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Crash Reporting FAQ

General Questions

How can I get the stack trace from a crash on my development Chromebook?

Crash reporter will still collect crashes, they just won't be sent to the Crash Server. Beyond that, the crash reporter is no longer involved, but you can get more info from Getting a stack dump from a minidump file.

How can I get a core dump from a minidump for use by gdb?

There's a minidump-2-core executable provided by Breakpad to convert a minidump to a core file. You can build it in a Chrome checkout with ninja -C out/Default minidump-2-core, or you can build it in a Chrome OS checkout with sudo emerge google-breakpad.

Once you have minidump-2-core, you can look at section Use gdb to show a backtrace of the Debugging a Minidump File guide. This is my collection of instructions for how I've made use of gdb given a minidump file. It shows, for example, how to adjust the symbol addresses in gdb so they match up appropriately, and it includes instructions for how to do this for ARM minidumps as well.

Googlers: You can also look through the section Crash dump analysis, which is where I found the address-adjusting logic.

Is there a design document for Chrome OS Crash Reporting?

Yes, in the project sources. For a general overview, though:

For non-Chrome processes we use an external program, crash_reporter, that gets called by the kernel when a crash occurs. It gets passed the crashing process's core file, and takes care of generating the report. crash_reporter also generates a report for kernel crashes, unclean shutdowns, and several other things.

For Chrome processes, it uses Breakpad. When a Chrome crash occurs, the Breakpad library code linked into it takes care of generating a report. Then it calls crash_reporter to queue the full report.

The crash reports generated by crash_reporter are uploaded by crash_sender, which is run via a cron job every hour.

We also report crash metrics (UMA) for Chrome OS. The crash metrics for Chrome are reported and uploaded by Chrome itself. The crash metrics for non-Chrome processes are reported by crash_reporter via Chrome, which then uploads them. crash_reporter sends a metric for each crash, saying whether it's a user crash, kernel crash, or unclean shutdown.

There are currently two different, but redundant, types of metrics being reported by crash_reporter:

What's the difference between "Aw, Snap!" and "He's Dead, Jim!"?

These are error pages shown by Chrome when a tab's process in some way dies. According to the Chrome Help pages, "You may see the "Aw, Snap!" message if a webpage's process crashes unexpectedly." On the other hand, "You may see the “He’s Dead, Jim!” message if the operating system has terminated the tab’s process due to a lack of memory. Alternatively, if you terminated the process using Google Chrome's Task Manager, the system's task manager, or with a command line tool, this message will appear as well."

That is, an "Aw, Snap" is most likely caused by a genuine crash of the non-browser process (e.g. renderer, plugin), and should result in a crash report if consent is enabled (see FAQ entry How can I know if my Chromebook will report crashes). The "He's Dead, Jim" is shown if a webpage's process is terminated by somebody or something else.

Reference ("Aw, Snap!"): Reference ("He's Dead, Jim!"): Reference:

Crash Reporter

Will a developer's build image upload crash reports?

No. A crash will still be processed by crash_reporter, but the report will not be uploaded to the Crash Server. More specifically, crash_sender will only send crash reports if the word "Official" appears in the "CHROMEOS_RELEASE_DESCRIPTION" line of /etc/lsb-release.

Googlers: You can override this behavior by running crash_sender manually with the --dev option. This may be helpful for certain testing scenarios. By default, crash_sender will delay up to ten minutes before sending each crash report, so you will probably also want to set the command line option --max_spread_time to 0 to make them upload right away. Recipe for testing crashes (as root, on a test image):

sleep 100 &
kill -SEGV $!   # generate a core
metrics_client -C   # force metrics consent
/sbin/crash_sender --dev --max_spread_time=0   # force the upload
grep crash_sender /var/log/messages

How can I know if my Chromebook will report crashes?

You can check the consent settings. Go to Settings -> Advanced Settings and then see if "Automatically send usage statistics and crash reports to Google" is enabled under the Privacy section. If there is no such setting shown, then you are running a developer's build image (see FAQ entry Will a developer's build image upload crash reports).

Why aren't crashes being reported for Chrome?

First, check to make sure that consent has been enabled (see FAQ entry How can I know if my Chromebook will report crashes). If no such setting is shown, read on.

If you don't see any reference at all to crash reporting in /var/log/ui/ui.LATEST after a crash, chances are you're running a developer image. Developer images are built with Chromium. Chrome handles its own crashes by linking in Breakpad, whereas Chromium does not link in Breakpad. Therefore, when a Chromium crash occurs, it is simply ignored.

