This page details various ways to debug LLDB itself and other LLDB tools. If you want to know how to use LLDB in general, please refer to Tutorial.

As LLDB is generally split into 2 tools, lldb and lldb-server (debugserver on Mac OS), the techniques shown here will not always apply to both. With some knowledge of them all, you can mix and match as needed.

In this document we refer to the initial lldb as the “debugger” and the program being debugged as the “inferior”.

Building For Debugging#

To build LLDB with debugging information add the following to your CMake configuration:


Note that the lldb you will use to do the debugging does not itself need to have debug information.

Then build as you normally would according to Building.

If you are going to debug in a way that doesn’t need debug info (printf, strace, etc.) we recommend adding LLVM_ENABLE_ASSERTIONS=ON to Release build configurations. This will make LLDB fail earlier instead of continuing with invalid state (assertions are enabled by default for Debug builds).

Debugging lldb#

The simplest scenario is where we want to debug a local execution of lldb like this one:

./bin/lldb test_program

LLDB is like any other program, so you can use the same approach.

./bin/lldb -- ./bin/lldb /tmp/test.o

That’s it. At least, that’s the minimum. There’s nothing special about LLDB being a debugger that means you can’t attach another debugger to it like any other program.

What can be an issue is that both debuggers have command line interfaces which makes it very confusing which one is which:

(the debugger)
(lldb) run
Process 1741640 launched: '<...>/bin/lldb' (aarch64)
Process 1741640 stopped and restarted: thread 1 received signal: SIGCHLD

(the inferior)
(lldb) target create "/tmp/test.o"
Current executable set to '/tmp/test.o' (aarch64).

Another issue is that when you resume the inferior, it will not print the (lldb) prompt because as far as it knows it hasn’t changed state. A quick way around that is to type something that is clearly not a command and hit enter.

(lldb) Process 1742266 stopped and restarted: thread 1 received signal: SIGCHLD
Process 1742266 stopped
* thread #1, name = 'lldb', stop reason = signal SIGSTOP
    frame #0: 0x0000ffffed5bfbf0`__GI___libc_read at read.c:26:10
(lldb) c
Process 1742266 resuming
error: 'notacommand' is not a valid command.

You could just remember whether you are in the debugger or the inferior but it’s more for you to remember, and for interrupt based events you simply may not be able to know.

Here are some better approaches. First, you could use another debugger like GDB to debug LLDB. Perhaps an IDE like Xcode or Visual Studio Code. Something which runs LLDB under the hood so you don’t have to type in commands to the debugger yourself.

Or you could change the prompt text for the debugger and/or inferior.

$ ./bin/lldb -o "settings set prompt \"(lldb debugger) \"" -- \
  ./bin/lldb -o "settings set prompt \"(lldb inferior) \"" /tmp/test.o
(lldb) settings set prompt "(lldb debugger) "
(lldb debugger) run
(lldb) settings set prompt "(lldb inferior) "
(lldb inferior)

If you want spacial separation you can run the inferior in one terminal then attach to it in another. Remember that while paused in the debugger, the inferior will not respond to input so you will have to continue in the debugger first.

(in terminal A)
$ ./bin/lldb /tmp/test.o

(in terminal B)
$ ./bin/lldb ./bin/lldb --attach-pid $(pidof lldb)

Placing Breakpoints#

Generally you will want to hit some breakpoint in the inferior lldb. To place that breakpoint you must first stop the inferior.

If you’re debugging from another window this is done with process interrupt. The inferior will stop, you place the breakpoint and then continue. Go back to the inferior and input the command that should trigger the breakpoint.

If you are running debugger and inferior in the same window, input ctrl+c instead of process interrupt and then folllow the rest of the steps.

If you are doing this with lldb-server and find your breakpoint is never hit, check that you are breaking in code that is actually run by lldb-server. There are cases where code only used by lldb ends up linked into lldb-server, so the debugger can break there but the breakpoint will never be hit.

Debugging lldb-server#

Note: If you are on MacOS you are likely using debugserver instead of lldb-server. The spirit of these instructions applies but the specifics will be different.

We suggest you read Remote Debugging before attempting to debug lldb-server as working out exactly what you want to debug requires that you understand its various modes and behaviour. While you may not be literally debugging on a remote target, think of your host machine as the “remote” in this scenario.

The lldb-server options for your situation will depend on what part of it or mode you are interested in. To work out what those are, recreate the scenario first without any extra debugging layers. Let’s say we want to debug lldb-server during the following command:

$ ./bin/lldb /tmp/test.o

We can treat lldb-server as we treated lldb before, running it under lldb. The equivalent to having lldb launch the lldb-server for us is to start lldb-server in the gdbserver mode.

