Testing LLDB using QEMU#

QEMU system mode emulation#

QEMU can be used to test LLDB in an emulation environment in the absence of actual hardware. This page describes instructions to help setup a QEMU emulation environment for testing LLDB.

The scripts under llvm-project/lldb/scripts/lldb-test-qemu can quickly help setup a virtual LLDB testing environment using QEMU. The scripts currently work with Arm or AArch64, but support for other architectures can be added easily.

  • setup.sh is used to build the Linux kernel image and QEMU system emulation executable(s) from source.

  • rootfs.sh is used to generate Ubuntu root file system images to be used for QEMU system mode emulation.

  • run-qemu.sh utilizes QEMU to boot a Linux kernel image with a root file system image.

Once we have booted our kernel we can run lldb-server in emulation environment. Ubuntu Bionic/Focal x86_64 host was used to test these scripts instructions in this document. Please update it according to your host distribution/architecture.


Instructions on this page and QEMU helper scripts are verified on a Ubuntu Bionic/Focal (x86_64) host. Moreover, scripts require sudo/root permissions for installing dependencies and setting up QEMU host/guest network.

Given below are some examples of common use-cases of LLDB QEMU testing helper scripts:

Create Ubuntu root file system image for QEMU system emulation with rootfs.sh#

Example: generate Ubuntu Bionic (armhf) rootfs image of size 1 GB

$ bash rootfs.sh --arch armhf --distro bionic --size 1G

Example: generate Ubuntu Focal (arm64) rootfs image of size 2 GB

$ bash rootfs.sh --arch arm64 --distro focal --size 2G

rootfs.sh has been tested for generating Ubuntu Bionic and Focal images but they can be used to generate rootfs images of other Debian Linux distribution.

rootfs.sh defaults username of generated image to your current username on host computer.

Build QEMU or cross compile Linux kernel from source using setup.sh#

Example: Build QEMU binaries and Arm/AArch64 Linux kernel image

$ bash setup.sh --qemu --kernel arm
$ bash setup.sh --qemu --kernel arm64

Example: Build Linux kernel image only

$ bash setup.sh --kernel arm
$ bash setup.sh --kernel arm64

Example: Build qemu-system-arm and qemu-system-aarch64 binaries.

$ bash setup.sh --qemu

Example: Remove qemu.git, linux.git and linux.build from working directory

$ bash setup.sh --clean

Run QEMU Arm or AArch64 system emulation using run-qemu.sh#

run-qemu.sh has following dependencies:

  • Follow https://wiki.qemu.org/Documentation/Networking/NAT and set up bridge networking for QEMU.

  • Make sure /etc/qemu-ifup script is available with executable permissions.

  • QEMU binaries must be built from source using setup.sh or provided via –qemu commandline argument.

  • Linux kernel image must be built from source using setup.sh or provided via –kernel commandline argument.

  • linux.build and qemu.git folder must be present in current directory if setup.sh was used to build Linux kernel and QEMU binaries.

  • –sve option will enable AArch64 SVE mode.

  • –sme option will enable AArch64 SME mode (SME requires SVE, so this will also be enabled).

  • –mte option will enable AArch64 MTE (memory tagging) mode (can be used on its own or in addition to –sve).

Example: Run QEMU Arm or AArch64 system emulation using run-qemu.sh

$ sudo bash run-qemu.sh --arch arm --rootfs <path of rootfs image>
$ sudo bash run-qemu.sh --arch arm64 --rootfs <path of rootfs image>

Example: Run QEMU with kernel image and qemu binary provided using commandline

$ sudo bash run-qemu.sh --arch arm64 --rootfs <path of rootfs image> \
--kernel <path of Linux kernel image> --qemu <path of QEMU binary>

Steps for running lldb-server in QEMU system emulation environment#

Using Bridge Networking#

  • Make sure bridge networking is enabled between host machine and QEMU VM

  • Find out ip address assigned to eth0 in emulation environment

  • Setup ssh access between host machine and emulation environment

  • Login emulation environment and install dependencies

$ sudo apt install python-dev libedit-dev libncurses5-dev libexpat1-dev
  • Cross compile LLDB server for AArch64 Linux: Please visit https://lldb.llvm.org/resources/build.html for instructions on how to cross compile LLDB server.

  • Transfer LLDB server executable to emulation environment

$ scp lldb-server username@ip-address-of-emulation-environment:/home/username
  • Run lldb-server inside QEMU VM

  • Try connecting to lldb-server running inside QEMU VM with selected ip:port

Without Bridge Networking#

Without bridge networking you will have to forward individual ports from the VM to the host (refer to QEMU’s manuals for the specific options).

  • At least one to connect to the intial lldb-server.

  • One more if you want to use lldb-server in platform mode, and have it start a gdbserver instance for you.

  • A bunch more if you want to run tests against the lldb-server platform.

If you are doing either of the latter 2 you should also restrict what ports lldb-server tries to use, otherwise it will randomly pick one that is almost certainly not forwarded. An example of this is shown below.

$ lldb-server plaform --server --listen \
  --min-gdbserver-port 49140 --max-gdbserver-port 49150

The result of this is that:

  • lldb-server platform mode listens externally on port 54321.

  • When it is asked to start a new gdbserver mode instance, it will use a port in the range 49140 to 49150.

Your VM configuration should have ports 54321, and 49140 to 49150 forwarded for this to work.


These options are used to create a “port map” within lldb-server. Unfortunately this map is not cleaned up on Windows on connection close, and across a few uses you may run out of valid ports. To work around this, restart the platform every so often, especially after running a set of tests. This is tracked here: https://github.com/llvm/llvm-project/issues/90923