stap - systemtap script translator/driver


stap [ OPTIONS ] - [ ARGUMENTS ]


The stap program is the front-end to the Systemtap tool. It accepts probing instructions (written in a simple scripting language), translates those instructions into C code, compiles this C code, and loads the resulting kernel module into a running Linux kernel to perform the requested system trace/probe functions. You can supply the script in a named file, from standard input, or from the command line. The program runs until it is interrupted by the user, or if the script voluntarily invokes the exit() function, or by sufficient number of soft errors.

The language, which is described in a later section, is strictly typed, declaration free, procedural, and inspired by awk. It allows source code points or events in the kernel to be associated with handlers, which are subroutines that are executed synchronously. It is somewhat similar conceptually to "breakpoint command lists" in the gdb debugger.


The systemtap translator supports the following options. Any other option prints a list of supported options.
Show help message.
Show version message.
-p NUM
Stop after pass NUM. The passes are numbered 1-5: parse, elaborate, translate, compile, run. See the PROCESSING section for details.
Increase verbosity for all passes. Produce a larger volume of informative (?) output each time option repeated.
--vp ABCDE
Increase verbosity on a per-pass basis. For example, "--vp 002" adds 2 units of verbosity to pass 3 only. The combination "-v --vp 00004" adds 1 unit of verbosity for all passes, and 4 more for pass 5.
Keep the temporary directory after all processing. This may be useful in order to examine the generated C code, or to reuse the compiled kernel object.
Guru mode. Enable parsing of unsafe expert-level constructs like embedded C.
Prologue-searching mode. Activate heuristics to work around incorrect debugging information for $target variables.
Unoptimized mode. Disable unused code elision during elaboration.
Suppressed warnings mode. Disables all warning messages.
Use bulk mode (percpu files) for kernel-to-user data transfer.
Collect timing information on the number of times probe executes and average amount of time spent in each probe.
Use NUM megabyte buffers for kernel-to-user data transfer. On a multiprocessor in bulk mode, this is a per-processor amount.
Add the given directory to the tapset search directory. See the description of pass 2 for details.
Add the given C preprocessor directive to the module Makefile. These can be used to override limit parameters described below.
Add the given make directive to the kernel module build's make invocation. These can be used to add or override kconfig options.
Sets the value of global variable NAME to VALUE when staprun is invoked. This applies to scalar variables declared global in the script/tapset.
Look for the systemtap runtime sources in the given directory.
-r /DIR
Build for kernel in given build tree. Can also be set with the SYSTEMTAP_RELEASE environment variable.
Build for kernel in build tree /lib/modules/RELEASE/build. Can also be set with the SYSTEMTAP_RELEASE environment variable.
Use the given name for the generated kernel object module, instead of a unique randomized name. The generated kernel object module is copied to the current directory.
Add symbol/unwind information for the given module into the kernel object module. This may enable symbolic tracebacks from those modules/programs, even if they do not have an explicit probe placed into them.
Add symbol/unwind information for all shared libraries suspected by ldd to be necessary for user-space binaries being probe or listed with the -d option. Caution: this can make the probe modules considerably larger.
Equivalent to specifying "-d" for each kernel modules that are currently loaded. Caution: this can make the probe modules considerably larger.
Send standard output to named file. In bulk mode, percpu files will start with FILE_ (FILE_cpu with -F) followed by the cpu number. This supports strftime(3) formats for FILE.
-c CMD
Start the probes, run CMD, and exit when CMD finishes.
-x PID
Sets target() to PID. This allows scripts to be written that filter on a specific process.
Instead of running a probe script, just list all available probe points matching the given pattern. The pattern may include wildcards and aliases. The process result code will indicate failure if there are no matches.
Similar to "-l", but list probe points and script-level local variables.
Without -o option, load module and start probes, then detach from the module leaving the probes running. With -o option, run staprun in background as a daemon and show its pid.
-S size[,N]
Sets the maximum size of output file and the maximum number of output files. If the size of output file will exceed size , systemtap switches output file to the next file. And if the number of output files exceed N , systemtap removes the oldest output file. You can omit the second argument.
Ignore out of context variables and substitute with literal 0.
--compatible VERSION
Suppress recent script language or tapset changes which are incompatible with given older version of systemtap. This may be useful if a much older systemtap script fails to run. See the DEPRECATION section for more details.
Use a compatible compile server (automatically found) for phases 1 through 4.
--list-servers SERVERS
Display the status of the requested SERVERS, where SERVERS is a comma-separated list of server attributes. Currently supported attribues are:
displays information about servers which are currently online.
displays information about servers which are compatible with the current kernel release and architecture.

