Core dump

A core dump is a file containing a process's address space (memory) when the process terminates unexpectedly. Core dumps may be produced on-demand (such as by a debugger), or automatically upon termination. Core dumps are triggered by the kernel in response to program crashes, and may be passed to a helper program (such as systemd-coredump) for further processing. A core dump is not typically used by an average user, but may be passed on to developers upon request where it can be invaluable as a post-mortem snapshot of the program's state at the time of the crash, especially if the fault is hard to reliably reproduce.

Disabling automatic core dumps

Users may wish to disable automatic core dumps for a number of reasons:

  • Performance: generating core dumps for memory-heavy processes can waste system resources and delay the cleanup of memory.
  • Disk space: core dumps of memory-heavy processes may consume disk space equal to, if not greater, than the process's memory footprint if not compressed.
  • Security: core dumps, although typically readable only by root, may contain sensitive data (such as passwords or cryptographic keys), which are written to disk following a crash.

Using sysctl

sysctl can be used to set the kernel.core_pattern to nothing to disable core dump handling. Create this file


To apply the setting immediately, use sysctl:

# sysctl -p /etc/sysctl.d/50-coredump.conf

Using systemd

systemd's default behavior is defined in /usr/lib/sysctl.d/50-coredump.conf, which sets kernel.core_pattern to call systemd-coredump. It generates core dumps for all processes in /var/lib/systemd/coredump. systemd-coredump behavior can be overridden by creating a configuration snippet in the /etc/systemd/coredump.conf.d/ directory with the following content:

Note: Do not forget to include the [Coredump] section name, otherwise this option will be ignored: systemd-coredump[1728]: [/etc/systemd/coredump.conf.d/custom.conf:1] Assignment outside of section. Ignoring.

Then reload systemd's configuration.

This method alone is usually sufficient to disable userspace core dumps, so long as no other programs enable automatic core dumps on the system, but the coredump is still generated in memory and systemd-coredump run.

Using PAM limits

The maximum core dump size for users logged in via PAM is enforced by limits.conf. Setting it to zero disables core dumps entirely.

Using ulimit

Command-line shells such as bash or zsh provide a builtin ulimit command which can be used to report or set resource limits of the shell and the processes started by the shell. See or for details.

To disable core dumps in the current shell:

$ ulimit -c 0

If the system is setup to pipe coredumps into a program such as systemd-coredump using kernel.core_pattern, Linux ignores the ulimit setting and only the can be used to disable coredump processing for selected processes.

Making a core dump

To generate a core dump of an arbitrary process, first install the gdb package. Then find the PID of the running process, for example with pgrep:

Attach to the process:

$ gdb -p 2071

Then at the prompt:

(gdb) generate-core-file
Saved corefile core.2071
(gdb) quit

Now you have a coredump file called .

Where do they go?

The kernel.core_pattern sysctl decides where automatic core dumps go. By default, core dumps are sent to systemd-coredump which can be configured in . By default, all core dumps are stored in /var/lib/systemd/coredump (due to Storage=external) and they are compressed with (due to ). Additionally, various size limits for the storage can be configured.

To retrieve a core dump from the journal, see .

Examining a core dump

Use coredumpctl to find the corresponding dump:

# coredumpctl list

You need to uniquely identify the relevant dump. This is possible by specifying a PID, name of the executable, path to the executable or a journalctl predicate (see and for details). To see details of the core dumps:

# coredumpctl info match

Pay attention to "Signal" row, that helps to identify crash cause. For deeper analysis you can examine the backtrace using gdb:

# coredumpctl gdb match

When gdb is started, use the command to print the backtrace:

(gdb) bt

See Debugging/Getting traces if debugging symbols are requested, but not found.

Cleanup of core dump files

The core dump files stored in will be automatically cleaned by , which is triggered daily with . Core dumps are configured to persist for at least 3 days, see .

See also

This article is issued from Archlinux. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.