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KCOV(4) Device Drivers Manual KCOV(4)

kcovkernel code coverage tracing

pseudo-device kcov 1

#include <sys/kcov.h>

The kcov driver implements collection of code coverage inside the kernel. It can be enabled on a per thread basis from userland, allowing the kernel program counter to be collected during syscalls triggered by the same thread. The collected coverage can be accessed by mapping the device using mmap(2).

By default, kcov is not enabled but instead requires the following line to be present in the kernel configuration:

pseudo-device kcov 1

The following ioctl(2) calls are provided:

unsigned long *nentries
Allocate a coverage buffer with a capacity of nentries. The buffer can be accessed using mmap(2), whereas the returned pointer must be interpreted as an array of unsigned long entries. The first entry contains the number of entries in the array, excluding the first entry.
int *mode
Enable code coverage tracing for the current thread. The mode must be one of the following:
Trace the kernel program counter.
Trace comparison instructions and switch statements. For switch statements, the number of traced comparison instructions is equal to the number of switch cases. Each traced comparison instruction is represented by 4 entries in the coverage buffer:
  1. A mask where the least significant bit is set if one of the comparison operands is a compile-time constant, which is always true for switch statements. The remaining bits represents the log2 size of the operands, ranging from 0 to 3.
  2. First comparison operand. For switch statements, this operand corresponds to the case value.
  3. Second comparison operand. For switch statements, this operand corresponds to the value passed to switch.
  4. Kernel program counter where the comparison instruction took place.

In this mode, the first entry in the coverage buffer reflects the number of traced comparison instructions. Thus, the effective number of entries in the coverage buffer is given by multiplying the first entry by 4.

Disable code coverage tracing for the current thread.

Default device node.

In the following example, the read(2) syscall is traced and the coverage displayed, which in turn can be passed to addr2line(1) in order to translate the kernel program counter into the file name and line number it corresponds to.

#include <sys/ioctl.h>
#include <sys/kcov.h>
#include <sys/mman.h>

#include <err.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>

	unsigned long *cover, i;
	unsigned long size = 1024;
	int fd, mode;

	fd = open("/dev/kcov", O_RDWR);
	if (fd == -1)
		err(1, "open");

	if (ioctl(fd, KIOSETBUFSIZE, &size) == -1)
		err(1, "ioctl: KIOSETBUFSIZE");
	cover = mmap(NULL, size * sizeof(unsigned long),
	if (cover == MAP_FAILED)
		err(1, "mmap");

	if (ioctl(fd, KIOENABLE, &mode) == -1)
		err(1, "ioctl: KIOENABLE");
	read(-1, NULL, 0);
	if (ioctl(fd, KIODISABLE) == -1)
		err(1, "ioctl: KIODISABLE");

	for (i = 0; i < cover[0]; i++)
		printf("%p\n", (void *)cover[i + 1]);

	if (munmap(cover, size * sizeof(unsigned long)) == -1)
		err(1, "munmap");

	return 0;


The kcov driver first appeared in OpenBSD 6.4.

The kcov driver was written by Anton Lindqvist <‍>.

The kcov driver is limited to architectures using clang(1) as their default compiler.

January 20, 2019 OpenBSD-current