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Programming neat applications is one thing. But when a user informs you your software has crashed, you know it's best to fix this before adding other features. If you're lucky enough, the user will have a crash address. This will go a long way in solving the problem. But how can you determine what went wrong, using this crash address?
Creating a MAP file
Well first of all, you'll need a MAP file. If you don't have one, it will be nearly impossible to find where your application crashed using the crash address. So first, I'll show you how to create a good MAP file. For this, I will create a new project (MAPFILE). You can do the same, or adjust your own project. I create a new project using the Win32 Application option in VC++ 6.0, selecting the 'typical "Hello Word!" application' to keep the size of the MAP file reasonable for explanation.
Once created we need to adjust the project settings for the release version. In the C/C++ tab, select "Line Numbers Only" for Debug Info.
Many people forget this, but you'll need this option if you want a good MAP file. This will not affect your release in any way.
Next is the Link tab. Here you need to select the "Generate mapfile" option. Also, type the switches
/MAPINFO:EXPORTS in the Project Options edit box.
Now, you're ready to compile and link your project. After linking, you will find a .map file in your intermediate directory (together with your exe).
Reading the MAP file
After all this dull work, now comes the neat part: how to read the MAP file. We'll do this by using a crash example. So first: how to crash your application. I did this by adding these two lines at the end of the
char* pEmpty = NULL;
*pEmpty = 'x';
I'm sure you can find other instructions which will crash your application. Now recompile and link. If you start the application, it will crash and you'll get a message like this: 'The instruction at "0x004011a1" referenced memory at "0x00000000". The memory could not be "Written".' .
Now, it's time to open the MAP file with notepad or something similar. You MAP file will look like this:
The top of the MAP file contains the module name, the timestamp indicating the link of the project, and the preferred load address (which will probably be
0x00400000 unless you're using a dll). After the header comes the section information that shows which sections the linker brought in from the various OBJ and LIB files.
Timestamp is 3df6394d (Tue Dec 10 19:58:21 2002)
Preferred load address is 00400000
Start Length Name Class
0001:00000000 000038feH .text CODE
0002:00000000 000000f4H .idata$5 DATA
0002:000000f8 00000394H .rdata DATA
0002:0000048c 00000028H .idata$2 DATA
0002:000004b4 00000014H .idata$3 DATA
0002:000004c8 000000f4H .idata$4 DATA
0002:000005bc 0000040aH .idata$6 DATA
0002:000009c6 00000000H .edata DATA
0003:00000000 00000004H .CRT$XCA DATA
0003:00000004 00000004H .CRT$XCZ DATA
0003:00000008 00000004H .CRT$XIA DATA
0003:0000000c 00000004H .CRT$XIC DATA
0003:00000010 00000004H .CRT$XIZ DATA
0003:00000014 00000004H .CRT$XPA DATA
0003:00000018 00000004H .CRT$XPZ DATA
0003:0000001c 00000004H .CRT$XTA DATA
0003:00000020 00000004H .CRT$XTZ DATA
0003:00000030 00002490H .data DATA
0003:000024c0 000005fcH .bss DATA
0004:00000000 00000250H .rsrc$01 DATA
0004:00000250 00000720H .rsrc$02 DATA
After the section information, you get the public function information. Notice the "public" part. If you have static-declared C functions, they won't show up in the MAP file. Fortunately, the line numbers will still reflect the static functions. The important parts of the public function information are the function names and the information in the
Rva+Base column, which is the starting address of the function.
Address Publics by Value Rva+Base Lib:Object
0001:00000000 _WinMain@16 00401000 f MAPFILE.obj
0001:000000c0 ?MyRegisterClass@@YAGPAUHINSTANCE__@@@Z 004010c0 f MAPFILE.obj
0001:00000150 ?InitInstance@@YAHPAUHINSTANCE__@@H@Z 00401150 f MAPFILE.obj
0001:000001b0 ?WndProc@@YGJPAUHWND__@@IIJ@Z 004011b0 f MAPFILE.obj
0001:00000310 ?About@@YGJPAUHWND__@@IIJ@Z 00401310 f MAPFILE.obj
0001:00000350 _WinMainCRTStartup 00401350 f LIBC:wincrt0.obj
0001:00000446 __amsg_exit 00401446 f LIBC:wincrt0.obj
0001:0000048f __cinit 0040148f f LIBC:crt0dat.obj
0001:000004bc _exit 004014bc f LIBC:crt0dat.obj
0001:000004cd __exit 004014cd f LIBC:crt0dat.obj
0001:00000591 __XcptFilter 00401591 f LIBC:winxfltr.obj
0001:00000715 __wincmdln 00401715 f LIBC:wincmdln.obj
//SNIPPED FOR BETTER READING
0003:00002ab4 __FPinit 00408ab4 <common>
0003:00002ab8 __acmdln 00408ab8 <common>
entry point at 0001:00000350
0001:000035d0 LeadUp1 004045d0 f LIBC:memmove.obj
0001:000035fc LeadUp2 004045fc f LIBC:memmove.obj
//SNIPPED FOR BETTER READING
0001:00000577 __initterm 00401577 f LIBC:crt0dat.obj
0001:0000046b _fast_error_exit 0040146b f LIBC:wincrt0.obj
The public function part is followed by the line information (you got this if you used the
/MAPINFO:LINES in the Link tab and selected the "Line numbers" in the C/C++ tab). After this, you will get the export information if your project contains exported functions and you included
/MAPINFO:EXPORTS in the link tab.
