Below is an example of sliding all sections in a.out by adding 0x123000 to each section's file address:

(lldb) target create --no-dependents --arch x86_64 /tmp/a.out
(lldb) target modules load --file a.out --slide 0x123000

It is often much easier to specify the actual load location of each section by name. Crash logs on Mac OS X have a Binary Images section that specifies that address of the __TEXT segment for each binary. Specifying a slide requires requires that you first find the original (file) address for the __TEXT segment, and subtract the two values. If you specify the address of the __TEXT segment with "target modules load section address", you don't need to do any calculations. To specify the load addresses of sections we can specify one or more section name + address pairs in the "target modules load" command:

(lldb) target create --no-dependents --arch x86_64 /tmp/a.out
(lldb) target modules load --file a.out __TEXT 0x100123000

We specified that the __TEXT section is loaded at 0x100123000. Now that we have defined where sections have been loaded in our target, any lookups we do will now use load addresses so we don't have to do any math on the addresses in the crashlog backtraces, we can just use the raw addresses:

(lldb) image lookup --address 0x100123aa3
      Address: a.out[0x0000000100000aa3] (a.out.__TEXT.__text + 131)
      Summary: a.out`main + 67 at main.c:13

Loading Multiple Executables

You often have more than one executable involved when you need to symbolicate a crash log. When this happens, you create a target for the main executable or one of the shared libraries, then add more modules to the target using the "target modules add" command.

Lets say we have a Darwin crash log that contains the following images:

Binary Images:
    0x100000000 -    0x100000ff7 <A866975B-CA1E-3649-98D0-6C5FAA444ECF> /tmp/a.out
 0x7fff83f32000 - 0x7fff83ffefe7 <8CBCF9B9-EBB7-365E-A3FF-2F3850763C6B> /usr/lib/system/libsystem_c.dylib
 0x7fff883db000 - 0x7fff883e3ff7 <62AA0B84-188A-348B-8F9E-3E2DB08DB93C> /usr/lib/system/libsystem_dnssd.dylib
 0x7fff8c0dc000 - 0x7fff8c0f7ff7 <C0535565-35D1-31A7-A744-63D9F10F12A4> /usr/lib/system/libsystem_kernel.dylib

First we create the target using the main executable and then add any extra shared libraries we want:

(lldb) target create --no-dependents --arch x86_64 /tmp/a.out
(lldb) target modules add /usr/lib/system/libsystem_c.dylib
(lldb) target modules add /usr/lib/system/libsystem_dnssd.dylib
(lldb) target modules add /usr/lib/system/libsystem_kernel.dylib

If you have debug symbols in standalone files, such as dSYM files on Mac OS X, you can specify their paths using the --symfile option for the "target create" (recent LLDB releases only) and "target modules add" commands:

(lldb) target create --no-dependents --arch x86_64 /tmp/a.out --symfile /tmp/a.out.dSYM
(lldb) target modules add /usr/lib/system/libsystem_c.dylib --symfile /build/server/a/libsystem_c.dylib.dSYM
(lldb) target modules add /usr/lib/system/libsystem_dnssd.dylib --symfile /build/server/b/libsystem_dnssd.dylib.dSYM
(lldb) target modules add /usr/lib/system/libsystem_kernel.dylib --symfile /build/server/c/libsystem_kernel.dylib.dSYM

Then we set the load addresses for each __TEXT section (note the colors of the load addresses above and below) using the first address from the Binary Images section for each image:

(lldb) target modules load --file a.out 0x100000000
(lldb) target modules load --file libsystem_c.dylib 0x7fff83f32000
(lldb) target modules load --file libsystem_dnssd.dylib 0x7fff883db000
(lldb) target modules load --file libsystem_kernel.dylib 0x7fff8c0dc000

Now any stack backtraces that haven't been symbolicated can be symbolicated using "image lookup" with the raw backtrace addresses.

