Debugging is the process of discovering and fixing bugs or errors in a source code before they spiral out of control.
These bugs and errors arise due to several reasons, such as incorrect software design, implementing complicated algorithms, changing requirements, obsolete automation scripts, poorly documented code, lack of proper test setup, and miscommunication between development teams and stakeholders.
When errors occur, developers need to find and resolve the issue as soon as possible. However, debugging is a tedious and time-consuming process, especially when working on large projects. Sometimes, it takes weeks to resolve a simple issue.
That’s where debuggers come in handy — they allow you to analyze and test large, complex code efficiently. They report errors almost instantly, making it easier for you to find flaws in the early stages. Some advanced tools provide information about data structures, so you can easily interpret and optimize the code.
Overall, a good debugger can help you fix issues faster, improve productivity, and build better software. We have picked some of the best debugging tools available in the market that prepare you before the issue comes into play, saving both time and effort.
Table of Contents
Initial release: 1986
Rating: 9.1/10 from 1,000+ developers
First written by Richard Stallman in 1986, GDB is now maintained by a large committer that is appointed by the Free Software Foundation. It is actively being developed to support new languages and provide a better user experience.
As of today, GDB supports more than 12 programming languages, including Assembly, Ada, Fortran, C/C++, D, Pascal, Rust, Go, Objective C, and OpenCL.
In order to help you catch errors faster, the tool allows you to —
- Start a program and specify any parameter that could affect its functioning
- Force your code to stop on particular conditions
- Analyze what happened and when your code stopped working
- Change various parameters, values, or structures to see how it affects the bug
Since the tool is designed to be highly customizable, you can change a range of options and settings. For example, you can easily change the display format, create custom commands, and make your own GDB extensions.
Irrespective of where you run your code (natively, remotely, or on a simulator), GDB will help you find errors more efficiently.
- Breakpoint management
- Core dump analysis
- Interactive and remote debugging
- Source-level debugging
On the downside, GDB doesn’t have its own graphical user interface — it defaults to a command-line interface. However, many front-end programs have been developed for it, like the Xcode debugger, Data Display Debugger, Xxgdb, and UltraGDB.
And unlike most other debuggers, GDB has been extensively studied in academic literature. Hundreds of research papers have determined and reviewed its performance, shortcomings, and capabilities.
Initial release: 2003
Price: Free | Pro version costs $12 per month
Rating: 8.8/10 from 400+ developers
With Fiddler, you can easily inspect, debug, and analyze traffic between web servers and client apps. It allows you to capture web traffic, console logs, and web application screenshots without writing a single line of code.
Its intuitive interface makes it easy to find the right options and settings. For example, you can capture traffic (by starting a Terminal process), put specific filters to see captured sessions, and save filters for future use.
It also comes with a robust rule builder to mock server responses, modify traffic, and simulate real-life scenarios. Create custom rules for specific scenarios and organize them into Groups for easier workflow.
- Log, inspect, and change HTTPS network requests and server response
- Set breakpoints thoroughly
- Event-based scripting system
- Built-in team collaboration
- Write custom scripts to troubleshoot problems
As for pricing, Fiddler has both free and paid versions. The free version (called Fiddler Classic) offers all the basic features required for debugging web traffic. The paid version (called Fiddler Everywhere) comes with advanced features like automatic breakpoints, access to unlimited rules and requests, and integration with cloud-based services.
More than 4 million developers and hundreds of thousands of companies use Fiddler to build, run, and debug their web apps.
7. Chrome DevTools
Initial release: 2009
Rating: 8.9/10 from 1,000+ developers
Chrome DevTools is a comprehensive toolkit built directly into the Chrome browser. These tools allow you to inspect, debug, monitor network requests and responses, test and optimize website performance, and simulate network conditions and mobile devices.
Tools are divided into multiple domains — elements, console, source, network, application, security, memory, and performance. Each domain defines a number of commands and events.
- Debug progressive web apps and background services
- Pause code with breakpoints
- Analyze runtime performance
- Record heap snapshots
- Fix memory issues like memory bloat, leak, and frequent garbage collections
- Test back/forward cache
DevTools has a massive community of programmers who actively contribute to its development and provide feedback. Plus, Google regularly makes changes to these tools based on users’ requirements and feedback.
Like Google Chrome, DevTools is completely free to download and use. Anyone with Chrome or Blink-based browsers can use it regardless of their skills or expertise in web development.
Initial release: 2017
Price: Free | Paid version starts at $599 per month
Rating: 9.2/10 from 300+ developers
Rookout’s Live debugger tool makes it easy to access and debug code in any environment, from on-premises to cloud applications. Developers can see code in real-time (as it is running) without stopping the application and pinpoint and solve issues up to five times faster.
