Linux Tools Project/OProfile/User Guide

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OProfile is a system-wide Linux profiler, capable of running at low overhead. It consists of a kernel driver and a daemon for collecting raw sample data, along with a suite of tools for parsing that data into meaningful information. OProfile is generally used by developers to determine which sections of code consume the most amount of CPU time, and why.

The OProfile plug-in allows Eclipse users to seamlessly include OProfile capabilities into their development workflow, regardless of their experience in using OProfile. Users with little experience in OProfile can use the One-Click Launch to run a default OProfile view. Experienced users can perform the same OProfile functions they would on the command line, but with a much richer visualization of the results.

For more details on OProfile, visit the project homepage at

Installation and Set-Up

The easiest way to install the OProfile plug-in for Eclipse is through the Software Updates and Add-ons menu. For information on how to use this menu, refer to

Unlike most Eclipse plug-ins, the OProfile plug-in requires some configuration after installation. Note that this configuration process takes only a few simple steps, and only needs to be done once.

After the plug-in is first installed, performing a profile run with OProfile will bring up a dialog similar to the following:

Screenshot-installscript error dialog.png

As the dialog suggests, you must run the supplied install script; this script will allow the OProfile plug-in to perform OProfile tasks as root (since OProfile cannot be run as an unprivileged user). The steps below are the same as the dialog but described in more detail.

Step 1 - Locate the Installation Scripts

Open up a terminal and locate the natives/linux/scripts subdirectory, which is found in the org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core plug-in directory. The location of this plug-in directory depends on how you installed Eclipse.

  • If you are using a distro-supplied version of Eclipse and installed the plug-in via the update site, the plug-in directory will most likely be under ~/.eclipse. To find the exact location of the plug-in directory in this case, use the following command:
    find ~/.eclipse -name 'org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core_*'
  • Alternatively, if you are using an extracted tarball of Eclipse (i.e. you downloaded a .tar.gz from, then the plug-in will most likely be in the plugins sub-directory of where you extracted it.
    For example, if you extracted the tarball to /home/ksebasti, your Eclipse installation would be in /home/ksebasti/eclipse. In this case, you should use the following command to find the exact location of the plug-in directory:
    find /home/ksebasti/eclipse -name 'org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core_*'

Note: In both cases, the quotes (') and asterisk (*) are necessary.

Sample output will look like this:

$ find /home/ksebasti/eclipse -name 'org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core_*'

Once you find the plug-in directory, navigate to its natives/linux/scripts subdirectory. Using our previous example:
cd /home/ksebasti/eclipse/plugins/org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core_0.2.0.200904131051/natives/linux/scripts

The natives/linux/scripts subdirectory contains the installation scripts you will need to run in order to allow OProfile to run as root.

Step 2 - Choose Which Installation Script To Run

The natives/linux/scripts subdirectory contains two scripts: and Both scripts perform sanity checks to ensure OProfile is installed and that opxml, a C++ program required to interface with OProfile, exists and can be run. The difference is in how root authentication with the plug-in is set up.

  • uses the pluggable authentication modules (PAM) mechanism. This is the default and recommended method for root authentication. When an OProfile task is required, you will be presented with this dialog to enter the root password:
    Screenshot-opcontrol consolehelper.png
  • can be used when consolehelper is not present on the system, or if required PAM modules are not on the system. It uses the sudo mechanism and a small wrapper script. The install script will describe the text which should be written in the sudoers file, then run the command visudo to edit it.
    Warning: The sudoers file is a sensitive system file and altering it in other ways may lead to system instability. Only users with enough knowledge of running a Linux system should use this method. For these reasons, this method of root authentication is discouraged. However, it may be the only option available to some users and it has been tested to work by developers and users of the plug-in.

Step 3 - Running The Install Script

Once you have selected an install script, log in as root. Assuming you are in the natives/linux/scripts subdirectory of the plug-in directory (as in Step 1 - Locate the Installation Scripts), run your selected install script:


Successful output will look like this:

Eclipse-OProfile plugin install successful.

Either install script should be run as the root user since both scripts perform some actions that require elevated privileges. places files in /etc subdirectories, while runs the command visudo. If you wish to simply run either install script without logging in as root, use:

su -c './'

This command will run only the install script as the root user, then return control to the regular user. Note that you will still need to enter the root password to make this work. If you receive an error message, refer to the Troubleshooting section.