Given the following raw backtrace:

Thread 0 Crashed:: Dispatch queue:
0   libsystem_kernel.dylib        	0x00007fff8a1e6d46 __kill + 10
1   libsystem_c.dylib             	0x00007fff84597df0 abort + 177
2   libsystem_c.dylib             	0x00007fff84598e2a __assert_rtn + 146
3   a.out                         	0x0000000100000f46 main + 70
4   libdyld.dylib                 	0x00007fff8c4197e1 start + 1

We can now symbolicate the load addresses:

(lldb) image lookup -a 0x00007fff8a1e6d46
(lldb) image lookup -a 0x00007fff84597df0
(lldb) image lookup -a 0x00007fff84598e2a
(lldb) image lookup -a 0x0000000100000f46

Getting Variable Information

If you add the --verbose flag to the "image lookup --address" command, you can get verbose information which can often include the locations of some of your local variables:

>(lldb) image lookup --address 0x100123aa3 --verbose
      Address: a.out[0x0000000100000aa3] (a.out.__TEXT.__text + 110)
      Summary: a.out`main + 50 at main.c:13
       Module: file = "/tmp/a.out", arch = "x86_64"
  CompileUnit: id = {0x00000000}, file = "/tmp/main.c", language = "ISO C:1999"
     Function: id = {0x0000004f}, name = "main", range = [0x0000000100000bc0-0x0000000100000dc9)
     FuncType: id = {0x0000004f}, decl = main.c:9, compiler_type = "int (int, const char **, const char **, const char **)"
       Blocks: id = {0x0000004f}, range = [0x100000bc0-0x100000dc9)
               id = {0x000000ae}, range = [0x100000bf2-0x100000dc4)
    LineEntry: [0x0000000100000bf2-0x0000000100000bfa): /tmp/main.c:13:23
       Symbol: id = {0x00000004}, range = [0x0000000100000bc0-0x0000000100000dc9), name="main"
     Variable: id = {0x000000bf}, name = "path", type= "char [1024]", location = DW_OP_fbreg(-1072), decl = main.c:28
     Variable: id = {0x00000072}, name = "argc", type= "int", location = r13, decl = main.c:8
     Variable: id = {0x00000081}, name = "argv", type= "const char **", location = r12, decl = main.c:8
     Variable: id = {0x00000090}, name = "envp", type= "const char **", location = r15, decl = main.c:8
     Variable: id = {0x0000009f}, name = "aapl", type= "const char **", location = rbx, decl = main.c:8

The interesting part is the variables that are listed. The variables are the parameters and local variables that are in scope for the address that was specified. These variable entries have locations which are shown in bold above. Crash logs often have register information for the first frame in each stack, and being able to reconstruct one or more local variables can often help you decipher more information from a crash log than you normally would be able to. Note that this is really only useful for the first frame, and only if your crash logs have register information for your threads.

Using Python API to Symbolicate

All of the commands above can be done through the python script bridge. The code below will recreate the target and add the three shared libraries that we added in the darwin crash log example above:

triple = "x86_64-apple-macosx"
platform_name = None
add_dependents = False
target = lldb.debugger.CreateTarget("/tmp/a.out", triple, platform_name, add_dependents, lldb.SBError())
if target:
	# Get the executable module
	module = target.GetModuleAtIndex(0)
	target.SetSectionLoadAddress(module.FindSection("__TEXT"), 0x100000000)
	module = target.AddModule ("/usr/lib/system/libsystem_c.dylib", triple, None, "/build/server/a/libsystem_c.dylib.dSYM")
	target.SetSectionLoadAddress(module.FindSection("__TEXT"), 0x7fff83f32000)
	module = target.AddModule ("/usr/lib/system/libsystem_dnssd.dylib", triple, None, "/build/server/b/libsystem_dnssd.dylib.dSYM")
	target.SetSectionLoadAddress(module.FindSection("__TEXT"), 0x7fff883db000)
	module = target.AddModule ("/usr/lib/system/libsystem_kernel.dylib", triple, None, "/build/server/c/libsystem_kernel.dylib.dSYM")
	target.SetSectionLoadAddress(module.FindSection("__TEXT"), 0x7fff8c0dc000)

	load_addr = 0x00007fff8a1e6d46
	# so_addr is a section offset address, or a lldb.SBAddress object
	so_addr = target.ResolveLoadAddress (load_addr)
	# Get a symbol context for the section offset address which includes
	# a module, compile unit, function, block, line entry, and symbol
	sym_ctx = so_addr.GetSymbolContext (lldb.eSymbolContextEverything)
	print sym_ctx