You can install the debugger on any environment (staging, development, or production) on any architecture (bare metal, virtual machines, containers, or serverless). It supports all popular programming languages, including Python, Java, .Net, Ruby, Node.js, and Golang.
Plus, it offers complete technical implementation support, ongoing maintenance support, and local customer support.
- Get real-time data without stopping the application
- Full context and visualization of your debug session
- Side-by-side metric data and code
- Seamlessly integrates with any workflow and tech stack
As for security, the code is only loaded on your browser — it never reaches Rookout servers. The company provides extensive data redaction and encryption features, as well as additional security measures as per your app architecture requirements.
You can start with the free version, which allows you to debug a single application. It supports up to five instances, third-party integration, real-time logs, and traces.
5. IDA Pro
Initial release: 1997
Price: $365 for a one-year subscription | $1,129 for a perpetual license
Rating: 7.8/10 from 20+ developers
IDA (short for Interactive Disassembler) is referred to as the ‘de-facto industry standard disassembler’ for analysis of hostile code, commercial off-the-shelf validation, and vulnerability research.
It gives an in-depth view of your code so you can understand its behavior, functionality, and weak points. Inspect binary code by modifying individual instructions and variables.
The tool is also integrated with a powerful macro-like language (IDAPython), which can be used for automating simple tasks.
- Loads and disassembles virtually any file format
- Headless/batch analysis
- Python scripting
- Open plug-in architecture
- Supports debugging over USB and remote debugging
IDA is widely used for analyzing malware and reverse engineering software applications. Its users range from app developers and security professionals to researchers and government agencies. And there is a dedicated community of programmers who actively contribute to its development.
On the downside, the platform has a steep learning curve. Its UI might be overwhelming and hard to understand for beginners. Plus, it cannot efficiently analyze heavily encrypted code.
Initial release: 2010
Price: Free | B4i IDE costs $59
Rating: 9.1/10 from 400+ developers
B4X is a set of rapid application development tools that allow you to create apps for multiple platforms, including Linux, Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. It has four main products:
- B4A: offers an intuitive visual designer to build native android apps
- B4i: comes with a complete development environment for building iOS apps
- B4J: allows you to develop desktop applications (supports both client-side and server-side apps)
- B4R: offers various libraries to create applications for the Arduino and ESP8266 platforms
All these tools have built-in debuggers, so you can analyze your code, set breakpoints, and inspect objects and variables at runtime. B4R, in particular, features an advanced debugger that supports hardware debugging for Arduino and ESP8266 platforms.
And since all tools support remote debugging, you can inspect apps running on emulators or real devices remotely. This makes it easy to solve issues that only occur in specific configurations or environments.
As for pricing, all tools are completely free to download and use, except B4i. Its standard version costs $59, a one-time fee (no recurring fees or royalties).
Initial release: 2011
Price: Free | Basic version costs $19 per month | 30-day free trial available
Rating: 8.5/10 from 200+ developers
Airbrake is a cloud-based bug and error reporting platform designed for small and medium-sized companies.
When a business application encounters an expectation or error, it automatically traces the error and provides you with detailed information, such as the error location, type, and occurrence frequency. This helps you quickly spot and resolve issues, enhancing the app’s performance and reliability.
The platform also tracks app response time, uptime, throughput, and other key metrics, providing detailed insights into the overall app’s health and performance. This makes it easier for you to identify areas for improvement.
- Notifies developers as soon as errors occur
- Catches all errors and intelligently groups them
- Helps you track trends, fix bad deploys, and improve code quality
- Low maintenance and near-zero technical debt
- Integrates with various development tools, including Slack, Jira, and GitHub
Unlike other error-tracking tools, Airbrake lets you collaborate with team members to address issues more efficiently. You can assign errors to a specific developer, add comments and notes, and track the status of individual errors.
Overall, from testing to production, Airbrake has got you covered. The free version gives you access to the basic dashboard, advanced search features, and unlimited integration. However, it is limited to one user and two projects.
The pro version, which costs $38 per month, allows you to add unlimited users, teams, and projects. It gives full visibility and administrative control with spike forgiveness baked in.
Initial release: 2014
Rating: 9.2/10 from 150+ developers
x64dbg is an open-source debugger primarily used for software debugging, malware analysis, and reverse engineering (of executables you don’t have the source code for). It supports both x64 and x86 architecture.
The tool is designed to be simple and user-friendly. Its comprehensive interface is packed with a range of functions that are well organized in menus or displayed directly in a dedicated toolbar.
You can easily disassemble and debug code at the same time, add breakpoints at specific memory locations or instructions, dump data in a process’s memory, and use the built-in scripting engine to automate tedious tasks.
The best thing is you don’t require advanced programming skills or a good understanding of debugging processes to perform these operations. Its intuitive user interface, detailed documentation, and community resources are enough to get started and take advantage of its full range of capabilities.
