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, or you can build it in a Chrome OS checkout with sudo emerge google-breakpad.  Googlers: You can also check /home/mkrebs/public/crash_reporting/minidump-2-core/ for some pre-built binaries that might work for you.

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.  The public copy is here and the Google Drive is here.  For a general overview, though:

Crash reporting for Chrome is done by linking in Breakpad.  When a Chrome crash occurs, the Breakpad library code linked into it takes care of generating a report.  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.

The crash reports generated by Chrome are uploaded by Chrome itself.  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:

  • The old type uses the "Logging.CrashCounter" histogram with buckets for "user", "kernel", and "unclean shutdown" counts.
  • The new type has Chrome report them in its own stability metrics (see for more info).

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!"):

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 setting the environment variable $FORCE_OFFICIAL to 1 and then run crash_sender manually.  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 variable $SECONDS_SEND_SPREAD to 1 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
touch /tmp/crash-test-in-progress   # make crash_sender upload despite test image
crash_sender -e FORCE_OFFICIAL=1 -e SECONDS_SEND_SPREAD=1   # 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?

Short answer: yes (Chrome OS crashes) and no (Chrome crashes).

For Chrome OS crashes, 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 /home/chronos/user/crash 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 will not send more than 32 per day.  More specifically, if 32 crash reports have been sent within the past 24 hours, it will delay and try sending the crash report later.  That limit is defined in crash--reporter/crash_sender's variable $MAX_CRASH_RATE.

Chrome uses its own crash-reporting mechanism, and it has no limits.  Its crash reports are only temporarily on disk (they are deleted immediately after uploading), so the number-on-disk is not much of an issue; however, it is technically possible for browser crash reports to stay around in /var/log/chrome/Crash Reports/ (e.g. if the machine happens to crash before the removal is done).  I'm not aware of any cleanup that's done for these lingering files.  If consent is enabled for uploading crash reports, Chrome will upload a report as soon the crash occurs regardless of how many have already been sent (although there's no long-term retry upon failure).


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

For processes run as user "chronos", crash_reporter puts its files (*.dmp, *.meta, and *.core) in /home/chronos/user/crash/.  For other processes, crash_reporter puts them in /var/spool/crash/.  If you are running a developer image (i.e. the /root/.leave_core file exists), crash_reporter will not delete the core file.  Note that Chrome handles its own crashes, and so crash_reporter will normally ignore them (see FAQ entry Why would chrome crashes not generate a core file on dev builds to change that).

The way Chrome handles its own crashes does not result in a core file.  It will normally generate a minidump file, upload it (if consent is enabled), and then delete it immediately.   It will generate the minidump (*.dmp) in /tmp/ for non-browser crashes, and in /var/log/chrome/Crash Reports/ for browser crashes.  TIP: I've used this fact in the past to get an almost complete copy of the minidump by having a "while [ 1 ]" shell loop copy off /tmp/*.dmp to somewhere else during a crash.

If Chrome is in "headless" mode, it will generate both kinds of minidumps in /var/log/chrome/Crash Reports/, and neither upload nor delete them.  NOTE: Instead of /var/log/chrome/Crash Reports/, Chrome used to put its minidumps in (and still does for non-Chrome OS machines) $HOME/.config/google-chrome/Crash Reports/, but that was changed due to

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).

Core File Questions

Does crash_reporter save the core file for a crash?

Yes, but only for developer images.  When a crash occurs, the kernel sends the core file to crash_reporter.  The core file is saved to disk by crash_reporter and then converted to a minidump.  If the /root/.leave_core file exists (i.e. 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.  Note that by default Chrome crashes are not handled by crash_reporter (see FAQ entry Why would chrome crashes not generate a core file on dev builds).

How can I get the core file for a crash?

For non-Chrome crashes when running a developer image, see FAQ entry Does crash_reporter save the core file for a crash.  For Chrome crashes on a developer image, see FAQ entry Why would chrome crashes not generate a core file on dev builds.

If you're not running a developer image, the easiest way to get core files is probably to touch the /mnt/stateful_partition/etc/enable_chromium_coredumps file and reboot.  This will disable crash_reporter and core files will be saved into /var/coredumps/.  NOTE: There's a race condition with the checking of this flag file and the initialization of crash_reporter -- meaning that the setting of core_pattern might be undone if crash_reporter happens to start after the UI is started (see

If you don't want to reboot, 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>

Why would Chrome crashes not generate a core file on dev builds?

By default, all but Chrome crashes are handled by crash_reporter.  Chrome handles its own crashes by linking in Breakpad, which does not generate core files.  In order to have crash_reporter not ignore Chrome crashes, though, you can touch the /mnt/stateful_partition/etc/collect_chrome_crashes file.  This file is normally used by the autotests in order for Chrome crashes to still be handled.  See also FAQ entry Does crash_reporter save the core file for a crash.


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).


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 area "Area-Logging".

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.