Use Builtin Python module to Symbolicate

LLDB includes a module in the lldb package named lldb.utils.symbolication. This module contains a lot of symbolication functions that simplify the symbolication process by allowing you to create objects that represent symbolication class objects such as:

  • lldb.utils.symbolication.Address
  • lldb.utils.symbolication.Section
  • lldb.utils.symbolication.Image
  • lldb.utils.symbolication.Symbolicator


This class represents an address that will be symbolicated. It will cache any information that has been looked up: module, compile unit, function, block, line entry, symbol. It does this by having a lldb.SBSymbolContext as a member variable.


This class represents a section that might get loaded in a lldb.utils.symbolication.Image. It has helper functions that allow you to set it from text that might have been extracted from a crash log file.


This class represents a module that might get loaded into the target we use for symbolication. This class contains the executable path, optional symbol file path, the triple, and the list of sections that will need to be loaded if we choose the ask the target to load this image. Many of these objects will never be loaded into the target unless they are needed by symbolication. You often have a crash log that has 100 to 200 different shared libraries loaded, but your crash log stack backtraces only use a few of these shared libraries. Only the images that contain stack backtrace addresses need to be loaded in the target in order to symbolicate.

Subclasses of this class will want to override the locate_module_and_debug_symbols method:

class CustomImage(lldb.utils.symbolication.Image):
    def locate_module_and_debug_symbols (self):
        # Locate the module and symbol given the info found in the crash log

Overriding this function allows clients to find the correct executable module and symbol files as they might reside on a build server.


This class coordinates the symbolication process by loading only the lldb.utils.symbolication.Image instances that need to be loaded in order to symbolicate an supplied address.


lldb.macosx.crashlog is a package that is distributed on Mac OS X builds that subclasses the above classes. This module parses the information in the Darwin crash logs and creates symbolication objects that represent the images, the sections and the thread frames for the backtraces. It then uses the functions in the lldb.utils.symbolication to symbolicate the crash logs.

This module installs a new "crashlog" command into the lldb command interpreter so that you can use it to parse and symbolicate Mac OS X crash logs:

(lldb) command script import lldb.macosx.crashlog
"crashlog" and "save_crashlog" command installed, use the "--help" option for detailed help
(lldb) crashlog /tmp/crash.log

The command that is installed has built in help that shows the options that can be used when symbolicating:

(lldb) crashlog --help
Usage: crashlog [options]  [FILE ...]

Symbolicate one or more darwin crash log files to provide source file and line
information, inlined stack frames back to the concrete functions, and
disassemble the location of the crash for the first frame of the crashed
thread. If this script is imported into the LLDB command interpreter, a
"crashlog" command will be added to the interpreter for use at the LLDB
command line. After a crash log has been parsed and symbolicated, a target
will have been created that has all of the shared libraries loaded at the load
addresses found in the crash log file. This allows you to explore the program
as if it were stopped at the locations described in the crash log and
functions can  be disassembled and lookups can be performed using the
addresses found in the crash log.

  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -v, --verbose         display verbose debug info
  -g, --debug           display verbose debug logging
  -a, --load-all        load all executable images, not just the images found
                        in the crashed stack frames
  --images              show image list
  --debug-delay=NSEC    pause for NSEC seconds for debugger
  -c, --crashed-only    only symbolicate the crashed thread
                        set the depth in stack frames that should be
                        disassembled (default is 1)
  -D, --disasm-all      enabled disassembly of frames on all threads (not just
                        the crashed thread)
                        the number of instructions to disassemble before the
                        frame PC
                        the number of instructions to disassemble after the
                        frame PC
  -C NLINES, --source-context=NLINES
                        show NLINES source lines of source context (default =
                        show source for NFRAMES (default = 4)
  --source-all          show source for all threads, not just the crashed
  -i, --interactive     parse all crash logs and enter interactive mode

The source for the "symbolication" and "crashlog" modules are available in SVN: