Almost all compilers support optimization. With optimization disabled, the compiler generates assembly code that corresponds directly to your source code, in a simplistic way. As the compiler applies more powerful optimizations, the generated assembly code diverges from your original source code. With help from debugging information generated by the compiler, gdb can map from the running program back to constructs from your original source.
gdb is more accurate with optimization disabled. If you can recompile without optimization, it is easier to follow the progress of your program during debugging. But, there are many cases where you may need to debug an optimized version.
When you debug a program compiled with ‘-g -O’, remember that the optimizer has rearranged your code; the debugger shows you what is really there. Do not be too surprised when the execution path does not exactly match your source file! An extreme example: if you define a variable, but never use it, gdb never sees that variable—because the compiler optimizes it out of existence.
Some things do not work as well with ‘-g -O’ as with just ‘-g’, particularly on machines with instruction scheduling. If in doubt, recompile with ‘-g’ alone, and if this fixes the problem, please report it to us as a bug (including a test case!). See Variables, for more information about debugging optimized code.