A sampling CPU profiler for Linux
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benches Fix benchmarks Jul 23, 2018
proc-maps Move `/proc/$PID/maps` parser into a separate crate Jul 23, 2018
test-data Add test binaries and data for the `noreturn` test Aug 3, 2018
LICENSE-MIT Initial public commit Apr 27, 2018


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A sampling CPU profiler for Linux

nperf is a sampling CPU profiler for Linux similar to perf.


  • Support for AMD64, ARM and MIPS64 architectures (where MIPS64 requires a tiny out-of-tree patch to the kernel to work)
  • Support for offline and online stack trace unwinding
  • Support for profiling of binaries without any debug info (without the .debug_frame section)
    • using .eh_frame based unwinding (this is how normal C++ exception handling unwinds the stack) without requiring .eh_frame_hdr (which, depending on the compiler, may not be emitted)
    • using .ARM.exidx + .ARM.extab based unwinding (which is ARM specific and is used instead of .eh_frame)
  • Support for cross-architectural data analysis
  • Fully architecture-agnostic data format

Why should I use this instead of perf?

If perf already works for you - great! Keep on using it.

This project was born out of a few limitations of the original perf which make it non-ideal for CPU profiling in embedded-ish environments. Some of those are as follows:

  • lack of support for MIPS64,
  • the big size of generated CPU profiling data due to offline-only stack unwinding, so if you only have a limited amount of storage space you either need to profile with a very low frequency, or for a very short amount of time;
  • lack of support for cross-architectural analysis - if you run perf record on ARM then you also need to run perf report either on ARM or under QEMU, and running the analysis under QEMU (depending on how you've compiled your binaries and with what flags you've launched perf) can take hours;
  • and poor support for profiling binaries which have limited or no debug info, which is often the case in big, embedded-lite projects where the debug info can't even fit on the target machine, or is not readily available.


  1. Install at least Rust 1.28

  2. Build it:

     $ cargo build --release
  3. Grab the binary from target/release/nperf.


  1. Configure the linker for your target architecture in your ~/.cargo/config, e.g.:
linker = "/path/to/your/sdk/mips64-octeon2-linux-gnu-gcc"
rustflags = [
  "-C", "link-arg=--sysroot=/path/to/your/sdk/sys-root/mips64-octeon2-linux-gnu"

linker = "/path/to/your/sdk/arm-cortexa15-linux-gnueabihf-gcc"
rustflags = [
  "-C", "link-arg=--sysroot=/path/to/your/sdk/sys-root/arm-cortexa15-linux-gnueabihf"
  1. Compile, either for ARM or for MIPS64:

     $ cargo build --release --target=mips64-unknown-linux-gnuabi64
     $ cargo build --release --target=armv7-unknown-linux-gnueabihf
  2. Grab the binary from target/mips64-unknown-linux-gnuabi64/nperf or target/armv7-unknown-linux-gnueabihf/nperf.

Basic usage

Profiling an already running process by its PID:

$ nperf record -p $PID_OF_YOUR_PROCESS -o datafile

Profiling a process by its name and waiting if it isn't running yet:

$ nperf record -P cpu-hungry-program -w -o datafile

Generating a CPU flame graph from the gathered data:

$ nperf collate datafile | flamegraph.pl > flame.svg

(Using Brendan Gregg's flamegraph.pl.)


Licensed under either of

at your option.


Unless you explicitly state otherwise, any contribution intentionally submitted for inclusion in the work by you, as defined in the Apache-2.0 license, shall be dual licensed as above, without any additional terms or conditions.