The default, if no argument is specified is online,compatible, which displays information about compatible servers which are currently online.


Any additional arguments on the command line are passed to the script parser for substitution. See below.


The systemtap script language resembles awk. There are two main outermost constructs: probes and functions. Within these, statements and expressions use C-like operator syntax and precedence.


Whitespace is ignored. Three forms of comments are supported:

# ... shell style, to the end of line, except for $# and @#
// ... C++ style, to the end of line
/* ... C style ... */
Literals are either strings enclosed in double-quotes (passing through the usual C escape codes with backslashes), or integers (in decimal, hexadecimal, or octal, using the same notation as in C). All strings are limited in length to some reasonable value (a few hundred bytes). Integers are 64-bit signed quantities, although the parser also accepts (and wraps around) values above positive 2**63.

In addition, script arguments given at the end of the command line may be inserted. Use $1 ... $<NN> for insertion unquoted, @1 ... @<NN> for insertion as a string literal. The number of arguments may be accessed through $# (as an unquoted number) or through @# (as a quoted number). These may be used at any place a token may begin, including within the preprocessing stage. Reference to an argument number beyond what was actually given is an error.


A simple conditional preprocessing stage is run as a part of parsing. The general form is similar to the cond ? exp1 : exp2 ternary operator:
The CONDITION is either an expression whose format is determined by its first keyword, or a string literals comparison or a numeric literals comparison. It can be also composed of many alternatives and conjunctions of CONDITIONs (meant as in previous sentence) using || and && respectively. However, parentheses are not supported yet, so remembering that conjunction takes precedence over alternative is important.

If the first part is the identifier kernel_vr or kernel_v to refer to the kernel version number, with ("2.6.13-1.322FC3smp") or without ("2.6.13") the release code suffix, then the second part is one of the six standard numeric comparison operators <, <=, ==, !=, >, and >=, and the third part is a string literal that contains an RPM-style version-release value. The condition is deemed satisfied if the version of the target kernel (as optionally overridden by the -r option) compares to the given version string. The comparison is performed by the glibc function strverscmp. As a special case, if the operator is for simple equality (==), or inequality (!=), and the third part contains any wildcard characters (* or ? or [), then the expression is treated as a wildcard (mis)match as evaluated by fnmatch.

If, on the other hand, the first part is the identifier arch to refer to the processor architecture (as named by the kernel build system ARCH/SUBARCH), then the second part is one of the two string comparison operators == or !=, and the third part is a string literal for matching it. This comparison is a wildcard (mis)match.

Similarly, if the first part is an identifier like CONFIG_something to refer to a kernel configuration option, then the second part is == or !=, and the third part is a string literal for matching the value (commonly "y" or "m"). Nonexistent or unset kernel configuration options are represented by the empty string. This comparison is also a wildcard (mis)match.

If the first part is the identifier systemtap_v, the test refers to the systemtap compatibility version, which may be overridden for old scripts with the --compatible flag. The comparison operator is as is for kernel_v and the right operand is a version string. See also the DEPRECATION section below.

Otherwise, the CONDITION is expected to be a comparison between two string literals or two numeric literals. In this case, the arguments are the only variables usable.

The TRUE-TOKENS and FALSE-TOKENS are zero or more general parser tokens (possibly including nested preprocessor conditionals), and are passed into the input stream if the condition is true or false. For example, the following code induces a parse error unless the target kernel version is newer than 2.6.5:

 %( kernel_v <= "2.6.5" %? **ERROR** %) # invalid token sequence
The following code might adapt to hypothetical kernel version drift:
 probe kernel.function (
   %( kernel_v <= "2.6.12" %? "__mm_do_fault" %:
      %( kernel_vr == "2.6.13*smp" %? "do_page_fault" %:
         UNSUPPORTED %) %)
 ) { /* ... */ }
 %( arch == "ia64" %?
    probe syscall.vliw = kernel.function("vliw_widget") {}


Identifiers for variables and functions are an alphanumeric sequence, and may include "_" and "$" characters. They may not start with a plain digit, as in C. Each variable is by default local to the probe or function statement block within which it is mentioned, and therefore its scope and lifetime is limited to a particular probe or function invocation.

