pprof_mac_fix: rsc.io/pprof_mac_fix Files

Command pprof_mac_fix

pprof_mac_fix applies a binary patch to the OS X kernel in order to make pprof profiling report accurate values.

Hooray Hooray Hooray

The public beta of OS X 10.11 El Capitan appears to contain a fix for the underlying kernel bug. It therefore appears that pprof_mac_fix is unnecessary on that system: pprof will just work out of the box.

If run on an OS X 10.11 system, pprof_mac_fix will report that the kernel is already correct without any patch.

Warning Warning Warning

This program is meant to modify the operating system kernel, the program that runs your computer and makes it safe for all the other programs to run. If you damage the kernel, your computer will not be able to boot.

Before using this program, ensure you can boot into “recovery mode.” Many recent Macs make this possible by holding down Alt/Option when you hear the boot chime and selecting the “Recovery HD.” Otherwise, you can boot to the opening screen of an install DVD or thumb drive.

You have been warned.


This program has been used successfully on the following systems:

OS X 10.6  Snow Leopard      / Darwin 10.8 / i386 only
OS X 10.7  Lion              / Darwin 11.4 / i386 and x86_64
OS X 10.8  Mountain Lion     / Darwin 12.4 / x86_64 only
OS X 10.9  Mavericks         / Darwin 13.0 / x86_64 only
OS X 10.10 Yosemite          / Darwin 14.0 / x86_64 only

Snow Leopard x86_64 may work too but is untried.

An earlier version of this program shipped with a buggy patch for OS X 10.9 Mavericks/Darwin 13.0. If you used the old patch you are encouraged to restore your old kernel and patch using an updated copy of this program:

go get -u rsc.io/pprof_mac_fix

If running http://swtch.com/~rsc/macbug.c crashes your system, you have the buggy patch applied.


First, read the warning above.

Next, install this program and run it. If the program finds that it knows how to patch your kernel, it will reinvoke itself using sudo, which will prompt for your password and install the new kernel. It saves the old kernel as a numbered file in the kernel source directory (the root directory or, for OS X 10.10 Yosemite, /System/Library/Kernels).

go get rsc.io/pprof_mac_fix

Finally, cross your fingers and reboot.

If all goes well, running “uname -a” will report the time at which you ran pprof_mac_fix as the kernel build time.

If you have a Go tree built at tip,

go test -v runtime/pprof

should now say that the CPU profiling tests pass, whereas before they printed failure messages and were marked as skipped.


If something goes wrong, you will need to restore the original kernel. To do this, boot into recovery mode. If you are using FileVault whole-disk encryption, start Disk Utility, unlock the disk, and then quit disk utility. (Disk Utility may be an option shown on the recovery mode screen or you may have to select it from the Utilities menu in the top-of-screen menu bar.) Start Terminal and then run these commands:

cd /Volumes/Mac*HD*
cp mach_kernel0 mach_kernel
bless /Volumes/Mac*HD*/System/Library/CoreServices

The Mac*HD* pattern matches "Macintosh HD" and "Macintosh HD " [sic]. If you have changed your disk's volume name you may need to use a different pattern (run "mount" to see the mounted disks).

I am not sure whether the bless command is strictly necessary.

On OS X 10.10 Yosemite, the above command sequence changes to:

cd /Volumes/Mac*HD*/System/Library/Kernels
cp kernel0 kernel
bless /Volumes/Mac*HD*/System/Library/CoreServices

Reboot. You should be back to the original, unmodified kernel. Either way, you need to be able to start Terminal and, if you are using FileVault whole-disk encryption, Disk Utility.

For details on creating a bootable recovery disk or bootable installation disk, see http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4848 and http://lifehacker.com/5928780/.

Theory of Operation

The program rewrites the kernel code that delivers the profiling signals SIGPROF and SIGVTALRM in response to setitimer(2) calls. Instead of delivering the signal to the process as a whole, the new code delivers the signal to the thread whose execution triggered the signal; that is, it delivers the signal to the thread that is actually running and should be profiled.

The rewrite only edits code in the function named bsd_ast, which is in charge of little more than delivering these signals. It is therefore unlikely to cause problems in programs not using the signals. Of course, there are no safety nets when changing an operating system kernel; caution is warranted.

A more detailed description is at http://research.swtch.com/macpprof.

Package Files

main.go rewrite.go

Package main imports 16 packages (graph). Updated 2016-09-30. Refresh now. Tools for package owners. This is an inactive package (no imports and no commits in at least two years).