Debug the kernel using QEMU

Zircon can run under emulation using QEMU. QEMU can either be installed via prebuilt binaries, or built locally.

Prebuilt QEMU

QEMU is downloaded by jiri as part of jiri update or jiri run-hooks.

QEMU is fetched into //prebuilt/third_party/qemu. You can run it most conveniently using fx qemu (see below).

Build QEMU

Install Prerequisites

Building QEMU on macOS requires a few packages. As of macOS 10.12.1:

# Using
brew install pkg-config glib automake libtool

# Or use ("port install ...") or build manually


cd $SRC
git clone --recursive
cd qemu
./configure --target-list=aarch64-softmmu,x86_64-softmmu
make -j32
sudo make install

If you don‘t want to install in /usr/local (the default), which will require you to be root, add --prefix=/path/to/install (perhaps $HOME/qemu). Then you’ll either need to add /path/to/install/bin to your PATH or use -q /path/to/install when invoking run-zircon-{arch}.

Run Zircon under QEMU

# for aarch64
fx set bringup.arm64
fx build
fx qemu

# for x86
fx set bringup.x64
fx build
fx qemu

If QEMU is not on your path, use -q to specify its location.

The -h flag will list a number of options, including things like -b to rebuild first if necessary and -g to run with a graphical framebuffer.

To exit qemu, enter Ctrl-a x. Use Ctrl-a h to see other commands.

Enabling Networking under QEMU

The run-zircon script, when given the -N argument will attempt to create a network interface using the Linux tun/tap network device named “qemu”. QEMU does not need to be run with any special privileges for this, but you need to create a persistent tun/tap device ahead of time (which does require you be root):

On Linux:

sudo ip tuntap add dev qemu mode tap user $USER
sudo ifconfig qemu up

This is sufficient to enable link local IPv6 (as the loglistener tool uses).

On macOS:

macOS does not support tun/tap devices out of the box; however, there is a widely used set of kernel extensions called tuntaposx which can be downloaded here. Once the installer completes, the extensions will create up to 16 tun/tap devices. The run-zircon-x64 script uses /dev/tap0.

sudo chown $USER /dev/tap0

# Run zircon in QEMU, which will open /dev/tap0
fx qemu -N

# (In a different window) bring up tap0 with a link local IPv6 address
sudo ifconfig tap0 inet6 fc00::/7 up

Using Emulated Disk under QEMU

Using builds based on core (really any product above bringup) will automatically imply a disk that is provided to serve the fvm partition that includes a minfs partition for mutable storage, and a blobfs partition for package data storage.

You can attach additional images using flags as follows:

fx qemu -d [-D <disk_image_path (default: "blk.bin")>]

Debugging the kernel with GDB

Sample session

Here is a sample session to get you started.

In the shell you're running QEMU in:

shell1$ fx qemu -- -s -S
[... some QEMU start up text ...]

This will start QEMU but freeze the system at startup, waiting for you to resume it with “continue” in GDB. If you want to run QEMU without GDB, but be able to attach with GDB later then start QEMU without “-S” in the above example:

shell1$ fx qemu -- -s
[... some QEMU start up text ...]

And then in the shell you're running GDB in: [Commands here are fully spelled out, but remember most can be abbreviated.]

shell2$ gdb build-x86/zircon.elf
(gdb) target extended-remote :1234
Remote debugging using :1234
0x000000000000fff0 in ?? ()
(gdb) # Don't try to do too much at this point.
(gdb) # GDB can't handle architecture switching in one session,
(gdb) # and at this point the architecture is 16-bit x86.
(gdb) break lk_main
Breakpoint 1 at 0xffffffff8010cb58: file kernel/top/main.c, line 59.
(gdb) continue

Breakpoint 1, lk_main (arg0=1, arg1=18446744071568293116, arg2=0, arg3=0)
    at kernel/top/main.c:59
59	{
(gdb) continue

At this point Zircon boots and back in shell1 you'll be at the Zircon prompt.


If you Ctrl-C in shell2 at this point you can get back to GDB.

(gdb) # Having just done "continue"
Program received signal SIGINT, Interrupt.
arch_idle () at kernel/arch/x86/64/ops.S:32
32	    ret
(gdb) info threads
  Id   Target Id         Frame
  4    Thread 4 (CPU#3 [halted ]) arch_idle () at kernel/arch/x86/64/ops.S:32
  3    Thread 3 (CPU#2 [halted ]) arch_idle () at kernel/arch/x86/64/ops.S:32
  2    Thread 2 (CPU#1 [halted ]) arch_idle () at kernel/arch/x86/64/ops.S:32
* 1    Thread 1 (CPU#0 [halted ]) arch_idle () at kernel/arch/x86/64/ops.S:32

QEMU reports one thread to GDB for each CPU.

The script

The scripts/ script is automagically loaded by gdb. It provides several things:

  • Pretty-printers for zircon objects (alas none at the moment).

  • Several zircon specific commands, all with a “zircon” prefix. To see them:

(gdb) help info zircon
(gdb) help set zircon
(gdb) help show zircon
  • Enhanced unwinder support for automagic unwinding through kernel faults.

Heads up: This script isn't always updated as zircon changes.

Terminating the session

To terminate QEMU you can send commands to QEMU from GDB:

(gdb) monitor quit
(gdb) quit

Interacting with QEMU from Gdb

To see the list of QEMU commands you can execute from GDB:

(gdb) monitor help

Saving system state for debugging

If you have a crash that is difficult to debug, or that you need help with debugging, it's possible to save system state akin to a core dump.

bash$ qemu-img create -f qcow2 /tmp/my_snapshots.qcow2 32M

will create a “32M” block storage device. Next launch QEMU and tell it about the device, but don‘t tell it to attach the device to the guest system. This is OK; we don’t plan on using it to back up the disk state, we just want a core dump. Note: all of this can be skipped if you are already emulating a block device and it is using the qcow2 format.

bash$ qemu <normal_launch_args> -drive if=none,format=qcow2,file=/tmp/my_snapshots.qcow2

When you get to a point where you want to save the core state, drop to the QEMU console using . You should get the (qemu) prompt at this point. From here, just say:

(qemu) savevm my_backup_tag_name

Later on, from an identical machine (one launched with the same args as before), you can drop to the console and run:

(qemu) loadvm my_backup_tag_name

to restore the state. Alternatively, you can do it from the cmd line with:

bash$ qemu <normal_launch_args> -drive if=none,format=qcow2,file=/tmp/my_snapshots.qcow2 -loadvm my_backup_tag_name

In theory, you could package up the qcow2 image along with your build output directory and anyone should be able to restore your state and start to poke at stuff from the QEMU console.