Scalar variables are implicitly typed as either string or integer. Associative arrays also have a string or integer value, and a tuple of strings and/or integers serving as a key. Here are a few basic expressions.

 var1 = 5
 var2 = "bar"
 array1 [pid()] = "name"     # single numeric key
 array2 ["foo",4,i++] += 5   # vector of string/num/num keys
 if (["hello",5,4] in array2) println ("yes")  # membership test

The translator performs type inference on all identifiers, including array indexes and function parameters. Inconsistent type-related use of identifiers signals an error.

Variables may be declared global, so that they are shared amongst all probes and live as long as the entire systemtap session. There is one namespace for all global variables, regardless of which script file they are found within. A global declaration may be written at the outermost level anywhere, not within a block of code. Global variables which are written but never read will be displayed automatically at session shutdown. The translator will infer for each its value type, and if it is used as an array, its key types. Optionally, scalar globals may be initialized with a string or number literal. The following declaration marks variables as global.

global var1, var2, var3=4

Global variables can also be set as module options. One can do this by either using the -G option, or the module must first be compiled using stap -p4. Global variables can then be set on the command line when calling staprun on the module generated by stap -p4. See staprun(8) for more information.

Arrays are limited in size by the MAXMAPENTRIES variable -- see the SAFETY AND SECURITY section for details. Optionally, global arrays may be declared with a maximum size in brackets, overriding MAXMAPENTRIES for that array only. Note that this doesn't indicate the type of keys for the array, just the size.

global tiny_array[10], normal_array, big_array[50000]


Statements enable procedural control flow. They may occur within functions and probe handlers. The total number of statements executed in response to any single probe event is limited to some number defined by a macro in the translated C code, and is in the neighbourhood of 1000.
Execute the string- or integer-valued expression and throw away the value.
{ STMT1 STMT2 ... }
Execute each statement in sequence in this block. Note that separators or terminators are generally not necessary between statements.
Null statement, do nothing. It is useful as an optional separator between statements to improve syntax-error detection and to handle certain grammar ambiguities.
if (EXP) STMT1 [ else STMT2 ]
Compare integer-valued EXP to zero. Execute the first (non-zero) or second STMT (zero).
while (EXP) STMT
While integer-valued EXP evaluates to non-zero, execute STMT.
for (EXP1; EXP2; EXP3) STMT
Execute EXP1 as initialization. While EXP2 is non-zero, execute STMT, then the iteration expression EXP3.
foreach (VAR in ARRAY [ limit EXP ]) STMT
Loop over each element of the named global array, assigning current key to VAR. The array may not be modified within the statement. By adding a single + or - operator after the VAR or the ARRAY identifier, the iteration will proceed in a sorted order, by ascending or descending index or value. Using the optional limit keyword limits the number of loop iterations to EXP times. EXP is evaluated once at the beginning of the loop.
foreach ([VAR1, VAR2, ...] in ARRAY [ limit EXP ]) STMT
Same as above, used when the array is indexed with a tuple of keys. A sorting suffix may be used on at most one VAR or ARRAY identifier.
foreach (VALUE = VAR in ARRAY [ limit EXP ]) STMT
This variant of foreach saves current value into VALUE on each iteration, so it is the same as ARRAY[VAR]. This also works with a tuple of keys. Sorting suffixes on VALUE have the same effect as on ARRAY.
break, continue
Exit or iterate the innermost nesting loop (while or for or foreach) statement.
return EXP
Return EXP value from enclosing function. If the function's value is not taken anywhere, then a return statement is not needed, and the function will have a special "unknown" type with no return value.
Return now from enclosing probe handler. This is especially useful in probe aliases that apply event filtering predicates.
try { STMT1 } catch { STMT2 }
Run the statements in the first block. Upon any run-time errors, abort STMT1 and start executing STMT2. Any errors in STMT2 will propagate to outer try/catch blocks, if any.
try { STMT1 } catch(VAR) { STMT2 }
Same as above, plus assign the error message to the string scalar variable VAR.
delete ARRAY[INDEX1, INDEX2, ...]
Remove from ARRAY the element specified by the index tuple. The value will no longer be available, and subsequent iterations will not report the element. It is not an error to delete an element that does not exist.
delete ARRAY
Remove all elements from ARRAY.
delete SCALAR
Removes the value of SCALAR. Integers and strings are cleared to 0 and "" respectively, while statistics are reset to the initial empty state.