- Dynamically recognizes strings and modules
- Source code view and graph view
- Customizable color scheme
- Uses open source libraries like Yara, TitanEngine, Qt, Zydis, Yara, and Jansson
While software developers can use x64dbg to debug their code and fix errors, security researchers can utilize it to discover software vulnerabilities and these their severity.
The tool is regularly maintained and updated (with bug fixes and new functions) by a large community, whose members also share valuable tips and provide support to fellow users.
Initial release: Late 1990s
Rating: 9.4/10 from 500+ developers
WinDbg (short for Windows Debugger) is a versatile tool distributed by Microsoft. It is designed to debug and troubleshoot Windows programs and hardware issues.
The tool can efficiently analyze memory leaks, crash dumps, and various types of bugs in software and hardware components. You can use it in both user mode and kernel mode. Its intuitive GUI and support for remote debugging make the tool more user-friendly and accessible across different machines.
- User mode and kernel mode debugging
- CPU and memory profiling
- Live debugging and breakpoint management
- Call stack analysis and performance analysis
In 2017, Microsoft unveiled a new version of WinDbg called WinDbg Preview. It’s an advanced version of WinDbg with faster windows, modern visuals, and a full-fledged scripting experience.
While WinDbg Preview uses the same underlying engine as WinDbg, it is more powerful and capable of diagnosing complex issues in Windows apps and drivers. It features new debugging commands and an extensive object-oriented debugger data model that make it easy to detect and resolve issues.
And the best part is you don’t have to pay anything to use this tool. It comes as a part of the Windows Software Development Kit.
Other Equally Good Debuggers
10. LLDB Debugger
Initially Released: 2010
LLDB is an open-source, high-performance debugger that supports a range of debugging operations, from disassembly and source-level debugging to memory and performance inspection. It is integrated with profiling and performance measuring systems, which make it easier to track memory usage, CPU usage, and instruction counts.
LLDB transforms debug data into Clang types, leveraging the Clang compiler infrastructure. Because of this, it supports the latest C++, Objective-C++, C, and Objective-C language features.
- Supports backtracking and breakpoints
- Memory inspection and performance analysis
- Python scripting interface for automating simple tasks
- LLDB API supports symbolization, disassembly, and object and symbol file introspection
It is used as a default debugger in Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment. Other popular tools — like Eclipse, C++ Builder, CLion, Visual Studio Code, and Android Studio — also utilize LLDB for debugging code.
LLDB is a part of the LLVM project, a suite of reusable/modular compiler and toolchain technologies. Many developers and tech giants, including Google and Apple, support the project — they report errors, optimize code, and provide resources to contribute to its development.
11. Percepio Tracealyzer
Initially Released: 2005
Price: Pro Edition costs $2,395 per year | Free trial available
Tracealyzer allows you to analyze the behavior of embedded software. It allows you to customize logs, filters, and views to see the state, characteristics, and timing across all components of your system.
Capture unusual errors that otherwise can be very difficult to reproduce or inspect. See how your system responds to input and closely monitor system metrics over time. You can also use Tracealyzer recording along with other debuggers to detect rate errors.
The platform supports many processor families (including ESP32, STM32, Xilinx Zynq, and other Arm machines) and embedded software systems (like ThreadX, VxWorks, FreeRTOS, Keil µVision, and Lauterbach µTrace).
- 30+ interconnected views to detect issues from different perspectives
- Timeline analysis and state machine analysis
- Monitor memory leaks, timing problems, and resource contention
- Optimize and validate software systems
- Share debugging data with other developers
Because of its powerful debugging capabilities, the tool is extensively used in automotive, telecommunication, aerospace, and other industries that mainly depend on embedded software systems.
As for pricing, Tracealyzer offers both subscription-based and perpetual licensing options. The company hasn’t listed the price on its official website, but according to users’ reviews, Professional Edition starts at $2,395 a year and Enterprise Edition starts at $4,000 per year.
Initially Released: 2004
Price: $139.00 for the first year for individual use
ReSharper is an extension of Microsoft Visual Studio, an integrated development environment for creating software programs. It offers several features to help you write code more efficiently and with fewer errors.
The other great function is ‘Go to Definition’ or ‘Go to Implementation’ — it allows you to quickly navigate to different sections of the program.
- Applies 2,200+ code inspections to your program
- Suggests 1,200+ quick fixes
- Code formatting and duplication protection
- Comes with a unit test runner and debugging assistance
ReSharper can significantly improve your productivity and code quality if you’re working in Visual Studio. However, if you are a beginner, you may need to spend time learning its features and understanding how to use them effectively.
