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A core dump gets its name from an old memory technology using tiny
magnetic cores, shown here greatly magnified.
In computing, a core dump consists of the recorded state of the working
memory of a computer program at a specific time, generally when the
program has terminated abnormally (crashed). In practice, other key
pieces of program state are usually dumped at the same time, including
the processor registers, which may include the program counter and stack
pointer, memory management information, and other processor and
operating system flags and information. The name comes from the
once-standard core memory technology. Core dumps are often used to
diagnose or debug errors in computer programs.
On many operating systems, a fatal error in a program automatically
triggers a core dump, and by extension the phrase "to dump core" has
come to mean, in many cases, any fatal error, regardless of whether a
record of the program memory results.
The term "core dump" has become jargon to indicate any deposition of a
large amount of unedited data for further examination.