The following commands recreate that, while debugging lldb-server:

$ ./bin/lldb -- ./bin/lldb-server gdbserver :1234 /tmp/test.o
(lldb) target create "./bin/lldb-server"
Current executable set to '<...>/bin/lldb-server' (aarch64).
Process 1742485 launched: '<...>/bin/lldb-server' (aarch64)
Launched '/tmp/test.o' as process 1742586...

(in another terminal)
$ ./bin/lldb /tmp/test.o -o "gdb-remote 1234"

Note that the first lldb is the one debugging lldb-server. The second lldb is debugging /tmp/test.o and is only used to trigger the interesting code path in lldb-server.

This is another case where you may want to layout your terminals in a predictable way, or change the prompt of one or both copies of lldb.

If you are debugging a scenario where the lldb-server starts in platform mode, but you want to debug the gdbserver mode you’ll have to work out what subprocess it’s starting for the gdbserver part. One way is to look at the list of runninng processes and take the command line from there.

In theory it should be possible to use LLDB’s target.process.follow-fork-mode or GDB’s follow-fork-mode to automatically debug the gdbserver process as it’s created. However this author has not been able to get either to work in this scenario so we suggest making a more specific command wherever possible instead.

Another option is to let lldb-server start up, then attach to the process that’s interesting to you. It’s less automated and won’t work if the bug occurs during startup. However it is a good way to know you’ve found the right one, then you can take its command line and run that directly.

Output From lldb-server#

As lldb-server often launches subprocesses, output messages may be hidden if they are emitted from the child processes.

You can tell it to enable logging using the --log-channels option. For example --log-channels "posix ptrace". However that is not passed on to the child processes.

The same goes for printf. If it’s called in a child process you won’t see the output.

In these cases consider interactive debugging lldb-server or working out a more specific command such that it does not have to spawn a subprocess. For example if you start with platform mode, work out what gdbserver mode process it spawns and run that command instead.

Another option if you have strace available is to trace the whole process tree and inspect the logs after the session has ended.

$ strace -ff -o log -p $(pidof lldb-server)

This will log all syscalls made by lldb-server and processes that it forks. -ff tells strace to trace child processes and write the results to a separate file for each process, named using the prefix given by -o.

Search the log files for specific terms to find the process you’re interested in. For example, to find a process that acted as a gdbserver instance:

$ grep "gdbserver" log.*
log.<N>:execve("<...>/lldb-server", [<...> "gdbserver", <...>) = 0

Remote Debugging#

If you want to debug part of LLDB running on a remote machine, the principals are the same but we will have to start debug servers, then attach debuggers to those servers.

In the example below we’re debugging an lldb-server gdbserver mode command running on a remote machine.

For simplicity we’ll use the same lldb-server as the debug server and the inferior, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You can use gdbserver (as in, GDB’s debug server program) or a system installed lldb-server if you suspect your local copy is not stable. As is the case in many of these scenarios.

$ <...>/bin/lldb-server gdbserver -- \
  <...>/bin/lldb-server gdbserver -- /tmp/test.o

Now we have a debug server listening on port 54322 of our remote ( means it’s listening for external connections). This is where we will connect lldb to, to debug the second lldb-server.

To trigger behaviour in the second lldb-server, we will connect a second lldb to port 54321 of the remote.

This is the final configuration:

Host                                        | Remote
lldb A debugs lldb-server on port 54322 ->  | lldb-server A
                                            |  (which runs)
lldb B debugs /tmp/test.o on port 54321 ->  |    lldb-server B
                                            |      (which runs)
                                            |        /tmp/test.o

You would use lldb A to place a breakpoint in the code you’re interested in, then lldb B to trigger lldb-server B to go into that code and hit the breakpoint. lldb-server A is only here to let us debug lldb-server B remotely.

Debugging The Remote Protocol#

LLDB mostly follows the GDB Remote Protocol . Where there are differences it tries to handle both LLDB and GDB behaviour.

LLDB does have extensions to the protocol which are documented in lldb-gdb-remote.txt and lldb/docs/lldb-platform-packets.txt.

Logging Packets#

If you just want to observe packets, you can enable the gdb-remote packets log channel.

(lldb) log enable gdb-remote packets
(lldb) run
lldb             <   1> send packet: +
lldb             history[1] tid=0x264bfd <   1> send packet: +
lldb             <  19> send packet: $QStartNoAckMode#b0
lldb             <   1> read packet: +

You can do this on the lldb-server end as well by passing the option --log-channels "gdb-remote packets". Then you’ll see both sides of the connection.

Some packets may be printed in a nicer way than others. For example XML packets will print the literal XML, some binary packets may be decoded. Others will just be printed unmodified. So do check what format you expect, a common one is hex encoded bytes.

You can enable this logging even when you are connecting to an lldb-server in platform mode, this protocol is used for that too.

