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Chapter 8 String Operations. 8.1 Using String Instructions. String in the 80x86 Environment. Contiguous collection of bytes, words, doublewords or quadwords in memory Commonly defined in a program’s data segment using such directives as response BYTE 20 DUP (?)

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Chapter 8

String Operations

string in the 80x86 environment
String in the 80x86 Environment
  • Contiguous collection of bytes, words, doublewords or quadwords in memory
  • Commonly defined in a program’s data segment using such directives as

response BYTE 20 DUP (?)

label1 BYTE \'The results are \', 0

arrayD DWORD 60 DUP (0)

string instructions
String Instructions
  • movs (move string)
    • Copy a string from one location to another
  • cmps (compare string)
    • Compare the contents of two strings
  • scas (scan string)
    • Search a string for one particular value
  • stos (store string)
    • Store a new value in some string position
  • lods (load string)
    • Copies a value out of some string position
string instruction operation
String Instruction Operation
  • Each instruction applies to a source string, a destination string, or both
  • The elements (bytes, words, doublewords or quadwords) are processed one at a time
  • Register indirect addressing is used to locate the individual string elements
    • ESI (RSI in 64-bit mode) used for source string elements
    • EDI (RDI) for destination string elements
mnemonic variants
Mnemonic Variants
  • Since ESI and EDI are automatically used, operands are unnecessary
  • Assembler can’t tell size of string element without further information – suffix on mnemonic can be used
    • Example, movsb to move string of bytes
more on string instruction operation
More on String Instruction Operation
  • String instruction operates on only one string element at a time, but gets ready to operate on the next element
    • Changes the source index register ESI and/or the destination index register EDI to contain the address of the next element of the string(s)
  • Can move forward or backward depending on direction flag DF
    • cld instruction sets forward direction
    • std instruction sets backward direction
design to copy null terminated string
Design to Copy Null-Terminated String

while next source byte is not null loop

copy source byte to destination;

increment source index;

increment destination index;

end while;

put null byte at end of destination string;

implementation of string copy
Implementation of String Copy

mov edi,[ebp+8] ;destination

mov esi,[ebp+12] ;initial source address

cld ;clear direction flag


cmp BYTE PTR [esi],0 ;null source byte?

je endWhileNoNull ;stop copying if null

movsb ;copy one byte

jmp whileNoNull ;go check next byte


mov BYTE PTR [edi],0 ;terminate dest string

repeat prefixes
Repeat Prefixes
  • Change the string instructions into versions which repeat automatically either for a fixed number of iterations or until some condition is satisfied
  • The three repeat prefixes actually correspond to two different single-byte codes
    • Not themselves instructions, but supplement machine codes for the primitive string instructions, making new instructions
rep prefix
rep prefix
  • Normally used with movs and with stos
  • Causes this design to be executed:

while count in ECX > 0 loop

perform primitive instruction;

decrement ECX by 1;

end while;

additional repeat prefixes
Additional Repeat Prefixes
  • repe (equivalent mnemonic repz)
    • “repeat while equal” (“repeat while zero”)
  • repne (same as repnz)
    • “repeat while not equal” (“repeat while not zero”)
  • Each appropriate for use with cmps and scas which affect the zero flag ZF
repe and repne operation
repe and repne Operation
  • Each works the same as rep, iterating a primitive instruction while ECX is not zero
  • Each also examines ZF after the string instruction is executed
    • repe and repz continue iterating while ZF=1, as it would be following a comparison where two operands were equal
    • repne and repnz continue iterating while ZF=0
  • Subtracts two string elements and sets flags based on the difference
  • If used in a loop, it is appropriate to follow cmps by a conditional jump instruction
  • repe and repne prefixes often used with cmps instructions
  • Used to scan a string for the presence or absence of a particular string element
    • String which is examined is a destination string – the address of the element being examined is in the destination index register EDI
    • Accumulator contains the element being scanned for
  • Copies a byte, a word, a doubleword or a quadword from the accumulator to an element of a destination string
  • Affects no flag, so only the rep prefix is appropriate for use with it
    • When repeated, it copies the same value into consecutive positions of a string
  • Copies a source string element to the accumulator
  • No repeat prefix is useful with lods
  • lods and stos are often used together in a loop
    • lods at the beginning of a loop to fetch an element
    • stos at the end after the element is manipulated
  • “translate”
  • Uses a lookup table to modify the byte in AL
  • The table is at the address in EBX
  • The original value in AL is used as an index into the table
  • The byte at that index is stored as the new value in AL
translation code example
Translation Code Example

mov ecx, strLength ; string length

lea ebx, table ; addr of translation table

lea esi, string ; address of string

lea edi, string ; destination also string


lodsb ; copy next character to AL

xlat ; translate character

stosb ; copy character back into string

loop forIndex ; repeat for all characters

building a translation table
Building a Translation Table
  • Normally 256 bytes long
    • One entry for each possible byte value
example table for ascii codes
Example Table for ASCII Codes
  • Leaves lower case letters and digits unchanged
  • Translates upper case letters to lower case
  • Translates all other characters to spaces

table BYTE 48 DUP (\' \'), "0123456789", 7 DUP (\' \')

BYTE "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz", 6 DUP (\' \')

BYTE "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz", 133 DUP (\' \')

0 at position 48 (3016)so 0 translated to 0

a at position 65 (4116)so A translated to a

dtoa macro expansion
dtoa macro expansion

push ebx ; save EBX

lea ebx, dest ; destination address

push ebx ; destination parameter

mov ebx, [esp+4] ; in case source was EBX

mov ebx, source ; source value

push ebx ; source parameter

call dtoaproc ; dtoaproc(source,dest)

add esp, 8 ; remove parameters

pop ebx ; restore EBX

  • The real work is done by dtoaproc
dtoaproc algorithm
dtoaproc algorithm

determine whether source positive or negative;

put 10 spaces in destination area;

make EDI point at 11th byte;


digit := source mod 10;

convert digit to ASCII and store at [EDI];

decrement EDI;

divide source by 10;

until source = 0;

if original source negative, append leading minus sign;

dtoaproc special case
dtoaproc special case
  • Most negative numbers are handled by processing the corresponding positive number, “remembering” the minus sign
  • 8000000016 has no corresponding positive number, so the characters - 2 1 4 7 4 8 3 6 4 8are stored in the destination area one at a time