Systemtap supports a number of operators that have the same general syntax, semantics, and precedence as in C and awk. Arithmetic is performed as per typical C rules for signed integers. Division by zero or overflow is detected and results in an error.
binary numeric operators
* / % + - >> << & ^ | && ||
binary string operators
. (string concatenation)
numeric assignment operators
= *= /= %= += -= >>= <<= &= ^= |=
string assignment operators
= .=
unary numeric operators
+ - ! ~ ++ --
binary numeric or string comparison operators
< > <= >= == !=
ternary operator
cond ? exp1 : exp2
grouping operator
( exp )
function call
fn ([ arg1, arg2, ... ])
array membership check
exp in array
[exp1, exp2, ...] in array


The main construct in the scripting language identifies probes. Probes associate abstract events with a statement block ("probe handler") that is to be executed when any of those events occur. The general syntax is as follows:

Events are specified in a special syntax called "probe points". There are several varieties of probe points defined by the translator, and tapset scripts may define further ones using aliases. These are listed in the stapprobes(3stap) manual pages.

The probe handler is interpreted relative to the context of each event. For events associated with kernel code, this context may include variables defined in the source code at that spot. These "target variables" are presented to the script as variables whose names are prefixed with "$". They may be accessed only if the kernel's compiler preserved them despite optimization. This is the same constraint that a debugger user faces when working with optimized code. Some other events have very little context. See the stapprobes(3stap) man pages to see the kinds of context variables available at each kind of probe point.

New probe points may be defined using "aliases". Probe point aliases look similar to probe definitions, but instead of activating a probe at the given point, it just defines a new probe point name as an alias to an existing one. There are two types of alias, i.e. the prologue style and the epilogue style which are identified by "=" and "+=" respectively.

For prologue style alias, the statement block that follows an alias definition is implicitly added as a prologue to any probe that refers to the alias. While for the epilogue style alias, the statement block that follows an alias definition is implicitly added as an epilogue to any probe that refers to the alias. For example:

 probe = kernel.function("sys_read") {
   fildes = $fd
   if (execname() == "init") next  # skip rest of probe
defines a new probe point, which expands to kernel.function(sys_read), with the given statement as a prologue, which is useful to predefine some variables for the alias user and/or to skip probe processing entirely based on some conditions. And
 probe += kernel.function("sys_read") {
   if (tracethis) println ($fd)
defines a new probe point with the given statement as an epilogue, which is useful to take actions based upon variables set or left over by the the alias user.

An alias is used just like a built-in probe type.

 probe {
   printf("reading fd=%d, fildes)
   if (fildes > 10) tracethis = 1


Systemtap scripts may define subroutines to factor out common work. Functions take any number of scalar (integer or string) arguments, and must return a single scalar (integer or string). An example function declaration looks like this:
 function thisfn (arg1, arg2) {
    return arg1 + arg2
Note the general absence of type declarations, which are instead inferred by the translator. However, if desired, a function definition may include explicit type declarations for its return value and/or its arguments. This is especially helpful for embedded-C functions. In the following example, the type inference engine need only infer type type of arg2 (a string).
 function thatfn:string (arg1:long, arg2) {
    return sprint(arg1) . arg2
Functions may call others or themselves recursively, up to a fixed nesting limit. This limit is defined by a macro in the translated C code and is in the neighbourhood of 10.


There are a set of function names that are specially treated by the translator. They format values for printing to the standard systemtap output stream in a more convenient way. The sprint* variants return the formatted string instead of printing it.
print, sprint
Print one or more values of any type, concatenated directly together.
println, sprintln
Print values like print and sprint, but also append a newline.
printd, sprintd
Take a string delimiter and two or more values of any type, and print the values with the delimiter interposed. The delimiter must be a literal string constant.
printdln, sprintdln
Print values with a delimiter like printd and sprintd, but also append a newline.
printf, sprintf
Take a formatting string and a number of values of corresponding types, and print them all. The format must be a literal string constant.

