Introduction to Decompiling C++ with Ghidra

Edit on Github | Updated: 1st September 2019

This tutorial will guide you through the basics of decompiling a c++ executable, from setup all the way to reversing c++ classes. The video tutorial is created by James Tate over on his excellent youtube channel, it is highly recommended you subscribe here: James Tate - YouTube

Download & Run Ghidra

You can download Ghidra from the official site: Ghidra

You will also need a Java Development Kit (JDK) which you can download from the AdoptOpenDSK official site: AdoptOpenJDK - Open source, prebuilt OpenJDK binaries

You can now run Ghidra from the extracted folder by running the main script


It may ask you for your JDK path, enter where you installed your OpenJDK 1.

Create a New project

First of all you need a project in order to start reverse engineering a binary executable. To do this use File -> New project.

Import your binary executable

To follow along in this tutorial you should compile the sample code provided: GitHub - james-tate/ghidraExampleSource

You can use the compiler of your choice as long as it supports C++, so if you have a special compiler for PS2/Dreamcast/Xbox/Gamecube etc then feel free to use that but bear in mind importing executables for those systems will require a 3rd party plugin known as a loader.

You can import a file into Ghidra very simply with: File -> Import File Find your executable file that you build with your c++ compiler.

This will open the import dialog, in this tutorial we also want to load in the external libraries, this makes it easier to reverse engineer as you can swap between the main executable and the libraries really easily in Ghidra 2.

To do this click options and set the Library Paths in the dialog.

It will now start importing the file and ask you if you want to analyse it, select yes and keep the default settings.

How to find the main function

If you have symbols you can use the Go To.. menu and type main but if you don’t have symbols then we will need to find it.

To find it go to the .text section and it will take you to the entry function. If you are using the same example as the video tutorial then you will have a __libc_start_main function and its first parameter is a function pointer to the main function.

If you are using a different executable or compiled with a different compiler this can be setup differently, but entry will call main somewhere so it may require a bit of debugging with a debugger such as gdb or an emulators built-in debugger.

When you have found what you believe to be the main method, right click on the auto generated function name and select rename function.

Creating a new Struct

Go to the Data Type Manager and right click the executable name, select New -> Structure.

Give the structure a useful name and assign the struct’s fields by clicking the green plus icon and selecting the data type for each field 3.

How to apply the struct to code

You can right click the first global variable that you know is the first field in the struct and select Data -> Choose Data Type , it will then ask you which struct you want to use.

Note that if you get something similar to:


Then this means that at offset 0x4 in the struct we have an undefined field for the structure.