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5.4 Signals

A signal is an asynchronous event that can happen in a program. The operating system defines the possible kinds of signals, and gives each kind a name and a number. For example, in Unix SIGINT is the signal a program gets when you type an interrupt character (often Ctrl-c); SIGSEGV is the signal a program gets from referencing a place in memory far away from all the areas in use; SIGALRM occurs when the alarm clock timer goes off (which happens only if your program has requested an alarm).

Some signals, including SIGALRM, are a normal part of the functioning of your program. Others, such as SIGSEGV, indicate errors; these signals are fatal (they kill your program immediately) if the program has not specified in advance some other way to handle the signal. SIGINT does not indicate an error in your program, but it is normally fatal so it can carry out the purpose of the interrupt: to kill the program.

gdb has the ability to detect any occurrence of a signal in your program. You can tell gdb in advance what to do for each kind of signal.

Normally, gdb is set up to let the non-erroneous signals like SIGALRM be silently passed to your program (so as not to interfere with their role in the program's functioning) but to stop your program immediately whenever an error signal happens. You can change these settings with the handle command.

info signals
info handle
Print a table of all the kinds of signals and how gdb has been told to handle each one. You can use this to see the signal numbers of all the defined types of signals.
info signals sig
Similar, but print information only about the specified signal number.

info handle is an alias for info signals.

handle signal [keywords...]
Change the way gdb handles signal signal. signal can be the number of a signal or its name (with or without the `SIG' at the beginning); a list of signal numbers of the form `low-high'; or the word `all', meaning all the known signals. Optional arguments keywords, described below, say what change to make.

The keywords allowed by the handle command can be abbreviated. Their full names are:

gdb should not stop your program when this signal happens. It may still print a message telling you that the signal has come in.
gdb should stop your program when this signal happens. This implies the print keyword as well.
gdb should print a message when this signal happens.
gdb should not mention the occurrence of the signal at all. This implies the nostop keyword as well.
gdb should allow your program to see this signal; your program can handle the signal, or else it may terminate if the signal is fatal and not handled. pass and noignore are synonyms.
gdb should not allow your program to see this signal. nopass and ignore are synonyms.

When a signal stops your program, the signal is not visible to the program until you continue. Your program sees the signal then, if pass is in effect for the signal in question at that time. In other words, after gdb reports a signal, you can use the handle command with pass or nopass to control whether your program sees that signal when you continue.

The default is set to nostop, noprint, pass for non-erroneous signals such as SIGALRM, SIGWINCH and SIGCHLD, and to stop, print, pass for the erroneous signals.

You can also use the signal command to prevent your program from seeing a signal, or cause it to see a signal it normally would not see, or to give it any signal at any time. For example, if your program stopped due to some sort of memory reference error, you might store correct values into the erroneous variables and continue, hoping to see more execution; but your program would probably terminate immediately as a result of the fatal signal once it saw the signal. To prevent this, you can continue with `signal 0'. See Giving your Program a Signal.

On some targets, gdb can inspect extra signal information associated with the intercepted signal, before it is actually delivered to the program being debugged. This information is exported by the convenience variable $_siginfo, and consists of data that is passed by the kernel to the signal handler at the time of the receipt of a signal. The data type of the information itself is target dependent. You can see the data type using the ptype $_siginfo command. On Unix systems, it typically corresponds to the standard siginfo_t type, as defined in the signal.h system header.

Here's an example, on a gnu/Linux system, printing the stray referenced address that raised a segmentation fault.

     (gdb) continue
     Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
     0x0000000000400766 in main ()
     69        *(int *)p = 0;
     (gdb) ptype $_siginfo
     type = struct {
         int si_signo;
         int si_errno;
         int si_code;
         union {
             int _pad[28];
             struct {...} _kill;
             struct {...} _timer;
             struct {...} _rt;
             struct {...} _sigchld;
             struct {...} _sigfault;
             struct {...} _sigpoll;
         } _sifields;
     (gdb) ptype $_siginfo._sifields._sigfault
     type = struct {
         void *si_addr;
     (gdb) p $_siginfo._sifields._sigfault.si_addr
     $1 = (void *) 0x7ffff7ff7000

Depending on target support, $_siginfo may also be writable.