Step 4 - Restart Eclipse

After running the install script, restart Eclipse using File > Restart.

If you need to uninstall the plug-in, run the or script before uninstalling it from within Eclipse. These scripts are also located in the natives/linux/scripts subdirectory of the OProfile core plug-in directory (i.e. the same directory where the install scripts are found).

Launching A Profile

The purpose of the OProfile plug-in is to provide useful profile information in a user-friendly manner. To do this, it first gathers the required information. The plug-in hooks into the Eclipse and CDT's launching facilities; in doing so, profiling becomes as easy as a normal run of your program.

During a profile run, the OProfile plug-in will start, stop and perform other OProfile tasks in the background as needed, while the binary being profiled runs as normal. Currently, it is only possible to start profiling when a user binary is run; profiling will stop after the binary has returned. The ability to start/stop profiling at arbitrary times are currently in development.

One-Click Launch

Most users are interested in profiling where a program spends the most CPU time during execution. The OProfile plug-in for Eclipse includes a one-click launch feature which profiles this. The one-click launch sets appropriate defaults for a profile configuration using the execution time event, and launches the profile with no further required user intervention.

To use the one-click launch, right click on the project, the binary or in an open editor for a source file belonging to that project. Then, navigate to Profile As and click Profile With OProfile to start the launch.

Screenshot-one-click launch.png

Launching a Customized Profile

The OProfile plug-in allows you to configure a profile run using several available OProfile options. These options are exposed via the launch configuration in a user-friendly manner, allowing for a more complex profile.

To customize a profile, right click on the project, the binary or in an open editor for a source file belonging to that project. Then, navigate to Profile As > Profile Configurations... to open the Profile Configurations menu. Refer to the Profiling Configuration section for more information about configuring a profile.

After configuring a profile, click the Profile button to launch the profile.

Profiling Configuration

OProfile has many configuration options, the amount of which can be overwhelming. For more information about these options, refer to The Profile Configurations menu provided by the OProfile plug-in aims to make relevant, commonly-used OProfile configuration options easily accessible to users of all experience levels. Currently, the Profile Configurations menu provides two configuration tabs to the standard CDT launch configuration: Global Settings and Event Configuration.

Global Settings

The Global Settings tab configures how the OProfile daemon gathers profiling information. Each option is described below. Screenshot-global config.png

Kernel Image File (optional)
To collect more detailed information about the operation of a program in the Linux kernel, use the Browse button specify the location of your running kernel's vmlinux file. A kernel's vmlinux file contains debugging information required by OProfile. Note that the compressed vmlinux file, often named vmlinuz, cannot be used for this purpose.
Note: To use this option, you need to enable the Include dependent kernel modules option.
Include dependent shared libraries
This option will make OProfile keep samples from shared libraries that are used by the profiled binary/program. These samples will then be aggregated in the profile results.
Include dependent kernel modules
This option will make OProfile keep samples related to running in the kernel. If the vmlinux file is specified, the profile will include details of the specific kernel modules in use. Otherwise, kernel samples will be grouped under the name no-vmlinux.

The differences between options is illustrated in the following OProfile view screenshot:

Screenshot-oprofile global differences.png

  • incl_library was run with only the Include dependent shared libraries checked
  • incl_vmlinux was run with the vmlinux file specified; both Include dependent shared libraries and Include dependent kernel modules checked
  • no_vmlinux was run without any vmlinux file specified; both Include dependent shared libraries and Include dependent kernel modules checked
  • novmlinux_noseparate was run with none of the options checked

Event Configuration

Your system processor's hardware profiling registers often contain a large number of options. The Event Configuration tab condenses these options to a more manageable amount.

