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Chapter 17. Dumping a crashed kernel for later analysis

To analyze why a system crashed, you can use the kdump service to save the contents of the system’s memory for later analysis. This section provides a brief introduction to kdump, and information about configuring kdump using the RHEL web console or using the corresponding RHEL system role.

17.1. What is kdump

kdump is a service which provides a crash dumping mechanism. The service enables you to save the contents of the system memory for analysis. kdump uses the kexec system call to boot into the second kernel (a capture kernel) without rebooting; and then captures the contents of the crashed kernel’s memory (a crash dump or a vmcore) and saves it into a file. The second kernel resides in a reserved part of the system memory.


A kernel crash dump can be the only information available in the event of a system failure (a critical bug). Therefore, operational kdump is important in mission-critical environments. Red Hat advise that system administrators regularly update and test kexec-tools in your normal kernel update cycle. This is especially important when new kernel features are implemented.

You can enable kdump for all installed kernels on a machine or only for specified kernels. This is useful when there are multiple kernels used on a machine, some of which are stable enough that there is no concern that they could crash.

When kdump is installed, a default /etc/kdump.conf file is created. The file includes the default minimum kdump configuration. You can edit this file to customize the kdump configuration, but it is not required.

17.2. Configuring kdump memory usage and target location in web console

You can configure the memory reserve for the kdump kernel and also specify the target location to capture the vmcore dump file with the RHEL web console interface.


  1. In the web console, open the Kernel Dump tab and start the kdump service by setting the Kernel crash dump switch to on.
  2. Configure the kdump memory usage in the command line.
  3. In the Kernel Dump tab, go to Crash dump location and click the link with the path to the dump location.

    cockpit kdump main screen
  4. Specify the target directory for saving the vmcore dump file:

    • For a local filesystem, select Local Filesystem from the drop-down menu.

      cockpit kdump location
    • For a remote system by using the SSH protocol, select Remote over SSH from the drop-down menu and specify the following fields:

      • In the Server field, enter the remote server address
      • In the ssh key field, enter the ssh key location
      • In the Directory field, enter the target directory
    • For a remote system by using the NFS protocol, select Remote over NFS from the drop-down menu and specify the following fields:

      • In the Server field, enter the remote server address
      • In the Export field, enter the location of the shared folder of an NFS server
      • In the Directory field, enter the target directory


        You can reduce the size of the vmcore file by selecting the Compression check box.


  1. Click the Test configuration.

    cockpit kdump test
  2. Click Crash system under Test kdump settings.


    When you initiate the system crash, the kernel’s operation stops and results in a system crash with data loss.

17.3. kdump using RHEL System Roles

RHEL System Roles is a collection of Ansible roles and modules that provide a consistent configuration interface to remotely manage multiple RHEL systems. The kdump role enables you to set basic kernel dump parameters on multiple systems.


The kdump role replaces the kdump configuration of the managed hosts entirely by replacing the /etc/kdump.conf file. Additionally, if the kdump role is applied, all previous kdump settings are also replaced, even if they are not specified by the role variables, by replacing the /etc/sysconfig/kdump file.

The following example playbook shows how to apply the kdump system role to set the location of the crash dump files:

- hosts: kdump-test
    kdump_path: /var/crash
    - rhel-system-roles.kdump

For a detailed reference on kdump role variables, install the rhel-system-roles package, and see the or README.html files in the /usr/share/doc/rhel-system-roles/kdump directory.

Additional resources

17.4. Additional resources