As for pricing, it is free for all students and teachers. Individual developers can purchase a personal license that costs $139 a year ($111 for the second year and $83 from the third year onwards). The commercial license costs $350 a year ($279 for the second year and $209 from the third year onwards).
Initial release: 2015
Unlike other lightweight extensions, SonarLint can accurately identify exposed Secrets in source code and language-agnostic configuration files. Secrets are chunks of system-level or user-specific credentials that must be secured and accessible to authorized users only.
- Real-time analysis and feedback
- 5,000+ rules covering a broad range of issues
- Tracks issues over time
- Doesn’t require any configuration (easy to use)
As soon as SonarLint finds the error, it tells you whether it’s a bug (reliability), a code smell (maintainability), or a vulnerability (security). This helps you understand the risks involved and take necessary actions accordingly.
Initial release: 2014
PlatformIO is an open-source tool for developers who write code for embedded software. It makes it easy to build, test, and deploy firmware for embedded machines like microcontrollers.
PlatformIO supports a range of development frameworks, boards, and libraries. It also includes the IDE extension for popular editors like Atom, Visual Studio Code, and JetBrains IDEs.
- Supports 1,000+ development boards, including Raspberry Pi, STM32, ESP32, and Arduino.
- Library manager for adding and managing external libraries
- Intelligent Code Completion and unit testing
- Multi-project workflow with multiple panes
Since it’s an open-source platform, it is regularly updated and improved to meet the evolving requirements of the embedded software development community.
Initial release: 2003
OllyDbg is an open-source debugger that focuses on binary code analysis. It can trace registers, recognize strings and constants, and locate routines from libraries and object files.
This lightweight tool makes it easy to analyze the inner mechanism of compiled executable files. You can easily step through the scripts, add breakpoints, and examine the value of memory and registers. Besides analyzing data, it allows you to search for specific byte sequences, change memory values, and disassemble code.
- User-friendly interface (no cryptical commands)
- Recognizes tables, switches, loops, and API calls
- Dynamically traces stack frames
- Analyze application behavior in real-time
- Supports third-party plugins
Although its latest stable version has not been updated for over 10 years, it is still used by app developers and security researchers for debugging and reverse engineering software programs.
More to Know
Common errors identified by debuggers
The following four types of errors often require the process of debugging:
A) Runtime errors occur when the code is running after being successfully compiled. Input/output errors, undefined object errors, and division by zero errors are all examples of runtime errors.
B) Logic errors cause the program to operate incorrectly but not to crash (or terminate abnormally). For instance, the code may produce a wrong ‘while’ outcome or may exit a loop too early. These errors occur in both interpreted and compiled languages.
C) Syntax errors are typo or spelling errors such as incorrect labels, unbalanced parenthesis, and missing semicolons or operators. A program will not compile as long as syntax errors are present.
D) Semantic errors are the ones that are grammatically correct but do not make any sense. For example, passing the wrong type of value to a method, defining two local variables with the same names, and using a property name, type, namespace, or field that doesn’t exist. A program having semantic errors will run but won’t give the correct result.
Common debugging techniques
Developers use numerous strategies to decrease the number of errors and time required for debugging. The most common strategies include the following:
A) Backtracking — analyze the program backward from where an error occurred and pinpoint the exact location in the code.
B) Logging — analyze log files (that contain internal data like operating system states) to locate and resolve issues.
C) Interactive debugging — process a small section of the code at a time
D) Record and replay — involves recording the execution of programs so it can be replayed (in case of error) to identify and resolve defects
E) Delta debugging — a method of automating test cases using a scientific approach called hypothesis-trial-result loop.
F) Post-mortem debugging — involves debugging the program after it is crashed. One can analyze the memory dump, output a call stack, and examine log files to get to the root of the problem.
G) Cloud debugging — developers have started using cloud debuggers to inspect the state of running software programs in real-time without halting or slowing it down.
Debugging tools market size
The global debugging tools industry is expected to exceed $9 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 5.8% from 2023 to 2030.
This growth is attributed to several factors, such as the rising adoption of debugging platforms by small and medium-sized businesses, the increasing popularity of web-based and cloud-based debugging tools, and the growing demand for application security. Furthermore, the increasing number of malware and data breaches is also fueling the growth of debugging tools.
Why you can trust us?
We thoroughly analyzed over 35 debugging tools for Microsft Windows and read developers’ reviews. It took more than 20 hours to do the comprehensive research. Finally, we decided to shortlist the 15 top-notch debuggers based on their features and IDE and programming language support.
Our “Rating” is the average of all ratings given by genuine developers on trusted review sites. In order to show you an accurate picture, we haven’t considered reviews and testimonials featured on the debugger’s official website.
We DO NOT earn commission from any of the featured tools. Furthermore, we have two independent editors who have no influence over our listing criteria or recommendations.