The printf formatting directives similar to those of C, except that they are fully type-checked by the translator:

Writes a binary blob of the value given, instead of ASCII text. The width specifier determines the number of bytes to write; valid specifiers are %b %1b %2b %4b %8b. Default (%b) is 8 bytes.
Signed decimal.
Safely reads kernel memory at the given address, outputs its content. The precision specifier determines the number of bytes to read. Default is 1 byte.
Same as %m, but outputs in hexadecimal. The minimal size of output is double the precision specifier.
Unsigned octal.
Unsigned pointer address.
Unsigned decimal.
Unsigned hex value, in all lower-case.
Unsigned hex value, in all upper-case.
Writes a %.


         a = "alice", b = "bob", p = 0x1234abcd, i = 123, j = -1, id[a] = 1234, id[b] = 4567
                 Prints: hello
                 Prints: bob\n
         println(a . " is " . sprint(16))
                 Prints: alice is 16
         foreach (name in id)  printdln("|", strlen(name), name, id[name])
                 Prints: 5|alice|1234\n3|bob|4567
         printf("%c is %s; %x or %X or %p; %d or %u\n",97,a,p,p,p,j,j)
                 Prints: a is alice; 1234abcd or 1234ABCD or 0x1234abcd; -1 or 18446744073709551615\n
         printf("2 bytes of kernel buffer at address %p: %2m", p, p)
                 Prints: 2 byte of kernel buffer at address 0x1234abcd: <binary data>
         printf("%4b", p)
                 Prints (these values as binary data): 0x1234abcd


It is often desirable to collect statistics in a way that avoids the penalties of repeatedly exclusive locking the global variables those numbers are being put into. Systemtap provides a solution using a special operator to accumulate values, and several pseudo-functions to extract the statistical aggregates.

The aggregation operator is <<<, and resembles an assignment, or a C++ output-streaming operation. The left operand specifies a scalar or array-index lvalue, which must be declared global. The right operand is a numeric expression. The meaning is intuitive: add the given number to the pile of numbers to compute statistics of. (The specific list of statistics to gather is given separately, by the extraction functions.)

     foo <<< 1
     stats[pid()] <<< memsize

The extraction functions are also special. For each appearance of a distinct extraction function operating on a given identifier, the translator arranges to compute a set of statistics that satisfy it. The statistics system is thereby "on-demand". Each execution of an extraction function causes the aggregation to be computed for that moment across all processors.

Here is the set of extractor functions. The first argument of each is the same style of lvalue used on the left hand side of the accumulate operation. The @count(v), @sum(v), @min(v), @max(v), @avg(v) extractor functions compute the number/total/minimum/maximum/average of all accumulated values. The resulting values are all simple integers.

Histograms are also available, but are more complicated because they have a vector rather than scalar value. @hist_linear(v,start,stop,interval) represents a linear histogram from "start" to "stop" by increments of "interval". The interval must be positive. Similarly, @hist_log(v) represents a base-2 logarithmic histogram. Printing a histogram with the print family of functions renders a histogram object as a tabular "ASCII art" bar chart.

 probe foo {
   x <<< $value
 probe end {
   printf ("avg %d = sum %d / count %d\n",
           @avg(x), @sum(x), @count(x))
   print (@hist_log(v))


Once a pointer has been saved into a script integer variable, the translator loses the type information necessary to access members from that pointer. Using the @cast() operator tells the translator how to read a pointer.
 @cast(p, "type_name"[, "module"])->member

This will interpret p as a pointer to a struct/union named type_name and dereference the member value. Further ->subfield expressions may be appended to dereference more levels. NOTE: the same dereferencing operator -> is used to refer to both direct containment or pointer indirection. Systemtap automatically determines which. The optional module tells the translator where to look for information about that type. Multiple modules may be specified as a list with : separators. If the module is not specified, it will default either to the probe module for dwarf probes, or to "kernel" for functions and all other probes types.

The translator can create its own module with type information from a header surrounded by angle brackets, in case normal debuginfo is not available. For kernel headers, prefix it with "kernel" to use the appropriate build system. All other headers are build with default GCC parameters into a user module. Multiple headers may be specified in sequence to resolve a codependency.

