When trying to figure out what libvirt does, DebugLogs might not always be enough. And sometimes you might want to get some information from a user, but you do not want to waste both your and their time by explaining how to do stuff in gdb to, for example, get a backtrace. Here are some useful tips that you might use.


In cases where you want to see details of what is happening, you need to have debugging symbols installed, at least for the package you are trying to debug. Although having debugging symbols for all dependent libraries is usually helpful as well. Usually gdb will tell you what you need to do in order to get the proper data to your machine when you run it with a binary.


Running this command on 32bit Fedora 29 tells us what to install in order to get the proper debugging symbols:

# gdb $(which libvirtd)
GNU gdb (GDB) Fedora 8.2-6.fc29
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/libvirtd...(no debugging symbols found)...done.
Missing separate debuginfos, use: dnf debuginfo-install libvirt-daemon-4.7.0-1.fc29.i686

When the package is installed, we can break on main and run until then (gdb's command start is perfect for this):

# gdb $(which libvirtd)
GNU gdb (GDB) Fedora 8.2-6.fc29
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/libvirtd...Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/usr/sbin/libvirtd-4.7.0-1.fc29.i386.debug...done.
(gdb) start
Temporary breakpoint 1 at 0x18fc0: file remote/remote_daemon.c, line 1030.
Starting program: /usr/sbin/libvirtd
Missing separate debuginfos, use: dnf debuginfo-install glibc-2.28-26.fc29.i686
Missing separate debuginfo for /lib/libvirt-lxc.so.0
Try: dnf --enablerepo='*debug*' install /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/4d/16496b686ec54ca4201bd769b04293f6c756b3.debug
Missing separate debuginfo for /lib/libvirt-qemu.so.0
Try: dnf --enablerepo='*debug*' install /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/ea/91d5346bd3e265ffb12ae641ca93643443e6e7.debug
Missing separate debuginfo for /lib/libvirt.so.0
Try: dnf --enablerepo='*debug*' install /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/02/af3a96fc6227ed5e3a447344bcbb672bde14ba.debug
Temporary breakpoint 1, main (argc=1, argv=0xbffff614) at remote/remote_daemon.c:1030
1030    int main(int argc, char **argv) {
Missing separate debuginfos, use: dnf debuginfo-install audit-libs-3.0-0.5.20181218gitbdb72c0.fc29.i686 avahi-libs-0.7-16.fc29.i686 brotli-1.0.5-1.fc29.i686 cyrus-sasl-lib-2.1.27-0.3rc7.fc29.i686 dbus-libs-1.12.12-1.fc29.i686 device-mapper-libs-1.02.154-1.fc29.i686 gmp-6.1.2-9.fc29.i686 gnutls-3.6.6-1.fc29.i686 keyutils-libs-1.5.10-8.fc29.i686 krb5-libs-1.16.1-25.fc29.i686 libacl-2.2.53-2.fc29.i686 libattr-2.4.48-3.fc29.i686 libblkid-2.32.1-1.fc29.i686 libcap-2.25-12.fc29.i686 libcap-ng-0.7.9-5.fc29.i686 libcom_err-1.44.4-1.fc29.i686 libcurl-7.61.1-10.fc29.i686 libffi-3.1-18.fc29.i686 libgcrypt-1.8.4-1.fc29.i686 libidn2-2.1.1a-1.fc29.i686 libmount-2.32.1-1.fc29.i686 libnghttp2-1.34.0-1.fc29.i686 libnl3-3.4.0-6.fc29.i686 libpsl-0.20.2-5.fc29.i686 libselinux-2.8-6.fc29.i686 libsepol-2.8-3.fc29.i686 libssh-0.8.7-1.fc29.i686 libssh2-1.8.1-1.fc29.i686 libtirpc-1.1.4-2.rc2.fc29.i686 libunistring-0.9.10-4.fc29.i686 libuuid-2.32.1-1.fc29.i686 libwsman1-2.6.5-8.fc29.i686 libxcrypt-4.4.4-2.fc29.i686 libxml2-2.9.8-5.fc29.i686 lz4-libs-1.8.3-1.fc29.i686 numactl-libs-2.0.12-1.fc29.i686 openldap-2.4.46-10.fc29.i686 openssl-libs-1.1.1b-3.fc29.i686 p11-kit-0.23.15-2.fc29.i686 pcre2-10.32-8.fc29.i686 xz-libs-5.2.4-3.fc29.i686 yajl-2.1.0-11.fc29.i686 zlib-1.2.11-14.fc29.i686

You might need to run the above commands for more complete output. It is very dependent on the actually problem, whether you need this or not, but it will never hurt to actually have all the data installed.

