Very often on windows, some of the DLLs that your program relies on do not include symbolic debugging information (for example, kernel32.dll). When GDB doesn’t recognize any debugging symbols in a DLL, it relies on the minimal amount of symbolic information contained in the DLL’s export table. This section describes working with such symbols, known internally to GDB as “minimal symbols”.
Note that before the debugged program has started execution, no DLLs will have been loaded. The easiest way around this problem is simply to start the program — either by setting a breakpoint or letting the program run once to completion.
In keeping with the naming conventions used by the Microsoft debugging
tools, DLL export symbols are made available with a prefix based on the
DLL name, for instance
KERNEL32!CreateFileA. The plain name is
also entered into the symbol table, so
CreateFileA is often
sufficient. In some cases there will be name clashes within a program
(particularly if the executable itself includes full debugging symbols)
necessitating the use of the fully qualified name when referring to the
contents of the DLL. Use single-quotes around the name to avoid the
exclamation mark (“!”) being interpreted as a language operator.
Note that the internal name of the DLL may be all upper-case, even
though the file name of the DLL is lower-case, or vice-versa. Since
symbols within GDB are case-sensitive this may cause
some confusion. If in doubt, try the
info functions and
info variables commands or even
maint print msymbols
(see Symbols). Here’s an example:
(gdb) info function CreateFileA All functions matching regular expression "CreateFileA": Non-debugging symbols: 0x77e885f4 CreateFileA 0x77e885f4 KERNEL32!CreateFileA
(gdb) info function ! All functions matching regular expression "!": Non-debugging symbols: 0x6100114c cygwin1!__assert 0x61004034 cygwin1!_dll_crt0@0 0x61004240 cygwin1!dll_crt0(per_process *) [etc...]
Symbols extracted from a DLL’s export table do not contain very much type information. All that GDB can do is guess whether a symbol refers to a function or variable depending on the linker section that contains the symbol. Also note that the actual contents of the memory contained in a DLL are not available unless the program is running. This means that you cannot examine the contents of a variable or disassemble a function within a DLL without a running program.
Variables are generally treated as pointers and dereferenced automatically. For this reason, it is often necessary to prefix a variable name with the address-of operator (“&”) and provide explicit type information in the command. Here’s an example of the type of problem:
(gdb) print 'cygwin1!__argv' $1 = 268572168
(gdb) x 'cygwin1!__argv' 0x10021610: "\230y\""
And two possible solutions:
(gdb) print ((char **)'cygwin1!__argv') $2 = 0x22fd98 "/cygdrive/c/mydirectory/myprogram"
(gdb) x/2x &'cygwin1!__argv' 0x610c0aa8 <cygwin1!__argv>: 0x10021608 0x00000000 (gdb) x/x 0x10021608 0x10021608: 0x0022fd98 (gdb) x/s 0x0022fd98 0x22fd98: "/cygdrive/c/mydirectory/myprogram"
Setting a break point within a DLL is possible even before the program starts execution. However, under these circumstances, GDB can’t examine the initial instructions of the function in order to skip the function’s frame set-up code. You can work around this by using “*&” to set the breakpoint at a raw memory address:
(gdb) break *&'python22!PyOS_Readline' Breakpoint 1 at 0x1e04eff0
The author of these extensions is not entirely convinced that setting a break point within a shared DLL like kernel32.dll is completely safe.