Timer Interrupt Mode

If your processor (or kernel) does not support the hardware profiling registers OProfile uses, OProfile will run in timer-interrupt mode. This mode has no user-configurable events. For more information about timer-interrupt mode, refer to

The event configuration tab will then look like the screenshot below:

Screenshot-oprofile event timer.png

Regular Mode

If your processor (or kernel) supports hardware profiling registers, there are several configuration options available to you. The availability of these configuration options depend on your processor model or kernel version. With proper support, the Events configuration tab will look like the following screenshot:

Screenshot-oprofile eventconfig.png

In regular mode, the Events configuration tab can contain any of the following options:

Use default event
This option is enabled by default when creating a new profile configuration, or when a profile configuration is created through the one-click launch. Use default event is a shortcut to use an event based on processor execution time, with a reasonable value for the Count option. Using this option will prevent you from configuring the counters any further.
For a list of default events for various processors, refer to [1].
Counter Tabs (Ctr 0, Ctr 1, Ctr 2, and so on)
A processor may have 1 to 8 hardware profiling registers (also called counters). Each one may be programmed separately to profile many events simultaneously. Each tabs labelled Ctr represents one counter and exposes the same options.
This option (located in each counter tab) disables or enables a counter.
Event List
A list of the events available for profiling on a given counter.
Event Description
When you select an event from the events list, this field provides a short description of that event's function. OProfile provides the content for this field.
Profile Kernel and Profile user binaries
Instructs OProfile to profile binaries in the selected spaces. Keeping both checked is recommended (even if other Global Settings are not specified).
Specifies a reset count for the hardware counter. In most cases, the default value (based on the CPU clock frequency) is sufficient. Each event has a minimum value, but it is recommended to use a value many orders of magnitude larger.
WARNING: if you specify a value that is too low, the profiled program may take much longer to return or your system may hang.
Unit Mask
Many events have a unit mask which allows further narrowing of the scope of the event. If in doubt, use the default value (specified by OProfile). There are three types of unit masks:
  • Mandatory -- no selection necessary; a single required value
  • Exclusive -- several possible values; a single required value
  • Bitmask -- several possible values; a combination of several values

OProfile View

The OProfile view is the central point of interaction of the plug-in with the results of profiling.

Screenshot-oprofile view full.png

The tree structure displayed above describes one or more profiles of one or more events in the following manner:

  • Icon-oprofile event.gif Events -- the name of the profiling event used by OProfile (e.g. CPU_CLK_UNHALTED)
    • Icon-oprofile session.gif Session -- the name of the session the profile is stored in (e.g. run1)
      • Icon-oprofile image.gif Image -- the binary being profiled (e.g. /notnfs/ksebasti/oprofile/plugin/factorial/Debug/factorial)
        • Icon-oprofile symbol.gif Symbol -- symbols gathered from the binary's debug information (e.g. factorial2)
          • Icon-oprofile sample.gif Sample -- individual OProfile samples correlated to line numbers of source code
        • Icon-oprofile dependent.gif Dependent Images -- other binaries related to the run of the program; shared libraries or kernel modules
          • Icon-oprofile image.gif Image -- the dependent binary
            • Icon-oprofile symbol.gif Symbol -- same as above
              • Icon-oprofile sample.gif Sample -- same as above

If source code is not available, some symbols (including source file name) may be shown, but no samples. This is normally the case with programs that use shared libraries. Also, depending on the Global Settings, a profile may have no dependent images.

Note that after Eclipse is restarted, there will be no data shown in the OProfile view. Data from past profiles will still be on the system, if not touched otherwise, and can be re-read with the Refresh View menu action (refer to the View Menu section for more details).


This section describes the features of the plug-in exposed through the view.

View Tree

Double-clicking on a Icon-oprofile sample.gifsample will open the source file in an editor and place the insertion point at the corresponding line in code.

Note: For this to work, the source code must be available and it must be in the correct directory (as described in the debug info of the binary).

View Menu

Open OProfile Daemon Log
This will launch a dialog showing the contents of the OProfile daemon log.
Screenshot-oprofiled log reader.png
By default, the OProfile daemon log is in /var/lib/oprofile/samples/oprofiled.log
Refresh View
This will re-read the OProfile data on the system, re-create the internal data model and re-display the profile tree. Doing so allows you to display data already on the system without launching a profile (e.g. when Eclipse first starts up).
Save Default Session
The default session, named current, is overwritten on each launch of a profile if it is not saved. If you wish to keep a profile for later viewing, this menu action will allow you to save the session to a different name.
Since the samples are in a system directory, this operation requires root privileges; hence, you will be prompted for the root password. The Save Session dialog is shown below:

Screenshot-oprofile save session.png

Example Project

If you wish to try the documented steps in this article with a test project, you can download the same sample project used to create the screenshots at the following link:

To import the project into the Eclipse workspace, navigate to File > Import > General > Existing Projects into Workspace. Then, choose Select archive file and use the Browse button to point to the location of the sample project on your file system.


