bugpoint narrows down the source of problems in LLVM tools and passes. It can be used to debug three types of failures: optimizer crashes, miscompilations by optimizers, or bad native code generation (including problems in the static and JIT compilers). It aims to reduce large test cases to small, useful ones. For example, if opt crashes while optimizing a file, it will identify the optimization (or combination of optimizations) that causes the crash, and reduce the file down to a small example which triggers the crash.
For detailed case scenarios, such as debugging opt, llvm-ld, or one of the LLVM code generators, see How To Submit a Bug Report document.
bugpoint is designed to be a useful tool without requiring any hooks into the LLVM infrastructure at all. It works with any and all LLVM passes and code generators, and does not need to "know" how they work. Because of this, it may appear to do stupid things or miss obvious simplifications. bugpoint is also designed to trade off programmer time for computer time in the compiler-debugging process; consequently, it may take a long period of (unattended) time to reduce a test case, but we feel it is still worth it. Note that bugpoint is generally very quick unless debugging a miscompilation where each test of the program (which requires executing it) takes a long time.
bugpoint reads each .bc or .ll file specified on the command line and links them together into a single module, called the test program. If any LLVM passes are specified on the command line, it runs these passes on the test program. If any of the passes crash, or if they produce malformed output (which causes the verifier to abort), bugpoint starts the crash debugger.
Otherwise, if the -output option was not specified, bugpoint runs the test program with the C backend (which is assumed to generate good code) to generate a reference output. Once bugpoint has a reference output for the test program, it tries executing it with the selected code generator. If the selected code generator crashes, bugpoint starts the crash debugger on the code generator. Otherwise, if the resulting output differs from the reference output, it assumes the difference resulted from a code generator failure, and starts the code generator debugger.
Finally, if the output of the selected code generator matches the reference output, bugpoint runs the test program after all of the LLVM passes have been applied to it. If its output differs from the reference output, it assumes the difference resulted from a failure in one of the LLVM passes, and enters the miscompilation debugger. Otherwise, there is no problem bugpoint can debug.
If an optimizer or code generator crashes, bugpoint will try as hard as it can to reduce the list of passes (for optimizer crashes) and the size of the test program. First, bugpoint figures out which combination of optimizer passes triggers the bug. This is useful when debugging a problem exposed by opt, for example, because it runs over 38 passes.
Next, bugpoint tries removing functions from the test program, to reduce its size. Usually it is able to reduce a test program to a single function, when debugging intraprocedural optimizations. Once the number of functions has been reduced, it attempts to delete various edges in the control flow graph, to reduce the size of the function as much as possible. Finally, bugpoint deletes any individual LLVM instructions whose absence does not eliminate the failure. At the end, bugpoint should tell you what passes crash, give you a bitcode file, and give you instructions on how to reproduce the failure with opt or llc.
The code generator debugger attempts to narrow down the amount of code that is being miscompiled by the selected code generator. To do this, it takes the test program and partitions it into two pieces: one piece which it compiles with the C backend (into a shared object), and one piece which it runs with either the JIT or the static LLC compiler. It uses several techniques to reduce the amount of code pushed through the LLVM code generator, to reduce the potential scope of the problem. After it is finished, it emits two bitcode files (called "test" [to be compiled with the code generator] and "safe" [to be compiled with the C backend], respectively), and instructions for reproducing the problem. The code generator debugger assumes that the C backend produces good code.
The miscompilation debugger works similarly to the code generator debugger. It works by splitting the test program into two pieces, running the optimizations specified on one piece, linking the two pieces back together, and then executing the result. It attempts to narrow down the list of passes to the one (or few) which are causing the miscompilation, then reduce the portion of the test program which is being miscompiled. The miscompilation debugger assumes that the selected code generator is working properly.
bugpoint can generate a lot of output and run for a long period of time. It is often useful to capture the output of the program to file. For example, in the C shell, you can run:
bugpoint ... |& tee bugpoint.log
to get a copy of bugpoint's output in the file bugpoint.log, as well as on your terminal.