 @cast(tv, "timeval", "<sys/time.h>")->tv_sec
 @cast(task, "task_struct", "kernel<linux/sched.h>")->tgid
 @cast(task, "task_struct",
Values acquired by @cast may be pretty-printed by the $ and $$ suffix operators, the same way as described in the CONTEXT VARIABLES section of the stapprobes(3stap) manual page.

When in guru mode, the translator will also allow scripts to assign new values to members of typecasted pointers.

Typecasting is also useful in the case of void* members whose type may be determinable at runtime.

 probe foo {
   if ($var->type == 1) {
     value = @cast($var->data, "type1")->bar
   } else {
     value = @cast($var->data, "type2")->baz


When in guru mode, the translator accepts embedded code in the script. Such code is enclosed between %{ and %} markers, and is transcribed verbatim, without analysis, in some sequence, into the generated C code. At the outermost level, this may be useful to add #include instructions, and any auxiliary definitions for use by other embedded code.

Another place where embedded code is permitted is as a function body. In this case, the script language body is replaced entirely by a piece of C code enclosed again between %{ and %} markers. This C code may do anything reasonable and safe. There are a number of undocumented but complex safety constraints on atomicity, concurrency, resource consumption, and run time limits, so this is an advanced technique.

The memory locations set aside for input and output values are made available to it using a macro THIS. Here are some examples:

 function add_one (val) %{
   THIS->__retvalue = THIS->val + 1;
 function add_one_str (val) %{
   strlcpy (THIS->__retvalue, THIS->val, MAXSTRINGLEN);
   strlcat (THIS->__retvalue, "one", MAXSTRINGLEN);
The function argument and return value types have to be inferred by the translator from the call sites in order for this to work. The user should examine C code generated for ordinary script-language functions in order to write compatible embedded-C ones.

The last place where embedded code is permitted is as an expression rvalue. In this case, the C code enclosed between %{ and %} markers is interpreted as an ordinary expression value. It is assumed to be a normal 64-bit signed number, unless the marker /* string */ is included, in which case it's treated as a string.

 function add_one (val) {
   return val + %{ 1 %}
 function add_string_two (val) {
   return val . %{ /* string */ "two" %}

The embedded-C code may contain markers to assert optimization and safety properties.

/* pure */
means that the C code has no side effects and may be elided entirely if its value is not used by script code.
/* unprivileged */
means that the C code is so safe that even unprivileged users are permitted to use it.
/* guru */
means that the C code is so unsafe that a systemtap user must specify -g (guru mode) to use this.
/* string */
in embedded-C expressions only, means that the expression has const char * type and should be treated as a string value, instead of the default long numeric.


A set of builtin functions and probe point aliases are provided by the scripts installed in the directory specified in the stappaths (7) manual page. The functions are described in the stapfuncs(3stap) and stapprobes(3stap) manual pages.


The translator begins pass 1 by parsing the given input script, and all scripts (files named *.stp) found in a tapset directory. The directories listed with -I are processed in sequence, each processed in "guru mode". For each directory, a number of subdirectories are also searched. These subdirectories are derived from the selected kernel version (the -R option), in order to allow more kernel-version-specific scripts to override less specific ones. For example, for a kernel version 2.6.12-23.FC3 the following patterns would be searched, in sequence: 2.6.12-23.FC3/*.stp, 2.6.12/*.stp, 2.6/*.stp, and finally *.stp Stopping the translator after pass 1 causes it to print the parse trees.

In pass 2, the translator analyzes the input script to resolve symbols and types. References to variables, functions, and probe aliases that are unresolved internally are satisfied by searching through the parsed tapset scripts. If any tapset script is selected because it defines an unresolved symbol, then the entirety of that script is added to the translator's resolution queue. This process iterates until all symbols are resolved and a subset of tapset scripts is selected.

Next, all probe point descriptions are validated against the wide variety supported by the translator. Probe points that refer to code locations ("synchronous probe points") require the appropriate kernel debugging information to be installed. In the associated probe handlers, target-side variables (whose names begin with "$") are found and have their run-time locations decoded.