Line numbers for .\Release\MAPFILE.obj(F:\MAPFILE\MAPFILE.cpp) segment .text
24 0001:00000000 30 0001:00000004 31 0001:0000001b 32 0001:00000027
35 0001:0000002d 53 0001:00000041 40 0001:00000047 43 0001:00000050
45 0001:00000077 47 0001:00000088 48 0001:0000008f 52 0001:000000ad
53 0001:000000b3 71 0001:000000c0 80 0001:000000c3 81 0001:000000c8
82 0001:000000ff 86 0001:00000114 88 0001:00000135 89 0001:00000145
102 0001:00000150 108 0001:00000155 110 0001:00000188 122 0001:0000018d
115 0001:0000018e 116 0001:0000019a 119 0001:000001a1 121 0001:000001a8
122 0001:000001ae 135 0001:000001b0 143 0001:000001cc 172 0001:000001ee
175 0001:0000020d 149 0001:00000216 157 0001:0000022c 175 0001:00000248
154 0001:00000251 174 0001:0000025f 175 0001:00000261 151 0001:0000026a
174 0001:00000287 175 0001:00000289 161 0001:00000294 164 0001:000002a8
165 0001:000002b6 166 0001:000002d8 174 0001:000002e7 175 0001:000002e9
169 0001:000002f2 174 0001:000002fa 175 0001:000002fc 179 0001:00000310
186 0001:0000031e 193 0001:0000032e 194 0001:00000330 188 0001:00000333
183 0001:00000344 194 0001:00000349
Now we will look up where the crash occurred. First, we'll determine which function contains the crash address. Look in the "
Rva+Base" column and search the first function with an address bigger than the crash address. The preceding entry in the MAP file is the function that had the crash. In our example our crash address is
0x004011a1. This is between
0x004011b0 so we know the crash function is
?InitInstance@@YAHPAUHINSTANCE__@@H@Z . Any function name that starts with a question mark is a C++ decorated name. To translate the name, pass it as a command-line parameter to the Platform SDK program UNDNAME.EXE (in the bin dir). You won't need to do this most of the time as you might figure it out just by looking at it (here:
InitInstance() in MAPFILE.obj).
This is a big step for bug tracking. But it gets even better: we can find out on which line the crash occurred! We need to do some basic hexadecimal mathematics, so people whom can't do this without a calculator: now is the time to use it. The first step is the following calculation:
crash_address - preferred_load_address - 0x1000
Addresses are offsets from the beginning of the first code section, se we need to do this calculation. Subtracting the preferred load address is logical, but why do we need to substract another 0x1000? The crash address is an offset from the beginning of the code section, but the first part of the binary isn't the code section! The first part of the binary is the Portable Executable (PE), which is 0x1000 bytes long. Mystery solved. In our example, this is:
0x004011a1 - 0x00400000 - 0x1000 = 0x1a1
Now it's time to look in the line information section of the MAP file. The lines are shown like this:
30 0001:00000004. The first number is the line number, the second number is the offset from the beginning of the code section in which this line occurred. If we want to look for our line number, we just have to do the same thing we did for the function: determine the first occurrence of a bigger offset than the one we just calculated. The crash occurred in the preceding entry. In our example:
0x1a1 is before
0x1a8. So our crash occurred on
line 119 in MAPFILE.CPP.
Keeping track of MAP files
Each release had it's own MAP file. It's not a bad idea to include the MAP file with the exe distribution. This way, you can be certain you have the correct MAP file for this exe. You could keep every MAP file with every exe on your system, but we all know this might give some troubles later on. The MAP file doesn't contain any information you wouldn't want the user to see (unless maybe class and function names ?) . A user would have no use with it, but at least you can ask for the MAP file if you don't have a copy yourself.
John Robbins for his "Debugging Applications" book