Next: , Previous: , Up: Python API   [Contents][Index] Instruction Disassembly In Python

GDB’s builtin disassembler can be extended, or even replaced, using the Python API. The disassembler related features are contained within the gdb.disassembler module:

class: gdb.disassembler.DisassembleInfo

Disassembly is driven by instances of this class. Each time GDB needs to disassemble an instruction, an instance of this class is created and passed to a registered disassembler. The disassembler is then responsible for disassembling an instruction and returning a result.

Instances of this type are usually created within GDB, however, it is possible to create a copy of an instance of this type, see the description of __init__ for more details.

This class has the following properties and methods:

Variable: DisassembleInfo.address

A read-only integer containing the address at which GDB wishes to disassemble a single instruction.

Variable: DisassembleInfo.architecture

The gdb.Architecture (see Architectures In Python) for which GDB is currently disassembling, this property is read-only.

Variable: DisassembleInfo.progspace

The gdb.Progspace (see Program Spaces In Python) for which GDB is currently disassembling, this property is read-only.

Function: DisassembleInfo.is_valid ()

Returns True if the DisassembleInfo object is valid, False if not. A DisassembleInfo object will become invalid once the disassembly call for which the DisassembleInfo was created, has returned. Calling other DisassembleInfo methods, or accessing DisassembleInfo properties, will raise a RuntimeError exception if it is invalid.

Function: DisassembleInfo.__init__ (info)

This can be used to create a new DisassembleInfo object that is a copy of info. The copy will have the same address, architecture, and progspace values as info, and will become invalid at the same time as info.

This method exists so that sub-classes of DisassembleInfo can be created, these sub-classes must be initialized as copies of an existing DisassembleInfo object, but sub-classes might choose to override the read_memory method, and so control what GDB sees when reading from memory (see builtin_disassemble).

Function: DisassembleInfo.read_memory (length, offset)

This method allows the disassembler to read the bytes of the instruction to be disassembled. The method reads length bytes, starting at offset from DisassembleInfo.address.

It is important that the disassembler read the instruction bytes using this method, rather than reading inferior memory directly, as in some cases GDB disassembles from an internal buffer rather than directly from inferior memory, calling this method handles this detail.

Returns a buffer object, which behaves much like an array or a string, just as Inferior.read_memory does (see Inferior.read_memory). The length of the returned buffer will always be exactly length.

If GDB is unable to read the required memory then a gdb.MemoryError exception is raised (see Exception Handling).

This method can be overridden by a sub-class in order to control what GDB sees when reading from memory (see builtin_disassemble). When overriding this method it is important to understand how builtin_disassemble makes use of this method.

While disassembling a single instruction there could be multiple calls to this method, and the same bytes might be read multiple times. Any single call might only read a subset of the total instruction bytes.

If an implementation of read_memory is unable to read the requested memory contents, for example, if there’s a request to read from an invalid memory address, then a gdb.MemoryError should be raised.

Raising a MemoryError inside read_memory does not automatically mean a MemoryError will be raised by builtin_disassemble. It is possible the GDB’s builtin disassembler is probing to see how many bytes are available. When read_memory raises the MemoryError the builtin disassembler might be able to perform a complete disassembly with the bytes it has available, in this case builtin_disassemble will not itself raise a MemoryError.

Any other exception type raised in read_memory will propagate back and be re-raised by builtin_disassemble.

Function: DisassembleInfo.text_part (style, string)

Create a new DisassemblerTextPart representing a piece of a disassembled instruction. string should be a non-empty string, and style should be an appropriate style constant (see Disassembler Style Constants).

Disassembler parts are used when creating a DisassemblerResult in order to represent the styling within an instruction (see DisassemblerResult Class).

Function: DisassembleInfo.address_part (address)

Create a new DisassemblerAddressPart. address is the value of the absolute address this part represents. A DisassemblerAddressPart is displayed as an absolute address and an associated symbol, the address and symbol are styled appropriately.

class: gdb.disassembler.Disassembler

This is a base class from which all user implemented disassemblers must inherit.

Function: Disassembler.__init__ (name)

The constructor takes name, a string, which should be a short name for this disassembler.

Function: Disassembler.__call__ (info)

The __call__ method must be overridden by sub-classes to perform disassembly. Calling __call__ on this base class will raise a NotImplementedError exception.