If you want to see these crash reports, you can either have crash_reporter report Chromium crashes, or build Chrome instead of Chromium. For the former, see instructions related to collect_chrome_crashes, below. For the latter, use the "--internal" flag to cros chrome-sdk, as explained in the instructions for building Chrome on Chrome OS.

Bear in mind that crash_reporter won't upload crash reports by default for developer images. See FAQ entry Will a developer's build image upload crash reports for more information.

Are there limits on how many crashes will be reported?


crash_reporter will stop creating crash reports if there are 32 of them already on disk. There's a separate limit per collection directory, so /var/spool/crash and /run/daemon-store/crash/<user-hash> can each contain up to 32 crash reports. That limit is defined in crash-reporter/'s variable CrashCollector::kMaxCrashDirectorySize. With respect to uploading crash reports, crash_sender has a per day limit. More specifically, if at least 32 crash reports have been sent within the past 24 hours, and the combined compressed size of those reports is above 24 MB, it will delay and try sending the crash report later. These limits are defined by kMaxCrashRate andkMaxCrashBytes** in crash-reporter/crash_sender_util.h.

Where can I find the crash minidump/core file for a crashed process on my Chromebook?

Official builds:

When a user is logged in, crash_reporter puts its files (*.dmp and *.meta) in /run/daemon-store/crash/<user-hash>. Otherwise, crash_reporter places files from processes running as user chronos (most commonly, Chrome crashes) in /home/chronos/crash and places files from other crashes in /var/spool/crash/.

Developer builds:

For processes running as user chronos, crash_reporter puts its files (*.dmp, *.meta, and *.core) in /home/chronos/crash/. For other processes, crash_reporter puts them in /var/spool/crash/. If you are running a developer image, the /root/.leave_core file should exist, so crash_reporter will not delete the core file.

Where can I find the crash minidump/core file when chrome crashes immediately after login and logs me out?

For official builds, minidumps are written to /run/daemon-store/crash/<user-hash> directories, which are only mounted when the corresponding user is logged in. cryptohome unmounts the home directory if chrome crashes immediately after login and leaves crash dump. You can use the cryptohome command to mount and decrypt home directories:

DUT$ cryptohome --action=mount_ex
DUT$ ls -l /run/daemon-store/crash/*

Why are my crash dumps disappearing sometimes?

The crash_sender process runs every hour. In most cases when it runs, it will delete your existing crash dumps -- after uploading the report if that is enabled. The exception to them being deleted is if crash_sender is uploading crash reports and it reaches a limit, in which case it will hold off for another hour. You can prevent the crash_sender from running by touch'ing the /var/lib/crash_sender_paused file.

At what point can the crash reporter catch crashes?


Something crashed during startup, but I don't see it in /var/spool/crash/ or ~/crash/?

In order for the crash reporter to be called to process a crash, the line in /proc/sys/kernel/core_pattern must start with "|/sbin/crash_reporter". Unless otherwise set, it defaults to just "core". The crash_reporter program sets the kernel's core pattern when it is first run by Upstart. This is currently done at the same time as "system-services" services (see src/platform/init/crash-reporter.conf).


Do we report out-of-memory (OOM) crashes?

No. When a system is running out of memory, the kernel will invoke its OOM killer to kill some process with the hopes that it will free up enough memory. On Chrome OS the killed process should always be one of Chrome's, because we make all others unkillable. Search for "init on ChromeOS" in Out of memory handling to see which processes should be killed first.

When the OOM killer runs, you should see a message like the following in the system's log:

<4>[ 2461.625535] chrome invoked oom-killer: gfp_mask=0x200da, order=0, oom_adj=0, oom_score_adj=0

..followed by a bunch of current memory information and then:

<3>[ 2461.638097] Out of memory: Kill process 9250 (chrome) score 648 or sacrifice child
<3>[ 2461.638107] Killed process 9250 (chrome) total-vm:197184kB, anon-rss:14464kB, file-rss:13184kB

Unfortunately, we don't have a good way to report these OOM killings. When the kernel kills a process with the oom-killer, it effectively does so with the SIGKILL signal. Because of this, the Breakpad signal handler does not get invoked (which is how Chrome reports its crashes), nor does crash_reporter get called by the kernel.

