GDB Tutorial

In this tutorial, we will walk through some of the features of gdb by running a program called highscore.

First get a copy of the program by running the following commands in your CS Linux account.

cd ~/cs224
tar xf highscore.tar
cd highscore

Try running the program.


The program takes as input four integers. The goal is to find the four numbers that gives you the highest possible score (100).

./highscore 1 2 3 4
You entered the integers 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Your score is -5278.

To solve this problem we are going to need to figure out how the program works. We can start by looking at highscore.c.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

#include "score.h"

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
  long i, j, k, l, s;
  /* Make sure that we have exactly 5 arguments: the name of the
     executable, and 4 numbers */
  if (argc != 5) {  
    printf("Usage: %s i j k l\n", argv[0]);
    printf("where i,j,k,l are integers.\n");
    printf("Try to get as high a score as you can.\n");
  /* Convert the inputs to ints */
  i = strtol(argv[1], NULL, 0);  
  j = strtol(argv[2], NULL, 0);  
  k = strtol(argv[3], NULL, 0);  
  l = strtol(argv[4], NULL, 0);  
  printf("You entered the integers %ld, %ld, %ld, and %ld.\n", i, j, k, l);

  s = score1(i);
  s += score2(j);
  s += score3(k);
  s += score4(l);

  printf("Your score is %ld.\n", s);

  return 0;

Unfortunately, you only have source code for the main() function and not the score functions. But no worries! We’ll figure out what is going on by looking at the assembly version of those functions.

To do this, we are going to use gdb the Gnu Debugger.

To run under the debugger, use the following command:

gdb -tui highscore

This starts the debugger in “text UI mode”. The screen is divided into two parts. The top part shows you the the C code that we have provided for you, and the bottom half shows you the command interface to the debugger. This window allows you to enter gdb commands to run and step through your program.

Now run the program from within gdb with the run command.

(gdb) run 1 2 3 4

What comes after the run command are the command line arguments that are passed into the program.

You should have got an output that looked something like this:

(gdb) run 1 2 3 4
Starting program: /home/jawaterman/cs224/highscore/highscore 1 2 3 4
[Inferior 1 (process 18273) exited normally]

Let’s set a breakpoint and run our program and run our program again.

(gdb) b main
(gdb) run 1 2 3 4

This time the program didn’t run all the way. You output should look something like this:

(gdb) b main
Breakpoint 1 at 0x4005d6: file highscore.c, line 11.
(gdb) run 1 2 3 4
Starting program: /home/jawaterman/cmpu-224_sp22/labs/highscore/highscore 1 2 3 4

Breakpoint 1, main (argc=5, argv=0x7fffffffe108) at highscore.c:11

When we ran our program this time, it stopped at the start of main. gdb is now waiting for us to enter a gdb command.

Execute one line of the program with the next (n) command.

Let’s also set a breakpoint at score1 function.

(gdb) n