The info argument is an instance of DisassembleInfo, and describes the instruction that GDB wants disassembling.

If this function returns None, this indicates to GDB that this sub-class doesn’t wish to disassemble the requested instruction. GDB will then use its builtin disassembler to perform the disassembly.

Alternatively, this function can return a DisassemblerResult that represents the disassembled instruction, this type is described in more detail below.

The __call__ method can raise a gdb.MemoryError exception (see Exception Handling) to indicate to GDB that there was a problem accessing the required memory, this will then be displayed by GDB within the disassembler output.

Ideally, the only three outcomes from invoking __call__ would be a return of None, a successful disassembly returned in a DisassemblerResult, or a MemoryError indicating that there was a problem reading memory.

However, as an implementation of __call__ could fail due to other reasons, e.g. some external resource required to perform disassembly is temporarily unavailable, then, if __call__ raises a GdbError, the exception will be converted to a string and printed at the end of the disassembly output, the disassembly request will then stop.

Any other exception type raised by the __call__ method is considered an error in the user code, the exception will be printed to the error stream according to the set python print-stack setting (see set python print-stack).

class: gdb.disassembler.DisassemblerResult

This class represents the result of disassembling a single instruction. An instance of this class will be returned from builtin_disassemble (see builtin_disassemble), and an instance of this class should be returned from Disassembler.__call__ (see Disassembler Class) if an instruction was successfully disassembled.

It is not possible to sub-class the DisassemblerResult class.

The DisassemblerResult class has the following properties and methods:

Function: DisassemblerResult.__init__ (length, string, parts)

Initialize an instance of this class, length is the length of the disassembled instruction in bytes, which must be greater than zero.

Only one of string or parts should be used to initialize a new DisassemblerResult; the other one should be passed the value None. Alternatively, the arguments can be passed by name, and the unused argument can be ignored.

The string argument, if not None, is a non-empty string that represents the entire disassembled instruction. Building a result object using the string argument does not allow for any styling information to be included in the result. GDB will style the result as a single DisassemblerTextPart with STYLE_TEXT style (see Disassembler Styling Parts).

The parts argument, if not None, is a non-empty sequence of DisassemblerPart objects. Each part represents a small part of the disassembled instruction along with associated styling information. A result object built using parts can be displayed by GDB with full styling information (see set style disassembler enabled).

Variable: DisassemblerResult.length

A read-only property containing the length of the disassembled instruction in bytes, this will always be greater than zero.

Variable: DisassemblerResult.string

A read-only property containing a non-empty string representing the disassembled instruction. The string is a representation of the disassembled instruction without any styling information. To see how the instruction will be styled use the parts property.

If this instance was initialized using separate DisassemblerPart objects, the string property will still be valid. The string value is created by concatenating the DisassemblerPart.string values of each component part (see Disassembler Styling Parts).


A read-only property containing a non-empty sequence of DisassemblerPart objects. Each DisassemblerPart object contains a small part of the instruction along with information about how that part should be styled. GDB uses this information to create styled disassembler output (see set style disassembler enabled).

If this instance was initialized using a single string rather than with a sequence of DisassemblerPart objects, the parts property will still be valid. In this case the parts property will hold a sequence containing a single DisassemblerTextPart object, the string of which will represent the entire instruction, and the style of which will be STYLE_TEXT.

class: gdb.disassembler.DisassemblerPart

This is a parent class from which the different part sub-classes inherit. Only instances of the sub-classes detailed below will be returned by the Python API.

It is not possible to directly create instances of either this parent class, or any of the sub-classes listed below. Instances of the sub-classes listed below are created by calling builtin_disassemble (see builtin_disassemble) and are returned within the DisassemblerResult object, or can be created by calling the text_part and address_part methods on the DisassembleInfo class (see DisassembleInfo Class).

The DisassemblerPart class has a single property:

Variable: DisassemblerPart.string

A read-only property that contains a non-empty string representing this part of the disassembled instruction. The string within this property doesn’t include any styling information.

class: gdb.disassembler.DisassemblerTextPart

The DisassemblerTextPart class represents a piece of the disassembled instruction and the associated style for that piece. Instances of this class can’t be created directly, instead call DisassembleInfo.text_part to create a new instance of this class (see DisassembleInfo Class).

