How to force a stack trace from within a Java program?

Posted on 2001-07-20
Last Modified: 2013-11-23
We have a need for a mechanism to force a threads stack trace and monitor dump from within the Java program itself.  I know that we can force the stack trace from outside the program on UNIX systems by sending a SIGQUIT signal to the Java program.  This can be done by typing CTRL\

I have implemented a simple JNI method in C that does:

kill( getpid(), SIGQUIT );

which seems to work from within the program.  However, I don't know how to do the equivalent on Windows NT.   Windows doesn't appear to have a kill function, and doesn't have a full implementation of UNIX signals, I believe.

Can anyone help?
Question by:bhiggs
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Expert Comment

by:Jim Cakalic
ID: 6303201
To generate a stack trace on Windows 95, or Windows NT platforms, enter the key sequence <ctrl><break> in the window where the Java program is running.

As far as a kill 'function' or utility, have a look at the cygwin distribution. It is a very stable and robust implementation of GNU tools and utilities for the Windows platform. And its free. It includes an implementation of kill -- although I should warn you that I haven't been able to get kill to cause the Sun JVM to dump stack trace.

Best regards,
Jim Cakalic

Author Comment

ID: 6303288
Thanks, Jim.

I knew that a CTRL/Break key sequence forced a Java stack trace, but our need is to be able to force it from within the program.

It sounds like the kill/SIGQUIT mechanism isn't what Java uses on Windows.  I've asked in various places on the Sun Java website, but no responses yet.



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ID: 6303523
Can't you throw an exception, catch it at the same place and print the stack trace there ?
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by:Jim Cakalic
ID: 6303546
Definitely not the same as printing the full thread dump. I was playing with Thread and ThreadGroup thinking I could simulate the JVM-provided dump. But not all the information in the dump is accessible using objects of those classes. BTW, you don't have to throw the Exception -- just instantiate it.

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ID: 6304227
And why create an exception when you can call dumpStack()?
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Author Comment

ID: 6304763
Thread.dumpStack() and Throwable.printStackTrace() are pretty much equivalent, except that the latter is more flexible, since you can decide where the output goes.  Instantiating a Throwable (or any subclass thereof) also provides a convenient stack trace as of the point where the instance was created.  This can be very useful for later debugging.

But that's beside the point.  I'm not talking about printing a single thread's stack.  I'm talking about forcing a dump of *every* stack's call stack, *plus* the monitor dump.   (Jim Cakalic had the right idea.)  

For those who aren't familiar with this, run a Java program (using the java launcher, *not* the jre launcher) on Windows from an MS-DOS console window and then type CTRL/BREAK in that console window.  You'll see the kind of stack trace I'm looking for.
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ID: 6305480
Why not just run dumpStack on every thread?
If you maintain a reference to the main thread, then you can use the various enumerate methods on ThreadGroup to grab a list of all threads.

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by:Jim Cakalic
ID: 6308827
Unfortunately, dumpStack is a Thread class method that prints the stack of the _current_ thread to System.err. In fact, the implementation is simply:

    new Exception("Stack trace").printStackTrace();

So if your application had 7 threads, you can certainly use ThreadGroup.enumerate to get Thread objects corresponding to each. And you can get from those Thread objects their name, priority, and whether it is a daemon. But if you also called dumpStack on each Thread object, you would simply get your current program location printed 7 times, not the stack for each enumerated Thread.


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