Debugging Packet Exchanges#

Say you want to make lldb send a packet to lldb-server, then debug how the latter builds its response. Maybe even see how lldb handles it once it’s sent back.

That all takes time, so LLDB will likely time out and think the remote has gone away. You can change the plugin.process.gdb-remote.packet-timeout setting to prevent this.

Here’s an example, first we’ll start an lldb-server being debugged by lldb. Placing a breakpoint on a packet handler we know will be hit once another lldb connects.

$ lldb -- lldb-server gdbserver :1234 -- /tmp/test.o
(lldb) b GDBRemoteCommunicationServerCommon::Handle_qSupported
Breakpoint 1: where = <...>
(lldb) run

Next we connect another lldb to this, with a timeout of 5 minutes:

$ lldb /tmp/test.o
(lldb) settings set plugin.process.gdb-remote.packet-timeout 300
(lldb) gdb-remote 1234

Doing so triggers the breakpoint in lldb-server, bringing us back into lldb. Now we’ve got 5 minutes to do whatever we need before LLDB decides the connection has failed.

* thread #1, name = 'lldb-server', stop reason = breakpoint 1.1
    frame #0: 0x0000aaaaaacc6848 lldb-server<...>
->  0xaaaaaacc6848 <+0>:  sub    sp, sp, #0xc0

Once you’re done simply continue the lldb-server. Back in the other lldb, the connection process will continue as normal.

Process 2510266 stopped
* thread #1, name = 'test.o', stop reason = signal SIGSTOP
    frame #0: 0x0000fffff7fcd100`_start`_start:
->  0xfffff7fcd100 <+0>: mov    x0, sp

Reducing Bugs#

This section covers reducing a bug that happens in LLDB itself, or where you suspect that LLDB causes something else to behave abnormally.

Since bugs vary wildly, the advice here is general and incomplete. Let your instincts guide you and don’t feel the need to try everything before reporting an issue or asking for help. This is simply inspiration.


The first step is to reduce uneeded compexity where it is cheap to do so. If something is easily removed or frozen to a cerain value, do so. The goal is to keep the failure mode the same, with fewer dependencies.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Removing test cases that don’t crash.

  • Replacing dynamic lookups with constant values.

  • Replace supporting functions with stubs that do nothing.

  • Moving the test case to less unqiue system. If your machine has an exotic extension, try it on a readily available commodity machine.

  • Removing irrelevant parts of the test program.

  • Reproducing the issue without using the LLDB test runner.

  • Converting a remote debuging scenario into a local one.

Now we hopefully have a smaller reproducer than we started with. Next we need to find out what components of the software stack might be failing.

Some examples are listed below with suggestions for how to investigate them.

  • Debugger

    • Use a released version of LLDB.

    • If on MacOS, try the system lldb.

    • Try GDB or any other system debugger you might have e.g. Microsoft Visual Studio.

  • Kernel

    • Start a virtual machine running a different version. qemu-system is useful here.

    • Try a different physical system running a different version.

    • Remember that for most kernels, userspace crashing the kernel is always a kernel bug. Even if the userspace program is doing something unconventional. So it could be a bug in the application and the kernel.

  • Compiler and compiler options

    • Try other versions of the same compiler or your system compiler.

    • Emit older versions of DWARF info, particularly DWARFv4 to v5, some tools did/do not understand the new constructs.

    • Reduce optimisation options as much as possible.

    • Try all the language modes e.g. C++17/20 for C++.

    • Link against LLVM’s libcxx if you suspect a bug involving the system C++ library.

    • For languages other than C/C++ e.g. Rust, try making an equivalent program in C/C++. LLDB tends to try to fit other languages into a C/C++ mould, so porting the program can make triage and reporting much easier.

  • Operating system

    • Use docker to try various versions of Linux.

    • Use qemu-system to emulate other operating systems e.g. FreeBSD.

  • Architecture

    • Use QEMU user space emulation to quickly test other architectures. Note that lldb-server cannot be used with this as the ptrace APIs are not emulated.

    • If you need to test a big endian system use QEMU to emulate s390x (user space emulation for just lldb, qemu-system for testing lldb-server).


When using QEMU you may need to use the built in GDB stub, instead of lldb-server. For example if you wanted to debug lldb running inside qemu-user-s390x you would connect to the GDB stub provided by QEMU.

The same applies if you want to see how lldb would debug a test program that is running on s390x. It’s not totally accurate because you’re not using lldb-server, but this is fine for features that are mostly implemented in lldb.

If you are running a full system using qemu-system, you likely want to connect to the lldb-server running within the userspace of that system.

If your test program is bare metal (meaning it requires no supporting operating system) then connect to the built in GDB stub. This can be useful when testing embedded systems or kernel debugging.

Debugging Tests#

See Testing.