Various problems and their solutions are described here. If you encounter a problem not described here, please file a bug.

Install Script Errors

This section describes different errors that could occur from running the install scripts (i.e. or

Error: script must be run as the root user

You attempted to run the script as an ordinary, non-root user. You must be the root user to run the install script, as the scripts edit files located in root-owned directories.

Solution: Run the command su - to become the root user, or run the script as the root user with su -c './'.

Error: script must be run with pwd in script dir

Your current working directory must be the natives/linux/scripts subdirectory of the OProfile core plug-in; running the script relative from another location will not work.

Solution: Simply follow the steps on Step 1 - Locate the Installation Scripts to find the natives/linux/scripts subdirectory of the OProfile core plug-in.

Error: required binaries do not exist, OProfile not installed?

The OProfile plug-in could not find the oprofiled and opcontrol binaries. This could mean they are not in their default directory (/usr/bin), or they do not exist at all.

Solution: If the binaries are on your system (and in your PATH) but not in those directories, you can either remove these checks from the install script or create symlinks in the /usr/bin directory. Of course, if the binaries do not exist on your system, then install the oprofile package.

Error: /usr/bin/consolehelper does not exist, run instead

You ran the script, but consolehelper was not installed on your system. As described in Step 2 - Choose Which Installation Script To Run, if consolehelper is not installed, then you will need to use a root authentication mode that uses the sudo mechanism.

Solution: Run the script instead.

Error: cannot create opcontrol wrapper in <directory>

The ln command reports that the symlink could not be created. This can occur if the natives/linux/scripts subdirectory is located on an NFS mount; the NFS server will not allow the local root user to create files in the directory.

Solution: Before running the script, first create the symlink as a regular user by running the command ln -s /usr/bin/consolehelper opcontrol. Then, remove the following section from the script:

#create the sym link to consolehelper
test -L ./opcontrol || { rm -f ./opcontrol && ln -s /usr/bin/consolehelper opcontrol ; }
if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
  echo Error: cannot create opcontrol wrapper in `pwd`
  exit 1

The script is fixed in SVN, but not in the 0.2.0 release of the OProfile plug-in for Eclipse.

Error: cannot find opxml binary, required plugin missing

This can occur if the native binary opxml is not found. This binary is required for proper operation of the plug-in.

Solution: If the org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core.linux.{x86,x86_64,ppc} directories exist (in the Eclipse plugins directory), refer to the Rebuilding opxml section for instructions on rebuilding the binary and placing it in the proper directory. Otherwise, re-install the plug-in.

No Samples From A Profile

It is possible for a profile run of a program to return no samples, resulting in an empty OProfile view. This is not always indicative of a problem with either OProfile or the profiled program. OProfile is a system-wide profiling tool; hence, other active processes running on your system may overshadow your program. This is particularly true if the profiled program is not CPU intensive.

In addition, the Event you choose (selected through the Events tab, as described in Regular Mode) could cause a profile to return no samples. Note that profiling through OProfile is neither deterministic nor consistent; two subsequent runs may output very different results. In some cases, one run can result in no samples, while another run on the same program can result in many samples. The OProfile online documentation has other useful information here.

Solution: The following suggestions could help you generate more samples from a profile run:

  • run your program with a larger input
  • halt or kill as many other non-essential processes as possible
  • reduce the Count in the Event Configuration tab
  • launch a profile several times

If you are unsure whether your configuration is working correctly, try profiling the sample project in the Example Project section.

Log Reader Hangs

If the OProfile daemon log file is too large, the log reader may hang and possibly cause the OProfile plug-in to crash. This occurs when the verbosity option is set to all, which results in several hundred MiB of text in the log over several profile runs. If you do require all this data in the log file, do not launch the log reader. Delete or backup the log file before running the log reader again.

