Debugging ESP32 Applications with VisualGDB

Debugging ESP32 Applications with VisualGDB


Debugging is integral to embedded systems development, ensuring the correctness and functionality of the software running on microcontrollers.

VisualGDB provides a comprehensive debugging environment for ESP32 microcontrollers, facilitating the identification and resolution of software issues.

Setting Up the Debugging Environment

To utilize VisualGDB’s debugging capabilities, you’ll need to establish a connection between your ESP32 development board and your computer.

This can be accomplished using various methods, such as JTAG, SWD, or UART. Once the connection is established, VisualGDB will recognize the ESP32 device and enable debugging features.

VisualGDB Debugger Overview

VisualGDB’s debugger offers a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that simplifies debugging. Key features include:

  • Breakpoints: Set breakpoints to halt execution at specific points in the code, allowing you to inspect variable values and step through the code line by line.
  • Variable Monitoring: Monitor the values of variables throughout the debugging process, identifying potential issues related to data handling or calculations.
  • Memory View: Visualize the memory usage and contents of the ESP32’s memory, allowing you to identify memory leaks or corruption issues.
  • Call Stack: View the call stack, which traces the execution path of the program, helping you identify code paths that may be causing problems.
  • Stepping: Step through the code execution one line at a time, allowing you to carefully examine the program’s behaviour at each step.

Debugging Workflow with VisualGDB

  1. Set Breakpoints: Place breakpoints at strategic points in the code where you suspect errors may occur.
  2. Build and Flash: Compile and flash the code onto the ESP32 development board.
  3. Start Debugging: Initiate the debugging session, and VisualGDB will connect to the ESP32 and halt execution at the first breakpoint.
  4. Inspect Variables: Monitor variable values to identify any abnormalities or unexpected changes.
  5. Step through Code: Use the step-by-step execution controls to examine the program’s behaviour at each line.
  6. Check Memory: Use the memory view to verify that memory is allocated and used correctly.
  7. Analyze Call Stack: Investigate the call stack to identify potential issues with function calls or nesting.
  8. Resolve Issues: Based on the debugging information, identify and resolve the root cause of the error.

Debugging Specific Scenarios

VisualGDB’s debugging capabilities can be applied to various scenarios, including:

  • Identifying Memory Leaks: Monitor memory usage and identify areas where memory allocation may be excessive or not properly released, leading to memory leaks.
  • Debugging Communication Issues: Observe UART or SPI communication to identify data corruption, transmission errors, or unexpected communication patterns.
  • Troubleshooting Hardware Issues: Investigate hardware-related issues by monitoring peripheral registers and communication with sensors or actuators.
  • Validating User Interface (UI) Behavior: Monitor UI elements, such as buttons, inputs, and displays, to ensure the correct behaviour and responsiveness.


VisualGDB’s debugging capabilities are invaluable for ESP32 development, enabling developers to effectively identify, analyze, and resolve software issues.

Its intuitive interface, comprehensive features, and seamless integration with Visual Studio make it a powerful tool for enhancing the debugging process and ensuring the quality of ESP32 applications.


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.