As well as the properties of its parent class, the DisassemblerTextPart has the following additional property:


A read-only property that contains one of the defined style constants. GDB will use this style when styling this part of the disassembled instruction (see Disassembler Style Constants).

class: gdb.disassembler.DisassemblerAddressPart

The DisassemblerAddressPart class represents an absolute address within a disassembled instruction. Using a DisassemblerAddressPart instead of a DisassemblerTextPart with STYLE_ADDRESS is preferred, GDB will display the address as both an absolute address, and will look up a suitable symbol to display next to the address. Using DisassemblerAddressPart also ensures that user settings such as set print max-symbolic-offset are respected.

Here is an example of an x86-64 instruction:

call   0x401136 <foo>

In this instruction the 0x401136 <foo> was generated from a single DisassemblerAddressPart. The 0x401136 will be styled with STYLE_ADDRESS, and foo will be styled with STYLE_SYMBOL. The < and > will be styled as STYLE_TEXT.

If the inclusion of the symbol name is not required then a DisassemblerTextPart with style STYLE_ADDRESS can be used instead.

Instances of this class can’t be created directly, instead call DisassembleInfo.address_part to create a new instance of this class (see DisassembleInfo Class).

As well as the properties of its parent class, the DisassemblerAddressPart has the following additional property:

Variable: DisassemblerAddressPart.address

A read-only property that contains the address passed to this object’s __init__ method.

The following table lists all of the disassembler styles that are available. GDB maps these style constants onto its style settings (see Output Styling). In some cases, several style constants produce the same style settings, and thus will produce the same visual effect on the screen. This could change in future releases of GDB, so care should be taken to select the correct style constant to ensure correct output styling in future releases of GDB.


This is the default style used by GDB when styling disassembler output. This style should be used for any parts of the instruction that don’t fit any of the other styles listed below. GDB styles text with this style using its default style.


This style is used for styling the primary instruction mnemonic, which usually appears at, or near, the start of the disassembled instruction string.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler mnemonic style setting.


This style is used for styling any sub-mnemonics within a disassembled instruction. A sub-mnemonic is any text within the instruction that controls the function of the instruction, but which is disjoint from the primary mnemonic (which will have styled STYLE_MNEMONIC).

As an example, consider this AArch64 instruction:

add	w16, w7, w1, lsl #1

The add is the primary instruction mnemonic, and would be given style STYLE_MNEMONIC, while lsl is the sub-mnemonic, and would be given the style STYLE_SUB_MNEMONIC.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler mnemonic style setting.


Sometimes a series of bytes doesn’t decode to a valid instruction. In this case the disassembler may choose to represent the result of disassembling using an assembler directive, for example:

.word	0x1234

In this case, the .word would be give the STYLE_ASSEMBLER_DIRECTIVE style. An assembler directive is similar to a mnemonic in many ways but is something that is not part of the architecture’s instruction set.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler mnemonic style setting.


This style is used for styling any text that represents a register name, or register number, within a disassembled instruction.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler register style setting.


This style is used for styling numerical values that represent absolute addresses within the disassembled instruction.

When creating a DisassemblerTextPart with this style, you should consider if a DisassemblerAddressPart would be more appropriate. See Disassembler Styling Parts for a description of what each part offers.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler address style setting.


This style is used for styling numerical values that represent offsets to addresses within the disassembled instruction. A value is considered an address offset when the instruction itself is going to access memory, and the value is being used to offset which address is accessed.

For example, an architecture might have an instruction that loads from memory using an address within a register. If that instruction also allowed for an immediate offset to be encoded into the instruction, this would be an address offset. Similarly, a branch instruction might jump to an address in a register plus an address offset that is encoded into the instruction.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler immediate style setting.


Use STYLE_IMMEDIATE for any numerical values within a disassembled instruction when those values are not addresses, address offsets, or register numbers (The styles STYLE_ADDRESS, STYLE_ADDRESS_OFFSET, or STYLE_REGISTER can be used in those cases).

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler immediate style setting.


This style is used for styling the textual name of a symbol that is included within a disassembled instruction. A symbol name is often included next to an absolute address within a disassembled instruction to make it easier for the user to understand what the address is referring too. For example:

call   0x401136 <foo>

Here foo is the name of a symbol, and should be given the STYLE_SYMBOL style.

Adding symbols next to absolute addresses like this is handled automatically by the DisassemblerAddressPart class (see Disassembler Styling Parts).

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler symbol style setting.


