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From man file,

EXAMPLES
   $ file file.c file /dev/{wd0a,hda}
   file.c:   C program text
   file:     ELF 32-bit LSB executable, Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV),
             dynamically linked (uses shared libs), stripped
   /dev/wd0a: block special (0/0)
   /dev/hda: block special (3/0)
   $ file -s /dev/wd0{b,d}
   /dev/wd0b: data
   /dev/wd0d: x86 boot sector
   $ file -s /dev/hda{,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10}
   /dev/hda:   x86 boot sector
   /dev/hda1:  Linux/i386 ext2 filesystem
   /dev/hda2:  x86 boot sector
   /dev/hda3:  x86 boot sector, extended partition table
   /dev/hda4:  Linux/i386 ext2 filesystem
   /dev/hda5:  Linux/i386 swap file
   /dev/hda6:  Linux/i386 swap file
   /dev/hda7:  Linux/i386 swap file
   /dev/hda8:  Linux/i386 swap file
   /dev/hda9:  empty
   /dev/hda10: empty

   $ file -i file.c file /dev/{wd0a,hda}
   file.c:      text/x-c
   file:        application/x-executable, dynamically linked (uses shared libs),
   not stripped
   /dev/hda:    application/x-not-regular-file
   /dev/wd0a:   application/x-not-regular-file

What does executable stripping mean?

Why are some of the executables stripped while others are not?

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1 Answer

up vote 16 down vote accepted

If you compile an executable with gcc's -g flag, it contains debugging information. That means for each instruction there is information which line of the source code generated it, the name of the variables in the source code is retained and can be associated to the matching memory at runtime etc. Strip can remove this debugging information and other data included in the executable which is not necessary for execution in order to reduce the size of the executable.

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See also the strip(1) manpage. Generally strip removes all symbols since they're not strictly necessary; it removes debugging info too, but symbols are the big thing –  Michael Mrozek Oct 11 '10 at 7:15
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The concept generalizes to most executable formats, this isn't specific to gcc or even to unix. –  Gilles Nov 7 '10 at 21:20
    
I had a 40MB executable that when stripped was reduced to 6MB - just so you get an idea of the kind of space that debugging data takes up. –  Nathan Osman Aug 10 '11 at 2:47
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