Is there any way to cause a kernel panic under Linux? I've heard of

echo c > /proc/sysrq-trigger

but it seems to just freeze, and I'm not sure it's a kernel panic. Is there any C program I can run as root to cause a kernel panic?

  • Why would you need this? Aug 2, 2013 at 18:46
  • 1
    @MichaelMrozek just to experiment. Although I imagine it could be useful to kernel developers.
    – tkbx
    Aug 2, 2013 at 18:47
  • 5
    You could load a kernel module which immediately tries to dereference NULL. That should give a fairly safe kernel panic. Or you could just have the module call panic. A kernel panic isn't just one, solitary thing—its a whole range of errors. You're asking something similar to "is there some way I can make a program crash?"
    – derobert
    Aug 2, 2013 at 19:48
  • the sysrq method does create a kernel crash, but you probably don't have anything set up to handle the crashdump, and you aren't looking at the console where the crash information is sent.
    – jsbillings
    Aug 2, 2013 at 20:32
  • 2
    @derobert Dereferencing NULL will give an Oops which only ends up being a panic if the kernel is configured as such (CONFIG_PANIC_ON_OOPS=y). To trigger a panic... simply load a module that calls panic()!
    – Lekensteyn
    Aug 2, 2013 at 20:49

3 Answers 3


using kill

I think you could try the following:

$ kill -6 1

This sends signal # 6 to process #1 (the init process). If you read up in the signals man page: "man 7 signals":

   Signal     Value     Action   Comment
   SIGHUP        1       Term    Hangup detected on controlling terminal
                                 or death of controlling process
   SIGINT        2       Term    Interrupt from keyboard
   SIGQUIT       3       Core    Quit from keyboard
   SIGILL        4       Core    Illegal Instruction
   SIGABRT       6       Core    Abort signal from abort(3)

You can find out how a process wants to handle the various signals (cat /proc/$PID/status). See this U&L Q&A for more info: How can I check what signals a process is listening to?.

overflowing memory

Another method is to overflow memory to induce a kernel panic. First you'll need to disable swap.

$ swapon -s
Filename                Type        Size    Used    Priority
/dev/mapper/VolGroup00-LogVol01         partition   14352376    3177812 -1

$ swapoff /dev/mapper/VolGroup00-LogVol01

Now to consume all the memory:

$ for r in /dev/ram*; do cat /dev/zero > $r; done


  • 1
    Weird. The first time, it seemed to "pause" xorg. My music stopped, and I saw the cli login you normally get when you change TTYs. I logged in and then switched back to tty7 (xorg), and the second time it did the same thing as echoing to /proc/sysrq-trigger. I guess you have to be in a tty to see the error information. And for the loop that consumes all memory, cat gets a write error saying the device is full, but the kernel must take care of it, becuase if I check my RAM, only ~300MB is used.
    – tkbx
    Aug 2, 2013 at 18:54
  • 3
    Actually, PID 1 is explicitly protected from signals it's not set up to catch. See unix.stackexchange.com/questions/7441
    – Jander
    Aug 2, 2013 at 18:57
  • @Jander - thanks. Is there a way to get a list of the signals that init is setup to catch?
    – slm
    Aug 2, 2013 at 19:02

You can try sudo kill -SEGV 1. This will immediately crash init as if there were MM fault(kernel equivalent of segment violation).


Some intel hardware have a NMI button (Non-maskable interrupt) that will immediately cause a panic, if you've got the NMI watchdog enabled. There are a couple other ways to cause the NMI watchdog to panic as well

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