GDB Tips and Tricks #3: Saving and Restoring Breakpoints Using Files

You spent the last 10 minutes littering your application with breakpoints in all the places where you think bad things might be happening. Then you run your application. Maybe you missed something. Maybe you didn’t. But now after a few minutes of debugging, both your application and GDB appear to be in a funky state. What you want to do is just quit out of everything and start fresh with a new session. But what about all those breakpoints? Typing in the “b” commands was such a chore. Even if you could remember where they all were, the mere thought of doing so is exhausting. And what if you need to start over yet again? Surely there’s a better way.

Did you know you could save your breakpoints to a file? All you need to do is issue the “save breakpoints” command like so…

(gdb) save breakpoints my.brk
Saved to file 'my.brk'.

This will save all types of breakpoints (regular breakpoints, watchpoints, and catchpoints) to the file my.brk. You can in fact name the file whatever you’d like.

Later when you’re ready to reload your breakpoints, you can issue the source command.

(gdb) source my.brk

There’s nothing special about this breakpoints file. It’s just a text file containing a list of gdb commands separated by newlines. In fact, not only can you amend it manually with more breakpoint commands, but you can add in just about any other gdb command in the process.

It’s worth noting that the “source” command isn’t actually specific to breakpoints. It will execute anything in the specified file as written, which makes the “source” command a handy tool in its own right.

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