When GDB finds a symbol file, it scans the symbols in the file in order to construct an internal symbol table. This lets most GDB operations work quickly—at the cost of a delay early on. For large programs, this delay can be quite lengthy, so GDB provides a way to build an index, which speeds up startup.
For convenience, GDB comes with a program,
gdb-add-index, which can be used to add the index to a
symbol file. It takes the symbol file as its only argument:
$ gdb-add-index symfile
It is also possible to do the work manually. Here is what
gdb-add-index does behind the curtains.
The index is stored as a section in the symbol file. GDB can
write the index to a file, then you can put it into the symbol file
To create an index file, use the
save gdb-index command:
save gdb-index [-dwarf-5] directory
Create index files for all symbol files currently known by GDB. For each known symbol-file, this command by default creates it produces a single file symbol-file.gdb-index. If you invoke this command with the -dwarf-5 option, it produces 2 files: symbol-file.debug_names and symbol-file.debug_str. The files are created in the given directory.
Once you have created an index file you can merge it into your symbol
file, here named symfile, using
$ objcopy --add-section .gdb_index=symfile.gdb-index \ --set-section-flags .gdb_index=readonly symfile symfile
$ objcopy --dump-section .debug_str=symfile.debug_str.new symfile $ cat symfile.debug_str >>symfile.debug_str.new $ objcopy --add-section .debug_names=symfile.gdb-index \ --set-section-flags .debug_names=readonly \ --update-section .debug_str=symfile.debug_str.new symfile symfile
GDB will normally ignore older versions of .gdb_index
sections that have been deprecated. Usually they are deprecated because
they are missing a new feature or have performance issues.
To tell GDB to use a deprecated index section anyway
set use-deprecated-index-sections on.
The default is
This can speed up startup, but may result in some functionality being lost.
See Index Section Format.
must be done before gdb reads the file. The following will not work:
$ gdb -ex "set use-deprecated-index-sections on" <program>
Instead you must do, for example,
$ gdb -iex "set use-deprecated-index-sections on" <program>
There are currently some limitation on indices. They only work when for DWARF debugging information, not stabs. And, they do not currently work for programs using Ada.