Next, all probes and functions are analyzed for optimization opportunities, in order to remove variables, expressions, and functions that have no useful value and no side-effect. Embedded-C functions are assumed to have side-effects unless they include the magic string /* pure */. Since this optimization can hide latent code errors such as type mismatches or invalid $target variables, it sometimes may be useful to disable the optimizations with the -u option.

Finally, all variable, function, parameter, array, and index types are inferred from context (literals and operators). Stopping the translator after pass 2 causes it to list all the probes, functions, and variables, along with all inferred types. Any inconsistent or unresolved types cause an error.

In pass 3, the translator writes C code that represents the actions of all selected script files, and creates a Makefile to build that into a kernel object. These files are placed into a temporary directory. Stopping the translator at this point causes it to print the contents of the C file.

In pass 4, the translator invokes the Linux kernel build system to create the actual kernel object file. This involves running make in the temporary directory, and requires a kernel module build system (headers, config and Makefiles) to be installed in the usual spot /lib/modules/VERSION/build. Stopping the translator after pass 4 is the last chance before running the kernel object. This may be useful if you want to archive the file.

In pass 5, the translator invokes the systemtap auxiliary program staprun program for the given kernel object. This program arranges to load the module then communicates with it, copying trace data from the kernel into temporary files, until the user sends an interrupt signal. Any run-time error encountered by the probe handlers, such as running out of memory, division by zero, exceeding nesting or runtime limits, results in a soft error indication. Soft errors in excess of MAXERRORS block of all subsequent probes (except error-handling probes), and terminate the session. Finally, staprun unloads the module, and cleans up.


One should avoid killing the stap process forcibly, for example with SIGKILL, because the stapio process (a child process of the stap process) and the loaded module may be left running on the system. If this happens, send SIGTERM or SIGINT to any remaining stapio processes, then use rmmod to unload the systemtap module.


See the stapex(3stap) manual page for a collection of samples.


The systemtap translator caches the pass 3 output (the generated C code) and the pass 4 output (the compiled kernel module) if pass 4 completes successfully. This cached output is reused if the same script is translated again assuming the same conditions exist (same kernel version, same systemtap version, etc.). Cached files are stored in the $SYSTEMTAP_DIR/cache directory. The cache can be limited by having the file cache_mb_limit placed in the cache directory (shown above) containing only an ASCII integer representing how many MiB the cache should not exceed. Note that this is a 'soft' limit in that the cache will be cleaned after a new entry is added, so the total cache size may temporarily exceed this limit. In the absence of this file, a default will be created with the limit set to 64MiB.


Systemtap is an administrative tool. It exposes kernel internal data structures and potentially private user information. It acquires either root privileges

To actually run the kernel objects it builds, a user must be one of the following:

the root user;
a member of the stapdev group; or
a member of the stapusr group.

Members of the stapusr group can only use modules under the following conditions:

The module is located in the /lib/modules/VERSION/systemtap directory. This directory must be owned by root and not be world writable.
The module has been signed by a trusted signer. Trusted signers are normally systemtap compile servers which sign modules when the --unprivileged option is specified by the client. See the stap-server(8) manual page for a for more information.

The kernel modules generated by stap program are run by the staprun program. The latter is a part of the Systemtap package, dedicated to module loading and unloading (but only in the white zone), and kernel-to-user data transfer. Since staprun does not perform any additional security checks on the kernel objects it is given, it would be unwise for a system administrator to add untrusted users to the stapdev or stapusr groups.

The translator asserts certain safety constraints. It aims to ensure that no handler routine can run for very long, allocate memory, perform unsafe operations, or in unintentionally interfere with the kernel. Use of script global variables is suitably locked to protect against manipulation by concurrent probe handlers. Use of guru mode constructs such as embedded C can violate these constraints, leading to kernel crash or data corruption.

