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19.1 Active Targets

There are three classes of targets: processes, core files, and executable files. gdb can work concurrently on up to three active targets, one in each class. This allows you to (for example) start a process and inspect its activity without abandoning your work on a core file.

For example, if you execute gdb a.out, then the executable file a.out is the only active target. If you designate a core file as well—presumably from a prior run that crashed and coredumped—then gdb has two active targets and uses them in tandem, looking first in the corefile target, then in the executable file, to satisfy requests for memory addresses. (Typically, these two classes of target are complementary, since core files contain only a program's read-write memory—variables and so on—plus machine status, while executable files contain only the program text and initialized data.)

When you type run, your executable file becomes an active process target as well. When a process target is active, all gdb commands requesting memory addresses refer to that target; addresses in an active core file or executable file target are obscured while the process target is active.

Use the core-file and exec-file commands to select a new core file or executable target (see Commands to Specify Files). To specify as a target a process that is already running, use the attach command (see Debugging an Already-running Process).