x86 debug register
On the x86 architecture, a debug register is a register used by a processor for program debugging. There are six debug registers, named DR0...DR7, with DR4 and DR5 as obsolete synonyms for DR6 and DR7. The debug registers allow programmers to selectively enable various debug conditions associated with a set of four debug addresses. Two of these registers are used to control debug features. These registers are accessed by variants of the MOV instruction. A debug register may be either the source operand or destination operand. The debug registers are privileged resources; the MOV instructions that access them can only be executed at privilege level zero. An attempt to read or write the debug registers when executing at any other privilege level causes a general protection fault.
DR0 to DR3
The debug address registers are effective whether or not paging is enabled. The addresses in these registers are linear addresses. If paging is enabled, the linear addresses are translated into physical addresses by the processor's paging mechanism. If paging is not enabled, these linear addresses are the same as physical addresses.
Note that when paging is enabled, different tasks may have different linear-to-physical address mappings. When this is the case, an address in a debug address register may be relevant to one task but not to another. For this reason the x86 has both global and local enable bits in DR7. These bits indicate whether a given debug address has a global (all tasks) or local (current task only) relevance.
DR7 - Debug control
The low-order eight bits of DR7 (0,2,4,6 and 1,3,5,7) selectively enable the four address breakpoint conditions. There are two levels of enabling: the local (0,2,4,6) and global (1,3,5,7) levels. The local enable bits are automatically reset by the processor at every task switch to avoid unwanted breakpoint conditions in the new task. The global enable bits are not reset by a task switch; therefore, they can be used for conditions that are global to all tasks.
Bits 16-17 (corresponding to DR0), 20-21 (DR1), 24-25 (DR2), 28-29 (DR3), define when breakpoints trigger. Each breakpoint has a two-bit entry that specifies whether they break on execution (00b), data write (01b), data read or write (11b). 10b is defined to mean break on IO read or write but no hardware supports it. Bits 18-19 (DR0), 22-23 (DR1), 26-27 (DR2), 30-31 (DR3), define how large an area of memory is watched by breakpoints. Again each breakpoint has a two-bit entry that specifies whether they watch one (00b), two (01b), eight (10b) or four (11b) bytes.
DR6 - Debug status
The debug status register permits the debugger to determine which debug conditions have occurred. When the processor detects an enabled debug exception, it sets the low-order bits of this register (0,1,2,3) before entering the debug exception handler.
Note that the bits of DR6 are never cleared by the processor. To avoid any confusion in identifying the next debug exception, the debug handler should move zeros to DR6 immediately before returning.
- GNU GDB 6.5 gdb/i386-nat.c
- Intel 80386 Programmer's Reference
- http://www.codeproject.com/KB/debug/hardwarebreakpoint.aspx Using the debug registers in Windows.