Control register

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A control register is a processor register which changes or controls the general behavior of a CPU or other digital device. Common tasks performed by control registers include interrupt control, switching the addressing mode, paging control, and coprocessor control.

Control registers in x86 series[edit]


The CR0 register is 32 bits long on the 386 and higher processors. On x64 processors in long mode, it (and the other control registers) is 64 bits long. CR0 has various control flags that modify the basic operation of the processor. Register CR0 is the 32 Bit version of the old Machine Status Word (MSW) register. The MSW register was expanded to the Control Register with the appearance of the i386 processor.

Bit Name Full Name Description
0 PE Protected Mode Enable If 1, system is in protected mode, else, system is in real mode
1 MP Monitor co-processor Controls interaction of WAIT/FWAIT instructions with TS flag in CR0
2 EM Emulation If set, no x87 floating-point unit present, if clear, x87 FPU present
3 TS Task switched Allows saving x87 task context upon a task switch only after x87 instruction used
4 ET Extension type On the 386, it allowed to specify whether the external math coprocessor was an 80287 or 80387
5 NE Numeric error Enable internal x87 floating point error reporting when set, else enables PC style x87 error detection
16 WP Write protect When set, the CPU can't write to read-only pages when privilege level is 0
18 AM Alignment mask Alignment check enabled if AM set, AC flag (in EFLAGS register) set, and privilege level is 3
29 NW Not-write through Globally enables/disable write-through caching
30 CD Cache disable Globally enables/disable the memory cache
31 PG Paging If 1, enable paging and use the § CR3 register, else disable paging.


Reserved, the CPU will throw a #UB exception when trying to access it.


Contains a value called Page Fault Linear Address (PFLA). When a page fault occurs, the address the program attempted to access is stored in the CR2 register.


Typical use of CR3 in address translation with 4 KiB pages

Used when virtual addressing is enabled, hence when the PG bit is set in CR0. CR3 enables the processor to translate linear addresses into physical addresses by locating the page directory and page tables for the current task. Typically, the upper 20 bits of CR3 become the page directory base register (PDBR), which stores the physical address of the first page directory. If the PCIDE bit in CR4 is set, the lowest 12 bits are used for the process-context identifier (PCID).[1]


Used in protected mode to control operations such as virtual-8086 support, enabling I/O breakpoints, page size extension and machine-check exceptions.

Bit Name Full Name Description
0 VME Virtual 8086 Mode Extensions If set, enables support for the virtual interrupt flag (VIF) in virtual-8086 mode.
1 PVI Protected-mode Virtual Interrupts If set, enables support for the virtual interrupt flag (VIF) in protected mode.
2 TSD Time Stamp Disable If set, RDTSC instruction can only be executed when in ring 0, otherwise RDTSC can be used at any privilege level.
3 DE Debugging Extensions If set, enables debug register based breaks on I/O space access.
4 PSE Page Size Extension If unset, page size is 4 KiB, else page size is increased to 4 MiB

If PAE is enabled or the processor is in x86-64 long mode this bit is ignored.[2]

5 PAE Physical Address Extension If set, changes page table layout to translate 32-bit virtual addresses into extended 36-bit physical addresses.
6 MCE Machine Check Exception If set, enables machine check interrupts to occur.
7 PGE Page Global Enabled If set, address translations (PDE or PTE records) may be shared between address spaces.
8 PCE Performance-Monitoring Counter enable If set, RDPMC can be executed at any privilege level, else RDPMC can only be used in ring 0.
9 OSFXSR Operating system support for FXSAVE and FXRSTOR instructions If set, enables Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) instructions and fast FPU save & restore.
10 OSXMMEXCPT Operating System Support for Unmasked SIMD Floating-Point Exceptions If set, enables unmasked SSE exceptions.
11 UMIP User-Mode Instruction Prevention If set, the SGDT, SIDT, SLDT, SMSW and STR instructions cannot be executed if CPL > 0.[1]
12 LA57 57-Bit Linear Addresses If set, enables 5-Level Paging.[3][4]: 2–18 
13 VMXE Virtual Machine Extensions Enable see Intel VT-x x86 virtualization.
14 SMXE Safer Mode Extensions Enable see Trusted Execution Technology (TXT)
17 PCIDE PCID Enable If set, enables process-context identifiers (PCIDs).
18 OSXSAVE XSAVE and Processor Extended States Enable
20 SMEP[5] Supervisor Mode Execution Protection Enable If set, execution of code in a higher ring generates a fault.
21 SMAP Supervisor Mode Access Prevention Enable If set, access of data in a higher ring generates a fault.[6]
22 PKE Protection Key Enable See Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer’s Manual.
23 CET Control-flow Enforcement Technology If set, enables control-flow enforcement technology.[4]: 2–19 
24 PKS Enable Protection Keys for Supervisor-Mode Pages If set, each supervisor-mode linear address is associated with a protection key when 4-level or 5-level paging is in use.[4]: 2–19 


Reserved, same case as CR1.

Additional Control registers in x86-64 series[edit]


Extended Feature Enable Register (EFER) is a model-specific register added in the AMD K6 processor, to allow enabling the SYSCALL/SYSRET instruction, and later for entering and exiting long mode. This register becomes architectural in AMD64 and has been adopted by Intel as IA32_EFER. Its MSR number is 0xC0000080.