When libvirt hangs

When a process hangs, we usually ask for a backtrace. To avoid problems with paging and so on, it is usually very helpful to just get a backtrace for one instance of the particular process. For that you can use something like this:

# gdb -batch -p $(pidof libvirtd) -ex 't a a bt f'

This command will attach to currently running libvirtd process and run t a a bt f, which is short for thread apply all backtrace full, feel free to combine with sudo for users. If you are using this for virsh, or any other binary which might have multiple processes running, then make sure you supply the right pid for the -p option. For more info, read below about how to automate gdb.

When libvirt crashes

Different distros have different mechanisms of catching and reporting crashes. The automated ones are usually enabled only for the packaged binaries, but that should be enough for users. Developers will have their own way of doing things anyway.

  • systemd-coredump -- coredumpctl show shows all needed information (even a backtrace) of the last crash, use coredumpctl ls to list all crashes cordumpctl knows about.

  • abrt -- abrt-cli works similarly to the above (TBD: how to get the backtrace using abrt-cli)

  • setup your own -- you can do one of these things:

    • set the ulimit for the service (depends on your init system) and look for the file that gets created

    • set kernel.core_pattern using sysctl to a command (rather than a filename template) that gets ran with each core dump. This one does not need any ulimit setting, but you need to know what to specify there.

For more information see related documentation.

Automating gdb

When you need more specific behaviour from gdb, you can automate that, but for multiline commands you need an input redirection or execute them from the file.

Multiline example:

Simple example that will print backtrace when abort() is reached.

$ cat >/var/lib/libvirt/gdbabortscript <<EOF
break abort
t a a bt full

This file instructs gdb to start the program (run until main()), that will load all the libraries so that we can setup a breakpoint for (p[retty much) any existing function. It then sets up a breakpoint for the abort() function and immediately sets up a list of commands that will run when that breakpoint is hit (list of commands ends with end). After that it allows the process to continue its execution.

Systemd example:

Let's say you need to debug an issue which happens only when the daemon is run as a service as it does not happen when run manually. Ideally you would connect to a running instance, but if the issue happens right after starting the daemon. One option would be utilizing systemtap to add a sleep() in one of the early functions (TBD: add an automated way of doing that or remove this tip if it's not worth it). Another idea is to make the init system run the gdb command we need.

In systemd world we can do this easily by overriding the ExecStart parameter:

# cat >/etc/systemd/system/libvirtd.service.d/override.conf <<EOF
ExecStart=/usr/bin/gdb --batch -x /var/lib/libvirt/gdbabortscript /usr/sbin/libvirtd $LIBVIRTD_ARGS

Daemon needs to be reloaded to know about this file:

# systemctl daemon-reload

We also need to make sure that the file we created will be readable by the service. DAC should be fine, SELinux might get tricky. By placing the file under /var/lib/libvirt this should be readable by both the init system and the libvirt daemon, but we need to make sure it has a proper context:

# restorecon -F /var/lib/libvirt/gdbabortscript /etc/systemd/system/libvirtd.service.d/override.conf

We actually do not need this to be read by the init system, but gdb will most probably run under the same SELinux context as init, the context for libvirtd gets changed by a transition rule which depends on the current runnning context and the context of the binary being executed, so that whould apply only when libvirtd is being started. This should work most of the time. If it does not work for you, please figure out a way and add it here.

Now we need to restart the daemon:

# systemctl restart libvirtd.service

Beware, the command will not end until libvirtd itself ends as systemd is waiting for sd_notify() from gdb's PID, but that function is being called by libvirtd.

You should get the full backtrace in the output of:

# journalctl -u libvirtd.service