Java Platform, Standard Edition Troubleshooting Guide
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Java HotSpot VM Command-Line Options

Command-line options that are prefixed with -XX are specific to the Java HotSpot Virtual Machine. Many of these options are important for performance tuning and diagnostic purposes, and are therefore described in this appendix. For information on all possible -XX options, see the Java HotSpot VM Options.

You can dynamically set, unset, or change the value of certain Java VM flags for a specified Java process using the jinfo -flag command. See The jinfo Utility and the JConsole utility.

For a complete list of these flags, use the MBeans tab of the JConsole utility. See the list of values for the DiagnosticOptions attribute of the HotSpotDiagnostic MBean, which is in the domain. The following are the flags:

The -XX:HeapDumpOnOutOfMemoryError Option

This option tells the Java HotSpot VM to generate a heap dump when an allocation from the Java heap or the permanent generation cannot be satisfied. There is no overhead in running with this option, so it can be useful for production systems where the OutOfMemoryError exception takes a long time to surface.

You can also specify this option at runtime with the MBeans tab in the JConsole utility.

The heap dump is in HPROF binary format, and so it can be analyzed using any tools that can import this format. For example, the jhat tool can be used to do rudimentary analysis of the dump. For more information on the jhat tool, see The jhat Utility.

Example D-1 shows the result of running out of memory with this flag set.

The ConsumeHeap fills up the Java heap and runs out of memory. When the java.lang.OutOfMemoryError exception is thrown, a heap dump file is created. In this case the file is 507 MB and is created with the name java_pid2262.hprof in the current directory.

By default the heap dump is created in a file called java_pidpid.hprof in the working directory of the VM, as in the example above. You can specify an alternative file name or directory with the -XX:HeapDumpPath= option. For example -XX:HeapDumpPath=/disk2/dumps will cause the heap dump to be generated in the /disk2/dumps directory.

The -XX:OnError Option

When a fatal error occurs, the Java HotSpot VM can optionally execute a user-supplied script or command. The script or command is specified using the -XX:OnError=string command-line option, where string is a single command, or a list of commands separated by semicolons. Within this string, all occurrences of %p are replaced with the current PID, and all occurrences of %% are replaced by a single %. The following examples demonstrate how this option can be used when launching a Java application named MyApp with the java launcher.

  • java -XX:OnError="pmap %p" MyApp

    On Oracle Solaris operating system the pmap command displays information about the address space of a process. In the example above, if a fatal error occurs, the pmap command is executed to display the address space of the current process.

  • java -XX:OnError="cat hs_err_pid%p.log | mail" MyApp

    In the example above, the contents of the fatal error log file are mailed to a support alias when a fatal error is encountered.

  • java -XX:OnError="gcore %p; dbx - %p" MyApp

    On Oracle Solaris operating system the gcore command creates a core image of the specified process, and the dbx command launches the debugger. In the example above, the gcore command is executed to create the core image of the current process, and the debugger is started to attach to the process when an unexpected error is encountered.

  • java -XX:OnError="gdb - %p" MyApp

    On Linux the gdb command launches the debugger. In the example above, the gdb debugger is launched and attached to the current process when an unexpected error is encountered.

  • java -XX:OnError="userdump.exe %p" MyApp

    On Windows the userdump.exe utility creates a crash dump of the specified process. The utility does not ship with Windows and should be downloaded from the Microsoft website as a part of the Microsoft OEM Support Tools package.

    In the above example, the userdump.exe utility is executed to create a core dump of the current process in case of a fatal error.


    The example assumes that the path to the userdump.exe utility is defined in the PATH variable.

    If you do not have the userdump.exe utility installed, the Dr. Watson debugger can be configured as the post-mortem debugger so that a crash dump is created when an unexpected error is encountered.

For more information on creating crash dumps on Windows, see Collect Crash Dumps on Windows.

The -XX:ShowMessageBoxOnError Option

When this option is set and a fatal error is encountered, the HotSpot VM will display information about the fatal error and prompt the user to specify whether the native debugger is to be launched. In the case of Oracle Solaris and Linux operating systems, the output and prompt are sent to the application console (standard input and standard output). In the case of Windows, a Windows message box pops up.

Example D-2 shows a fatal error encountered on a Linux system.

In this case a SIGSEGV error has occurred and the user is prompted to specify whether the gdb debugger is to be launched to attach to the process. If the user enters y or yes, gdb will be launched (assuming it is set in the PATH variable).

On Oracle Solaris operating system the message is similar to the above except that the user is prompted to start the dbx debugger.

On Windows a message box is displayed. If the user clicks Yes, the VM will attempt to start the default debugger. This debugger is configured by a registry setting which is described in Collect Crash Dumps on Windows. If Microsoft Visual Studio is installed, the default debugger is typically configured to be msdev.exe.

In the above example the output includes the PID (pid=10791) and also the thread ID (tid=1026). If the debugger is launched, one of the initial steps in the debugger might be to select the thread and obtain its stack trace.

As the process is waiting for a response it is possible to use other tools to obtain a crash dump or query the state of the process. On Oracle Solaris operating system, for example, a core dump can be obtained using the gcore utility.

On Windows a Dr. Watson crash dump can be obtained using the userdump or windbg programs. The windbg utility is included in Microsoft's Debugging Tools for Windows and is described in Collect Crash Dumps on Windows. In windbg, select the Attach to a Process menu option, which displays the list of processes and prompts for the PID. The HotSpot VM displays a message box, which includes the PID. Once selected the .dump /f command can be used to force a crash dump. Figure D-1 is an example crash dump created in a file named crash.dump.

In general the -XX:+ShowMessageBoxOnError option is more useful in a development environment where debugger tools are available. The -XX:OnError option is more suitable for production environments where a fixed sequence of commands or scripts are executed when a fatal error is encountered.

Other -XX Options

Several other -XX command-line options can be useful in troubleshooting:

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