Debugging Programs on the Raspberry Pi: A Comprehensive Guide



Debugging programs on the Raspberry Pi can be a challenging task, especially for beginners. However, with the right approach and tools, you can efficiently identify and fix issues in your code. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the fundamental concepts of debugging on the Raspberry Pi.

Part 1: Understanding the Basics of Debugging on Raspberry Pi

What is Debugging?

Debugging is the process of identifying and resolving errors or issues in your code. It’s like detective work for programmers, where you track down and eliminate the bugs that cause unexpected behavior in your programs.

Common Types of Programming Errors

Before we delve into debugging tools and techniques, it’s essential to understand the common types of programming errors you might encounter:

  1. Syntax Errors: These are straightforward errors in your code’s syntax, such as missing semicolons or parentheses.
  2. Logic Errors: Logic errors occur when your code’s logic is incorrect, leading to unexpected outcomes. These can be tricky to spot.
  3. Runtime Errors: These errors happen while the program is running and can cause crashes or exceptions.

Getting Started with Debugging

Now that we have a basic understanding of debugging let’s explore how to get started on the Raspberry Pi.

1. Using Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)

Most Raspberry Pi programming is done using Python or other high-level languages. Python comes with excellent support for debugging, especially when using IDEs like Thonny or VSCode. These IDEs offer features like setting breakpoints, step-by-step execution, and variable inspection.

2. Print Statements

A simple yet effective debugging technique is to insert print statements in your code. These statements help you trace the program’s flow and inspect variable values at different stages. We’ll discuss more advanced debugging techniques in the upcoming parts of this guide.

3. Error Messages

When your program encounters an error, it often generates error messages that provide valuable information about what went wrong. Understanding and interpreting these messages is crucial for effective debugging.

4. Logging

Logging is a systematic way of recording program activity, which can be invaluable for debugging. You can use Python’s built-in logging module to create detailed logs of your program’s execution.

Part 2: Using the Python Debugger (pdb) for Raspberry Pi Debugging

What is pdb?

pdb is a built-in Python module that allows you to interactively debug your code. It provides features like setting breakpoints, stepping through code line by line, and inspecting variables in real-time.

Getting Started with pdb

To use pdb for debugging on your Raspberry Pi, follow these steps:

  1. Import pdb: Begin your script by importing the pdb module. import pdb
  2. Set Breakpoints: You can set breakpoints in your code by adding the following line where you want to stop the program’s execution: pdb.set_trace()
  3. Run Your Script: Execute your script. When the program reaches a breakpoint, it will pause, and you’ll enter the interactive pdb mode.
  4. Navigating in pdb: In pdb mode, you have various commands at your disposal. Some common ones include:
  • n (next): Execute the current line and move to the next line of code.
  • c (continue): Resume program execution until the next breakpoint.
  • q (quit): Exit the debugger and terminate the program.
  • p (print): Print the value of a variable.
  1. Inspecting Variables: Use the p command followed by a variable name to print its current value.
  2. Continue Debugging: You can continue debugging after making changes by typing c and hitting Enter.

Part 3: Utilizing GPIO LEDs for Debugging on Raspberry Pi

Why Use GPIO LEDs for Debugging?

While software debugging tools like pdb are incredibly valuable, there are situations where you might need to debug hardware interactions or issues. This is where GPIO LEDs come in handy. They allow you to visually monitor the state of your Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins, helping you identify problems with sensors, actuators, or other connected devices.

Getting Started with GPIO LEDs for Debugging

Here’s how you can set up and use GPIO LEDs for debugging:

Select GPIO Pins: Choose one or more GPIO pins on your Raspberry Pi for debugging purposes. You can use the GPIO header to connect LEDs.

Hardware Setup: Connect the anodes (longer leads) of your LEDs to the selected GPIO pins and the cathodes (shorter leads) to ground (GND) pins. Use appropriate resistors to limit the current through the LEDs.

Python Script: Write a Python script to control the GPIO pins. You can use the RPi.GPIO library to simplify GPIO interactions. import RPi.GPIO as GPIO import time Set GPIO mode GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM) Define the GPIO pins for debugging debug_pins = [18, 23] # Example pins Set up GPIO pins as outputs for pin in debug_pins:

import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import time

# Replace these pins with the GPIO pins you want to toggle
debug_pins = [17, 18, 19]

    # Setup the GPIO pins as outputs
    for pin in debug_pins:
        GPIO.setup(pin, GPIO.OUT)

    while True:
        # Toggle the LEDs for debugging
        for pin in debug_pins:
            GPIO.output(pin, GPIO.HIGH)
            GPIO.output(pin, GPIO.LOW)

except KeyboardInterrupt:
    # Clean up when the program is interrupted

Observing Debug Output: Run your script while monitoring the connected LEDs. The LEDs will light up as the corresponding GPIO pins are set to HIGH.

Debugging Hardware Interactions: Use this setup to debug hardware-related issues. For example, if you’re working with sensors, you can use the LEDs to check if the sensor data is being read correctly.

Part 4: Remote Debugging on Raspberry Pi

Why Remote Debugging?

Remote debugging allows you to connect to your Raspberry Pi over a network and debug your code as if you were working directly on the Pi itself. This is particularly useful when dealing with headless setups or debugging IoT devices that are not easily accessible.

Setting Up Remote Debugging

Here’s how to set up remote debugging on your Raspberry Pi:

  1. SSH into Your Raspberry Pi: Ensure that SSH is enabled on your Raspberry Pi. You can access your Pi from another computer using its IP address: ssh pi@your_pi_ip_address
  2. Install Required Debugging Tools: To enable remote debugging, you need to install debugging tools on your Raspberry Pi. For Python, you can use the ptvsd library (Python Tools for Visual Studio Debugger). Install it using pip: pip install ptvsd
  3. Modify Your Python Script: In your Python script, import and configure ptvsd to listen for incoming debugger connections: import ptvsd Enable the debugger and specify the listening port ptvsd.enable_attach(address=(‘’, 5678)) Rest of your code
  4. Run Your Script Start your Python script on the Raspberry Pi.
  1. Debugging from Your Computer: On your local computer, you can use a code editor or integrated development environment (IDE) that supports remote debugging. Configure the IDE to connect to the Raspberry Pi’s IP address and the specified port (5678 in this example).


In this comprehensive guide, we’ve covered various aspects of debugging programs on the Raspberry Pi. From understanding the basics of debugging and using software tools like pdb to hardware debugging with GPIO LEDs and remote debugging techniques, you now have a solid foundation for identifying and resolving issues in your Raspberry Pi projects.

We hope this guide has been helpful in improving your debugging skills and enhancing your Raspberry Pi projects. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced developer, effective debugging is a crucial skill that will serve you well in your programming journey.

If you have any further questions or topics you’d like us to explore, feel free to reach out. Happy debugging and coding!

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