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core dump

Contributor(s): Antoine Badel

A core dump is the printing or the copying to a more permanent medium (such as a hard disk ) the contents of random access memory ( RAM ) at one moment in time. One can think of it as a full-length "snapshot" of RAM. A core dump is taken mainly for the purpose of debugging a program. With the arrival of higher-level languages and interactive debugging, few problems require a core dump these days. It's more likely to be used by specialized programmers who maintain and occasionally have to debug problems in operating system s.

The "core" refers to the ferrite cores of earlier memory technology. In some earlier operating systems, certain system errors would automatically result in the performing of a core dump. Typically, a core dump or actually the report that results from the core dump presents the RAM contents as a formatted series of lines that indicate memory locations and the hexadecimal values recorded at each location. Additional information tells exactly which instruction was executing at the time the core dump was initiated.

IBM's dictionary does not include the term and Microsoft mentions it as an antiquated term. The New Hacker's Dictionary says the term is from the "Iron Age."

A dump is a more general term that includes the copying of a large portion of one storage medium to another storage medium or to a printer, display, or other output device. A dump report is formatted for readability.

The term is sometimes applied to human beings as a variation of brain dump .

This was last updated in November 2005

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