The resource use limits are set by macros in the generated C code. These may be overridden with the -D flag. A selection of these is as follows:

Maximum number of nested function calls. Default determined by script analysis, with a bonus 10 slots added for recursive scripts.
Maximum length of strings, default 128.
Maximum number of iterations to wait for locks on global variables before declaring possible deadlock and skipping the probe, default 1000.
Maximum number of statements to execute during any single probe hit (with interrupts disabled), default 1000.
Maximum number of statements to execute during any single probe hit which is executed with interrupts enabled (such as begin/end probes), default (MAXACTION * 10).
Maximum number of rows in any single global array, default 2048.
Maximum number of soft errors before an exit is triggered, default 0, which means that the first error will exit the script.
Maximum number of skipped probes before an exit is triggered, default 100. Running systemtap with -t (timing) mode gives more details about skipped probes. With the default -DINTERRUPTIBLE=1 setting, probes skipped due to reentrancy are not accumulated against this limit.
Minimum number of free kernel stack bytes required in order to run a probe handler, default 1024. This number should be large enough for the probe handler's own needs, plus a safety margin.
Maximum number of concurrently armed user-space probes (uprobes), default somewhat larger than the number of user-space probe points named in the script. This pool needs to be potentialy large because individual uprobe objects (about 64 bytes each) are allocated for each process for each matching script-level probe.
Maximum amount of memory (in kilobytes) that the systemtap module should use, default unlimited. The memory size includes the size of the module itself, plus any additional allocations. This only tracks direct allocations by the systemtap runtime. This does not track indirect allocations (as done by kprobes/uprobes/etc. internals).
Size of procfs probe read buffers (in bytes). Defaults to MAXSTRINGLEN. This value can be overridden on a per-procfs file basis using the procfs read probe .maxsize(MAXSIZE) parameter.

With scripts that contain probes on any interrupt path, it is possible that those interrupts may occur in the middle of another probe handler. The probe in the interrupt handler would be skipped in this case to avoid reentrance. To work around this issue, execute stap with the option -DINTERRUPTIBLE=0 to mask interrupts throughout the probe handler. This does add some extra overhead to the probes, but it may prevent reentrance for common problem cases. However, probes in NMI handlers and in the callpath of the stap runtime may still be skipped due to reentrance.

Multiple scripts can write data into a relay buffer concurrently. A host script provides an interface for accessing its relay buffer to guest scripts. Then, the output of the guests are merged into the output of the host. To run a script as a host, execute stap with -DRELAYHOST[=name] option. The name identifies your host script among several hosts. While running the host, execute stap with -DRELAYGUEST[=name] to add a guest script to the host. Note that you must unload guests before unloading a host. If there are some guests connected to the host, unloading the host will be failed.

In case something goes wrong with stap or staprun after a probe has already started running, one may safely kill both user processes, and remove the active probe kernel module with rmmod. Any pending trace messages may be lost.

In addition to the methods outlined above, the generated kernel module also uses overload processing to make sure that probes can't run for too long. If more than STP_OVERLOAD_THRESHOLD cycles (default 500000000) have been spent in all the probes on a single cpu during the last STP_OVERLOAD_INTERVAL cycles (default 1000000000), the probes have overloaded the system and an exit is triggered.

By default, overload processing is turned on for all modules. If you would like to disable overload processing, define STP_NO_OVERLOAD (or its alias STAP_NO_OVERLOAD).


The systemtap translator generally returns with a success code of 0 if the requested script was processed and executed successfully through the requested pass. Otherwise, errors may be printed to stderr and a failure code is returned. Use -v or -vp N to increase (global or per-pass) verbosity to identify the source of the trouble.

In listings mode (-l and -L), error messages are normally suppressed. A success code of 0 is returned if at least one matching probe was found.

A script executing in pass 5 that is interrupted with ^C / SIGINT is considered to be successful.


Over time, some features of the script language and the tapset library may undergo incompatible changes, so that a script written against an old version of systemtap may no longer run. In these cases, it may help to run systemtap with the --compatible VERSION flag, specifying the last known working version of systemtap. Below is a table of recently deprecated tapset functions and syntax elements that require the given --compatible flag to use:

(none yet)
The tapset alias 'syscall.compat_pselect7a' was misnamed. It should have been 'syscall.compat_pselect7' (without the trailing 'a'). Starting in release 1.4, the old name will be deprecated.


Important files and their corresponding paths can be located in the
stappaths (7) manual page.


stapprobes(3stap), stapfuncs(3stap), stappaths(7), staprun(8), stapvars(3stap), stapex(3stap), stap-client(8), stap-server(8), awk(1), gdb(1)


Use the Bugzilla link of the project web page or our mailing list.,<>.