Contributor(s): Tom Davis

In computers, debugging is the process of locating and fixing or bypassing bugs (errors) in computer program code or the engineering of a hardware device. To debug a program or hardware device is to start with a problem, isolate the source of the problem, and then fix it. A user of a program that does not know how to fix the problem may learn enough about the problem to be able to avoid it until it is permanently fixed. When someone says they've debugged a program or "worked the bugs out" of a program, they imply that they fixed it so that the bugs no longer exist.

Debugging is a necessary process in almost any new software or hardware development process, whether a commercial product or an enterprise or personal application program. For complex products, debugging is done as the result of the unit test for the smallest unit of a system, again at component test when parts are brought together, again at system test when the product is used with other existing products, and again during customer beta test, when users try the product out in a real world situation. Because most computer programs and many programmed hardware devices contain thousands of lines of code, almost any new product is likely to contain a few bugs. Invariably, the bugs in the functions that get most use are found and fixed first. An early version of a program that has lots of bugs is referred to as "buggy."

Debugging tools (called debuggers) help identify coding errors at various development stages. Some programming language packages include a facility for checking the code for errors as it is being written.

Getting started with debugging
To explore how debugging is used in the enterprise, here are some additional resources for getting started:
Better software through debugging and unit testing
Bugs plague software project big and small, and today's complicated software makes debugging more difficult than ever. Let these tips, tutorials, podcasts and articles help you debug your software.


Book excerpt: Why Programs Fail -- A Guide to Systematic Debugging: Debugging software is a crucial and complex process. This free chapter explains how to use testing, such as functional and unit testing, in your debugging program.


This was last updated in February 2007

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