There's been talk about handling this within Chrome by having a soft memory limit. See Out of memory handling for the design doc. Otherwise, I imagine we could modify the kernel to do something smarter than a SIGKILL. A simpler solution would be to have something monitor the system logs, and simply report the OOM killing (at least with an UMA metric).

How can I get the core file for a crash?

When a crash occurs, the kernel sends the core file to crash_reporter, which then saves it to disk and converts it to a minidump. If the /root/.leave_core file exists (e.g. it's a developer image), the core file will be left on disk. See FAQ entry Where can I find the crash dump/core file for a crashed process on my Chromebook for where to find the core file. If you're not running a developer image, you need to create /root/.leave_core first.

For Chrome crashes, the story is more complicated. First, Chrome crashes are by default not handled by crash_reporter but by Breakpad, which does not generate core files. In order to have crash_reporter not ignore Chrome crashes, you need to touch the /mnt/stateful_partition/etc/collect_chrome_crashes file.

Second, unofficial Chrome builds (gn arg is_official_build = false) have in-process stack dumping enabled in order to log a call stack upon crashing (these messages end up in /var/log/ui). For historical reasons, the process is then terminated without propagating the crash signal, meaning that the kernel will never invoke crash_reporter. To avoid this, you can either use an official build or run Chrome with the --disable-in-process-stack-traces switch.

See also the next question for another way to obtain the core file.

How can I bypass crash_reporter entirely?

If you don't want to involve crash_reporter at all, for whatever reason, you can manually change the setting such that the kernel creates a core file instead of piping it to crash_reporter. First, set the core file pattern (make sure the core's path is writable by the would-be crashing process):

sudo sh -c 'echo "/home/chronos/core.%e.%p" > /proc/sys/kernel/core_pattern'

Then, modify the maximum size of core files created for the process(es) you care about:

prlimit --core=unlimited --pid <pid>

You also either need an official Chrome build or use the --disable-in-process-stack-traces switch (see the previous question).

Build Questions

Should we be building with "-g", "-ggdb", or "-ggdb2"?

Use "-g". We used to build with "-ggdb" just to be more explicit about what cros_generate_breakpad_symbols expects; however, WebKit currently relies on it being "-g" if we want to remove its debug symbols. davidjames@ did the work to figure out that "-g" and "-ggdb" are the same for the GNU compiler we're currently using, so he could switch Chrome to building with "-g". To be consistent, we might as well build everything with "-g". As of 11/10/2011 no other packages had been modified to use the new option yet, but this is the direction we'd like to go in.


Technical Details

Can my program catch SIGSEGV without screwing up crash_reporter?

Note: This discussion focuses on SIGSEGV, but it applies to all signals that the kernel creates coredumps for (e.g. SIGQUIT, SIGILL, SIGABRT, etc...).

Yes. Normally, if you don't catch SIGSEGV, the kernel will default to spawning crash_reporter for the crash. If you catch SIGSEGV, then what happens depends on how the segfault was sent and how you handle it. If the signal was sent to your process by someone (e.g. using the kill command) then, after your signal handler runs, your program will continue where it left off. If the segfault was caused by something like an actual bad memory access (e.g. "*(char *)0x0 = 1") then, after your signal handler runs, the signal could simply be sent again (assuming your signal handler didn't change the runtime environment so as to "fix" the source of the segfault). Chances are you don't want to just return normally from your signal handler, though; in the second scenario you could easily end up with an infinite loop.

If you want to bypass crash_reporter, you should be able to just call _exit() from your handler (normally you want _exit() rather than exit() as the latter will run atexit() hooks which could themselves could cause problems in a signal handler context). In both scenarios that will bypass the kernel's handling of the SIGSEGV. However, if you want crash_reporter to still run after your handler finishes, you have to do two different things in order to handle both scenarios. For the case where your program caused a segfault, you'll want to set the SIGSEGV handler back to what it was before -- so that when the signal is sent again it's handled as if you had no handler. In C this is done with signal(SIGSEGV, SIG_DFL). For the case where your program was explicitly sent a signal by someone else, you'll have to re-send the signal to yourself. You should be able to do this by just calling kill() directly within your handler. Note that this should work without changing the SIGSEGV handler back because the signal will still have been masked until your handler returns (i.e. that's done in case your handler were to segfault). You can determine which scenario you're in by checking the si_pid field of the siginfo_t struct your handler is sent.

