You can use a watchpoint to stop execution whenever the value of an expression changes, without having to predict a particular place where this may happen.
Depending on your system, watchpoints may be implemented in software or hardware. GDB does software watchpointing by single-stepping your program and testing the variable's value each time, which is hundreds of times slower than normal execution. (But this may still be worth it, to catch errors where you have no clue what part of your program is the culprit.)
On some systems, such as HP-UX, Linux and some other x86-based targets, GDB includes support for hardware watchpoints, which do not slow down the running of your program.
GDB sets a hardware watchpoint if possible. Hardware watchpoints execute very quickly, and the debugger reports a change in value at the exact instruction where the change occurs. If GDB cannot set a hardware watchpoint, it sets a software watchpoint, which executes more slowly and reports the change in value at the next statement, not the instruction, after the change occurs.
When you issue the
watch command, GDB reports
Hardware watchpoint num: expr
if it was able to set a hardware watchpoint.
rwatch commands can only set
hardware watchpoints, because accesses to data that don't change the
value of the watched expression cannot be detected without examining
every instruction as it is being executed, and GDB does not do
that currently. If GDB finds that it is unable to set a
hardware breakpoint with the
rwatch command, it
will print a message like this:
Expression cannot be implemented with read/access watchpoint.
Sometimes, GDB cannot set a hardware watchpoint because the data type of the watched expression is wider than what a hardware watchpoint on the target machine can handle. For example, some systems can only watch regions that are up to 4 bytes wide; on such systems you cannot set hardware watchpoints for an expression that yields a double-precision floating-point number (which is typically 8 bytes wide). As a work-around, it might be possible to break the large region into a series of smaller ones and watch them with separate watchpoints.
If you set too many hardware watchpoints, GDB might be unable to insert all of them when you resume the execution of your program. Since the precise number of active watchpoints is unknown until such time as the program is about to be resumed, GDB might not be able to warn you about this when you set the watchpoints, and the warning will be printed only when the program is resumed:
Hardware watchpoint num: Could not insert watchpoint
If this happens, delete or disable some of the watchpoints.
The SPARClite DSU will generate traps when a program accesses some data
or instruction address that is assigned to the debug registers. For the
data addresses, DSU facilitates the
watch command. However the
hardware breakpoint registers can only take two data watchpoints, and
both watchpoints must be the same kind. For example, you can set two
watch commands, two with
or two with
awatch commands, but you cannot set one
watchpoint with one command and the other with a different command.
GDB will reject the command if you try to mix watchpoints.
Delete or disable unused watchpoint commands before setting new ones.
If you call a function interactively using
any watchpoints you have set will be inactive until GDB reaches another
kind of breakpoint or the call completes.
GDB automatically deletes watchpoints that watch local
(automatic) variables, or expressions that involve such variables, when
they go out of scope, that is, when the execution leaves the block in
which these variables were defined. In particular, when the program
being debugged terminates, all local variables go out of scope,
and so only watchpoints that watch global variables remain set. If you
rerun the program, you will need to set all such watchpoints again. One
way of doing that would be to set a code breakpoint at the entry to the
main function and when it breaks, set all the watchpoints.
Warning: In multi-thread programs, watchpoints have only limited usefulness. With the current watchpoint implementation, GDB can only watch the value of an expression in a single thread. If you are confident that the expression can only change due to the current thread's activity (and if you are also confident that no other thread can become current), then you can use watchpoints as usual. However, GDB may not notice when a non-current thread's activity changes the expression.
HP-UX Warning: In multi-thread programs, software watchpoints have only limited usefulness. If GDB creates a software watchpoint, it can only watch the value of an expression in a single thread. If you are confident that the expression can only change due to the current thread's activity (and if you are also confident that no other thread can become current), then you can use software watchpoints as usual. However, GDB may not notice when a non-current thread's activity changes the expression. (Hardware watchpoints, in contrast, watch an expression in all threads.)
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