Bit Purpose
0 SCE (System Call Extensions)
1 DPE (AMD K6 only: Data Prefetch Enable)
2 SEWBED (AMD K6 only: Speculative EWBE# Disable)
3 GEWBED (AMD K6 only: Global EWBE# Disable)
4 L2D (AMD K6 only: L2 Cache Disable)
5-7 Reserved, Read as Zero
8 LME (Long Mode Enable)
9 Reserved
10 LMA (Long Mode Active)
11 NXE (No-Execute Enable)
12 SVME (Secure Virtual Machine Enable)
13 LMSLE (Long Mode Segment Limit Enable)
15 TCE (Translation Cache Extension)
16–63 Reserved


CR8 is a new register accessible in 64-bit mode using the REX prefix. CR8 is used to prioritize external interrupts and is referred to as the task-priority register (TPR).[2]

The AMD64 architecture allows software to define up to 15 external interrupt-priority classes. Priority classes are numbered from 1 to 15, with priority-class 1 being the lowest and priority-class 15 the highest. CR8 uses the four low-order bits for specifying a task priority and the remaining 60 bits are reserved and must be written with zeros.

System software can use the TPR register to temporarily block low-priority interrupts from interrupting a high-priority task. This is accomplished by loading TPR with a value corresponding to the highest-priority interrupt that is to be blocked. For example, loading TPR with a value of 9 (1001b) blocks all interrupts with a priority class of 9 or less, while allowing all interrupts with a priority class of 10 or more to be recognized. Loading TPR with 0 enables all external interrupts. Loading TPR with 15 (1111b) disables all external interrupts.

The TPR is cleared to 0 on reset.

XCR0 and XSS[edit]

XCR0, or Extended Control Register 0, is a control register which is used to toggle the storing or loading of registers related to specific CPU features using the XSAVE/XRSTOR instructions. It is also used with some features to enable or disable the processor's ability to execute their corresponding instructions. It can be accessed using the privileged XSETBV and nonprivileged XGETBV instructions.[7]

Bit Purpose
0 X87 (x87 FPU/MMX State, note, must be '1')
1 SSE (XSAVE feature set enable for MXCSR and XMM regs)
2 AVX (AVX enable, and XSAVE feature set can be used to manage YMM regs)
3 BNDREG (MPX enable, and XSAVE feature set can be used for BND regs)
4 BNDCSR (MPX enable, and XSAVE feature set can be used for BNDCFGU and BNDSTATUS regs)
5 opmask (AVX-512 enable, and XSAVE feature set can be used for AVX opmask, AKA k-mask, regs)
6 ZMM_hi256 (AVX-512 enable, and XSAVE feature set can be used for upper-halves of the lower ZMM regs)
7 Hi16_ZMM (AVX-512 enable, and XSAVE feature set can be used for the upper ZMM regs)
8 Reserved
9 PKRU (XSAVE feature set can be used for PKRU register, which is part of the protection keys mechanism.)
10 Reserved (must be '0')
11 Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET) User State
12 Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET) Supervisor State
13–63 Reserved (must be '0')

There is also the IA32_XSS MSR, which is located at address 0DA0h. The IA32_XSS MSR controls bits of XCR0 which are considered to be "supervisor" state, and should be invisible to regular programs. It operates with the privileged XSAVES and XRSTORS instructions by adding supervisor state to the data they operate with. Put simply, if the X87 state was enabled in XCR0 and PT state was enabled in IA32_XSS, the XSAVE instruction would only store X87 state, while the privileged XSAVES would store both X87 and PT states. Because it is an MSR, it can be accessed using the RDMSR and WRMSR instructions.

Bit Purpose
0–7 Reserved; must be 0.
8 PT (Enables the saving and loading of nine Processor Trace MSRs.)
9–12 Reserved; must be 0.
13 HDC (Enables the saving and loading of the IA32_PM_CTL1 MSR.)
14–63 Reserved; must be 0.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Intel Corporation (2016). "4.10.1 Process-Context Identifiers (PCIDs)". Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer’s Manual (PDF). Vol. 3A: System Programming Guide, Part 1.
  2. ^ a b "AMD64 Architecture Programmer's Manual Volume 2: System Programming" (PDF). AMD. September 2012. p. 127 & 130. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  3. ^ "5-Level Paging and 5-Level EPT" (PDF). Intel. May 2017. p. 16. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  4. ^ a b c "Intel® 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual" (PDF). Intel® Corporation. 2021-06-28. Retrieved 2021-09-21.
  5. ^ Fischer, Stephen (2011-09-21). "Supervisor Mode Execution Protection" (PDF). NSA Trusted Computing Conference 2011. National Conference Services, Inc. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-08-03. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  6. ^ Anvin, H. Peter (2012-09-21). "x86: Supervisor Mode Access Prevention". Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  7. ^ "Chapter 13, Managing State Using The Xsave Feature Set" (PDF). Intel(R) 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software Developer's Manual, Volume 1: Basic Architecture. Intel Corporation (2019). Retrieved 23 March 2019.

External links[edit]