Process Record and Replay

Process record and replay is a gdb feature first appearing in the gdb 7.0 release (September 2009).

For supported architectures and OS/ABIs, this feature allows the user to record the execution of a program being debugged by gdb, and then "play back" the recorded execution, deterministicly and repeatedly if desired.

Process record and replay also supports gdb's reverse debugging commands, so that during replay it is possible to debug the program backward as well as forward.

GDB Reverse Debug and Process Record Target.pdf is a slide that show the internals of process record.

Process record and replay now has a tutorial.

Supported Targets

Process record and replay is currently supported for the following gdb targets:

How it works

Process record and replay works by logging the execution of each machine instruction in the child process (the program being debugged), together with each corresponding change in machine state (the values of memory and registers). By successively "undoing" each change in machine state, in reverse order, it is possible to revert the state of the program to an arbitrary point earlier in the execution. Then, by "redoing" the changes in the original order, the program state can be moved forward again.

User commands

The following gdb commands are defined for process record / replay:

Start process record/replay (ie. start recording the subsequent execution of the child process). You must start debugging the program (with the "run" command) before using this command to start recording. You can start recording at any point after the child process has been started (eg. at a breakpoint).

Stop process record/replay (ie. cease recording the program execution), and discard any existing execution log. The child process is not terminated, and you may continue to debug it normally.

Discard the existing execution log, and begin recording a new log.

Set the maximum number of instruction executions that will be recorded (ie. the size of the process record log buffer). Zero means unlimited. Default is 200,000.

Controls the behavior when the buffer becomes full. If "on", gdb will stop and ask the user what to do. If "off", the buffer acts as a circular buffer, deleting the oldest records to make room for new ones. Default is "on".

Show various statistics about the state of process record and its in-memory execution log buffer.


To run the gdb reverse-debugging tests with process record and replay, you need a board description file "precord.exp", which should look like this:

# Testing programs using process record/replay (precord)
load_base_board_description "unix"
set_board_info gdb,can_reverse 1
set_board_info gdb,use_precord 1

And put "precord.exp" to the "baseboards" directory of dejagnu (/usr/share/dejagnu/baseboards).

Then the "make check" command will look like this:

make check RUNTESTFLAGS="--target_board precord (test file or files)"

For example: make check RUNTESTFLAGS="--target_board=precord break-reverse.exp consecutive-reverse.exp"

At the time of this writing, the reverse debugging tests include:

Patch list







Check Linux sys_brk release memory in process record and replay

Hui Zhu


This patch will make linux-record can check if the sys_brk will release the memory or not. If memory will be released, gdb will query to user.

Process record skip

Hui Zhu


It let prec record some functions of inferior as one instruction (record the memory and reg that will be change in this function).

i386 Rewrite the codes for opcode 0x0f01 and add more instructions support

Jiang Jilin


Jilin is waiting license paper

i386 Save CS segment register for ljmp instruction

Jiang Jilin


Need a testsuite

multi-thread support

Hui Zhu


Need a testsuite

Fix gcore core file load lib error

Hui Zhu

Patch need more works This is the introduce for this bug, and this bug just reproduce in amd64 ubuntu 9.0.4 and i386 ubuntu 9.0.4 that's gcc is 4.3.3. glibc is 2.9. In amd64 gcc 4.1.2 glibc 2.5 and i386 gcc 4.2.4 glibc 2.7, it cannot be reproduced.

x86 segment register support

Hui Zhu


Controversial in the interface design

make prec can save the execution log to a pic file

Hui Zhu

Not sure

record_arch_list_add_mem add check for len

Hui Zhu

It for a other feature. But this feature is ...


replay bookmarks

Michael Snyder


Fix hw watchpoints in process record

Pedro Alves Michael Snyder


It need patch after patch replay bookmarks


Paawan Oza


Testsuites for it is checked in too


Hui Zhu


Prec x86 MMX 3DNow! SSE SSE2 SSE3 SSSE3 SSE4 support

Hui Zhu


Add optional sequence number to record log filename

Michael Snyder

Replace by eval command patch

Eval command patch

Hui Zhu


Add support of software single step to process record

Hui Zhu


It still need test with sbp arch prec code

To Do List

See the more extensive WishList here.

  1. Improve performance (speed and memory usage).
  2. Add support for more processor architectures (mips, arm etc.)
  3. Add support for more os/abis (currently only linux is supported).
  4. Improve support for memory free (sys_brk).
    • "Check Linux sys_brk release memory in process record and replay" patch for it.
  5. Improve support for multi-thread and multi-process record/replay.
    • "multi-thread support" patch for it.
  6. Add more test cases to the testsuite.
  7. Improve documentation. The following is a quote from Eli Zaretskii, the gdb docs maintainer:
    • What I think is still missing from the manual is a few sentences that would explain when this target is useful. Can you provide such warstories? I will then add them to the manual. No, I mean description of when this target is useful in real life, and how you will use it. In other words, put yourself in a place of someone who reads the manual about the record/replay target and asks him/herself "why should I care about this new feature?" Then try to answer that question. And try to answer it so that the reader will wonder how could she ever get by without this feature before. There is a contribution from Marc Khouzam at


None: ProcessRecord (last edited 2013-06-17 17:33:39 by TomTromey)

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