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Debugging tools for ARM7

Usually one solution of debugging is to run compiled code on PC simulator. You can download a limited version of instruction set simulator from Hitex for free. Of course better simulators aren’t for free. More advanced simulators you can purchase at Keil. More advanced I mean that there is ability to simulate peripherals by additional scripting and so on. But again, simulators re virtual tools and usually it is hard to simulate real world events.


Once you face this problem, you are going to switch to real world simulation using JTAG.

ARM7 microcontrollers comes with JTAG (Joint Test Action Group) debug port. JTAG allows controlling ARM MCU using PC via relatively cheap JTAG adapter.


JTAG 14 and 20 pin headers

JTAG usually allows to:

  • download compiled code in to on cip RAM or FLASH and gives run control;

  • view and modify memory locations;

But with JTAG is not possible to get any information while code is running. If you want to get some debug information, you have to halt the code execution. So true rel time debugging is not possible. And of course JTAG debugger is limited by MCU debug port resources. For instance, ARM7 JTAG has only two break point registers. So controlling of debugging depends on debugging software, where clearing/setting of breakpoints is done on fly. Thus you can get pseudo real debugging.

In some ARM microcontrollers like LPC series there are Embedded Trace Modules (ETM) included. ETM is a second debugging port which exports program flow information. ETM provides more powerful debugging capabilities like real time trace, triggering and performance analysis. ETM allows extensive code verification and software testing, what simple JTAG cannot do.

Of course you can always add some debug kernel in to chip when on breakpoint can redirect program counter to vector, where debug kernel is located. Kernel may upload required variables from selected memory to debugger via JTAG and return to application code. But again it is not real time debugging.

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