An example of how to catch SIGSEGV without screwing up crash_reporter can be found in Google Breakpad's src/breakpad/src/client/linux/handler/

void ExceptionHandler::SignalHandler(int sig, siginfo_t* info, void* uc) {
  if (info->si_pid) {
    // This signal was triggered by somebody sending us the signal with kill().
    // In order to retrigger it, we have to queue a new signal by calling
    // kill() ourselves.
    if (tgkill(getpid(), syscall(__NR_gettid), sig) < 0) {
      // If we failed to kill ourselves (e.g. because a sandbox disallows us
      // to do so), we instead resort to terminating our process. This will
      // result in an incorrect exit code.
  } else {
    // This was a synchronous signal triggered by a hard fault (e.g. SIGSEGV).
    // No need to reissue the signal. It will automatically trigger again,
    // when we return from the signal handler.
  // As soon as we return from the signal handler, our signal will become
  // unmasked. At that time, we will  get terminated with the same signal that
  // was triggered originally. This allows our parent to know that we crashed.
  // The default action for all the signals which we catch is Core, so
  // this is the end of us.
  signal(sig, SIG_DFL);

In fact, if you link in Breakpad you can just use its handler -- which will call any callbacks you specify. This is how Chrome handles its crashes (see EnableCrashDumping() in src/chrome/app/ for an example).

Reference: Reference: Reference: Reference:

For Chrome what general functions are used for reporting crashes?

Here is an ordered list of notable files & functions in the Chromium source tree that are used by Chrome to report crashes on Chrome OS. Although most of this probably applies to the Linux platform as well, I wrote these notes with Chrome OS in mind.

chrome/browser/ IsCrashReportingEnabled() Determines whether or not crash reporting should be done in Chrome.

Chrome Browser Crashes

chrome/app/ EnableCrashDumping() Enables crash reporting for the browser. Determines the path for a browser crash's minidump.

breakpad/src/client/linux/handler/ ExceptionHandler::HandleSignal() Handles the crash signals in the browser. Calls GenerateDump() to dump the crash.

breakpad/src/client/linux/handler/ ExceptionHandler::GenerateDump() Creates a new process with clone() -- which calls Breakpad's WriteMinidump() to do the dumping of the browser process.

breakpad/src/client/linux/minidump_writer/ WriteMinidump() Attaches to and dumps the browser process to a minidump file.

chrome/app/ HandleCrashDump() Reads the minidump file, adds additional MIME information, and either uploads it or writes it out to file.

Chrome Renderer Crashes

content/browser/ LaunchInternal() Seems to do the launching for renderers (e.g. sets kCrashDumpSignal).

chrome/app/ EnableNonBrowserCrashDumping() Enables crash reporting for a renderer.

breakpad/src/client/linux/handler/ ExceptionHandler::HandleSignal() Handles the crash signals in a renderer. Calls the renderer crash handler; it does not call GenerateDump() to do its own crash dumping.

chrome/app/ NonBrowserCrashHandler() Called by a renderer process to handle its own crash. Writes to the browser’s pipe with basic context info about the crash.

chrome/browser/ CrashHandlerHostLinux::OnFileCanReadWithoutBlocking() Called by the browser process when a renderer crashes. Reads the basic crash info from the renderer's pipe.

chrome/browser/ CrashHandlerHostLinux::WriteDumpFile() Called by the browser process. Determines the path for a renderer crash's minidump. Calls Breakpad's WriteMinidump() to do the dumping.

breakpad/src/client/linux/minidump_writer/ WriteMinidump() Attaches to and dumps a renderer process to a minidump file.

chrome/app/ HandleCrashDump() Reads the minidump file, adds additional MIME information, and either uploads it or writes it out to file.

About the Team

Where should I file Crash Reporting bug reports/feature requests?

Use the chromium-os issue tracker: File it under component "OS>Systems>CrashReporting".

Who is responsible for this FAQ?

The Crash Reporting team. If you find any issues with the questions/answers, or there's a question you feel would be beneficial to have answered here, feel free to create an issue under area "Area-Logging" with type "Type-Documentation".

Who are the authors of this FAQ?

This FAQ is maintained by the Crash Reporting team. The original author was Michael Krebs (mkrebs@). It started as part of a general Chrome OS reference guide, but was later split into this FAQ, a Crash Reporting Reference Guide, a Google Breakpad Reference Guide, and another Chrome OS Reference Guide.