This style is used to start a line comment in the disassembly output. Unlike other styles, which only apply to the single DisassemblerTextPiece to which they are applied, the comment style is sticky, and overrides the style of any further pieces within this instruction.

This means that, after a STYLE_COMMENT_START piece has been seen, GDB will apply the comment style until the end of the line, ignoring the specific style within a piece.

GDB styles text with this style using the disassembler comment style setting.

The following functions are also contained in the gdb.disassembler module:

Function: register_disassembler (disassembler, architecture)

The disassembler must be a sub-class of gdb.disassembler.Disassembler or None.

The optional architecture is either a string, or the value None. If it is a string, then it should be the name of an architecture known to GDB, as returned either from (see, or from gdb.architecture_names (see gdb.architecture_names).

The disassembler will be installed for the architecture named by architecture, or if architecture is None, then disassembler will be installed as a global disassembler for use by all architectures.

GDB only records a single disassembler for each architecture, and a single global disassembler. Calling register_disassembler for an architecture, or for the global disassembler, will replace any existing disassembler registered for that architecture value. The previous disassembler is returned.

If disassembler is None then any disassembler currently registered for architecture is deregistered and returned.

When GDB is looking for a disassembler to use, GDB first looks for an architecture specific disassembler. If none has been registered then GDB looks for a global disassembler (one registered with architecture set to None). Only one disassembler is called to perform disassembly, so, if there is both an architecture specific disassembler, and a global disassembler registered, it is the architecture specific disassembler that will be used.

GDB tracks the architecture specific, and global disassemblers separately, so it doesn’t matter in which order disassemblers are created or registered; an architecture specific disassembler, if present, will always be used in preference to a global disassembler.

You can use the maint info python-disassemblers command (see maint info python-disassemblers) to see which disassemblers have been registered.

Function: builtin_disassemble (info)

This function calls back into GDB’s builtin disassembler to disassemble the instruction identified by info, an instance, or sub-class, of DisassembleInfo.

When the builtin disassembler needs to read memory the read_memory method on info will be called. By sub-classing DisassembleInfo and overriding the read_memory method, it is possible to intercept calls to read_memory from the builtin disassembler, and to modify the values returned.

It is important to understand that, even when DisassembleInfo.read_memory raises a gdb.MemoryError, it is the internal disassembler itself that reports the memory error to GDB. The reason for this is that the disassembler might probe memory to see if a byte is readable or not; if the byte can’t be read then the disassembler may choose not to report an error, but instead to disassemble the bytes that it does have available.

If the builtin disassembler is successful then an instance of DisassemblerResult is returned from builtin_disassemble, alternatively, if something goes wrong, an exception will be raised.

A MemoryError will be raised if builtin_disassemble is unable to read some memory that is required in order to perform disassembly correctly.

Any exception that is not a MemoryError, that is raised in a call to read_memory, will pass through builtin_disassemble, and be visible to the caller.

Finally, there are a few cases where GDB’s builtin disassembler can fail for reasons that are not covered by MemoryError. In these cases, a GdbError will be raised. The contents of the exception will be a string describing the problem the disassembler encountered.

Here is an example that registers a global disassembler. The new disassembler invokes the builtin disassembler, and then adds a comment, ## Comment, to each line of disassembly output:

class ExampleDisassembler(gdb.disassembler.Disassembler):
    def __init__(self):

    def __call__(self, info):
        result = gdb.disassembler.builtin_disassemble(info)
        length = result.length
        text = result.string + "\t## Comment"
        return gdb.disassembler.DisassemblerResult(length, text)


The following example creates a sub-class of DisassembleInfo in order to intercept the read_memory calls, within read_memory any bytes read from memory have the two 4-bit nibbles swapped around. This isn’t a very useful adjustment, but serves as an example.

class MyInfo(gdb.disassembler.DisassembleInfo):
    def __init__(self, info):

    def read_memory(self, length, offset):
        buffer = super().read_memory(length, offset)
        result = bytearray()
        for b in buffer:
            v = int.from_bytes(b, 'little')
            v = (v << 4) & 0xf0 | (v >> 4)
        return memoryview(result)

class NibbleSwapDisassembler(gdb.disassembler.Disassembler):
    def __init__(self):

    def __call__(self, info):
        info = MyInfo(info)
        return gdb.disassembler.builtin_disassemble(info)


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