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If you wish to examine a runaway program outside of its element, you may choose to use the utility gcore. This utility is found in Solaris, Linux, and HP-UX, and perhaps others. The program syntax is:

gcore [ -o corename ] pid

The pid is the process id of the process to dump core, and the corename is the base of the filename to use for the core dump – the full name is the base name plus period (“.”) and the process id number. The default is to use “core“.

HP-UX systems will accept multiple process ids instead of just one. Solaris has several additional flags (as well as multiple pids). The additional Solaris flags won’t be covered here.

Once core has been dumped, the program continues operation; it does not stop. Thus, gcore is especially useful for taking a snapshot of a running process.

For example, consider a program with the process id 6674:

gcore 6674

This command generates a core file in the current directory with the name “core.6674“. This file then can be read by the GNU debugger gdb. Solaris also provides the dbx(1), mdb(1), and pstack(1) utilities. HP-UX provides gdb as well as the HP adb(1) utility. Both Solaris and HP-UX provide a core management utility coreadm(1m) – which is a topic for another day.

This article has an excellent description of working with core files in Solaris.