Registers

In the aarch32 instruction set, there are 16 general-purpose registers.

These registers are labeled R0 through R15 and are used to store data and instructions during the execution of a program. Each register is 32 bits wide and can be used to store a wide range of data types, including integers, floating-point numbers, and memory addresses.

The specific use of each register depends on the instructions being executed and the data being processed. Some of the registers have special purposes, such as storing the results of arithmetic operations or holding the address of the next instruction to be executed.

Here is a table listing the main purpose of each register in the aarch32 instruction set:

RegisterAliasUsage

R0

-

Store the results of arithmetic operations

R1

-

Store the address of the next instruction to be executed

R2-R3

-

General-purpose registers

R4-R8

-

Argument registers when calling functions

R9

-

Platform-specific register, such as a thread-ID register on some systems

R10

-

General-purpose register

R11

FP

Frame Pointer

R12

IP

Intra-procedure-call scratch register

R13

SP

Stack Pointer

R14

LR

Link Register or subroutine return address

R15

PC

Program Counter

CPSR

-

Current Program Status Register

Note that the specific purpose of each register can vary depending on the context in which it is used and the instructions being executed. These are just the general purposes of each register.

In the aarch32 instruction set, the equivalent of the EIP (instruction pointer) and CS (code segment) registers in the x86 instruction set is the R15 register, which is used as the program counter. The program counter holds the memory address of the next instruction to be executed.

The following table is just a quick glimpse into how the ARM registers could relate to those in Intel processors.

ARMUsagex86

R0

General Purpose

EAX

R1-R5

General Purpose

EBX, ECX, EDX, ESI, EDI

R6-R10

General Purpose

–

R11 (FP)

Frame Pointer

EBP

R12

Intra Procedural Call

–

R13 (SP)

Stack Pointer

ESP

R14 (LR)

Link Register

–

R15 (PC)

<- Program Counter / Instruction Pointer ->

EIP

CPSR

Current Program State Register/Flags

EFLAGS

R0-R12: can be used during common operations to store temporary values, pointers (locations to memory), etc. R0, for example, can be referred as accumulator during the arithmetic operations or for storing the result of a previously called function. R7 becomes useful while working with syscalls as it stores the syscall number and R11 helps us to keep track of boundaries on the stack serving as the frame pointer (will be covered later). Moreover, the function calling convention on ARM specifies that the first four arguments of a function are stored in the registers r0-r3.

R13: SP (Stack Pointer). The Stack Pointer points to the top of the stack. The stack is an area of memory used for function-specific storage, which is reclaimed when the function returns. The stack pointer is therefore used for allocating space on the stack, by subtracting the value (in bytes) we want to allocate from the stack pointer. In other words, if we want to allocate a 32 bit value, we subtract 4 from the stack pointer.

R14: LR (Link Register). When a function call is made, the Link Register gets updated with a memory address referencing the next instruction where the function was initiated from. Doing this allows the program return to the β€œparent” function that initiated the β€œchild” function call after the β€œchild” function is finished.

R15: PC (Program Counter). The Program Counter is automatically incremented by the size of the instruction executed. This size is always 4 bytes in ARM state and 2 bytes in THUMB mode. When a branch instruction is being executed, the PC holds the destination address. During execution, PC stores the address of the current instruction plus 8 (two ARM instructions) in ARM state, and the current instruction plus 4 (two Thumb instructions) in Thumb(v1) state. This is different from x86 where PC always points to the next instruction to be executed.

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