Errors Related to opxml

opxml is the native program that bridges OProfile and the OProfile plug-in for Eclipse. In some cases, some errors may be caused by problems with opxml. To verify if this is the case, run opxml.

opxml is normally located in the Eclipse plugins directory, similar to the install scripts described in Step 1 - Locate the Installation Scripts. However, depending on your platform, the location of opxml will be different. To determine what your platform is, run the following command at a terminal:

uname -m

Depending on the output, locate the following directory in the same manner as Step 1 - Locate the Installation Scripts, and change into that directory:

Output from uname -m Directory to use in find command Sub-directory to change to
i386, i468, i568, i686, x86 org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core.linux.x86 os/linux/x86
x86_64 org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core.linux.x86_64 os/linux/x86_64
ppc, ppc64 org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core.linux.ppc os/linux/ppc

For example, if you are running Eclipse on a 64bit machine (i.e. x86_64), you should run the following command to find the location of opxml:

$ find /home/ksebasti/eclipse -name 'org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core.linux.x86_64_*'

This will display the following output (or similar):


Navigate into that directory:

$ cd /home/ksebasti/eclipse/plugins/org.eclipse.linuxtools.oprofile.core.linux.x86_64_0.2.0.200904201514/os/linux/x86_64

Once you have navigated to the right directory, run the following command:

./opxml info

Check that the paths in the defaults section are correct. If the output is similar to the output of the command ophelp, but formatted as XML, then this might not be the problem. However, if running opxml produces an error, it may be the root cause. A common error on some systems is that they use an older version of the C runtime libraries (i.e. glibc). Refer to Rebuilding opxml for a solution to this error.

In any case, if there is an error please look for an existing bug or if one does not exist, file a new bug.

Rebuilding opxml

You will need to rebuild the opxml binary if running it returns an error similar to the following:

opxml: /some/path/ version `GLIBC_2.8' not found (required by opxml)

Warning: this is rarely necessary; in some cases, rebuilding the opxml binary may break an otherwise working Eclipse installation. You should only rebuild the opxml binary if you are sure that doing so is the only remaining option in fixing the OProfile plug-in for Eclipse.

To rebuild the opxml binary, perform the following steps

  1. Follow the exact same steps as Step 1 - Locate the Installation Scripts, except instead of changing to the natives/linux/scripts sub-directory, change to the natives/linux/opxml sub-directory of the core plugin. The source files for the opxml binary should be located here.
  2. Rebuilding opxml requires make, g++, the libbfd libraries and the OProfile development libraries. In Fedora, the oprofile-devel package contains the OProfile development libraries; for information about the OProfile development libraries in Ubuntu, refer to Ubuntu - Extra Requirements.
  3. Run make to build the binary.
  4. Run make install to install the binary into the correct plug-in directory.
  5. Run make clean to remove the extra files created during the build process.

Ubuntu - Extra Requirements

Ubuntu and other Debian-based systems do not provide the OProfile development libraries in their packaging management system, so we must build them by hand. To do so, perform the following steps:

  1. Install the packages binutils-dev and libpopt-dev.
    • sudo apt-get install binutils-dev libpopt-dev
  2. Download the OProfile source.
    • apt-get source oprofile
  3. Unpack the OProfile source tarball.
    • cd oprofile-0.9.3 ; tar -zxf oprofile_0.9.3-1.1ubuntu2.tar.gz
  4. Run the configure tool.
    • cd oprofile-0.9.3 ; ./configure --without-kernel-support
  5. Compile the required libraries.
    • make
  6. Move the libraries into the include path.
    • sudo mv libutil/op_types.h libop/op_sample_file.h libutil/op_list.h libop/op_events.h libop/op_cpu_type.h libop/op_config.h libdb/odb.h /usr/include
    • sudo mv libop/libop.a libdb/libodb.a /usr/lib
    • sudo mv libabi/libabi.a /usr/lib/libopabi.a
    • sudo mv libutil/libutil.a /usr/lib/liboputil.a
    • sudo mv libutil++/libutil++.a /usr/lib/liboputil++.a

The required libraries should now be in the proper place for compiling. Continue the steps in the Rebuilding opxml section.

Note: The procedure for building the OProfile development libraries for Ubuntu (described in this section) was tested on Ubuntu 8.04 with Eclipse, the CDT, oprofile and all its dependencies already installed via apt.