Assembly - Memory Management

The sys_brk() system call is provided by the kernel, to allocate memory without the need of moving it later. This call allocates memory right behind the application image in the memory. This system function allows you to set the highest available address in the data section.

This system call takes one parameter, which is the highest memory address needed to be set. This value is stored in the EBX register.

In case of any error, sys_brk() returns -1 or returns the negative error code itself. The following example demonstrates dynamic memory allocation.


The following program allocates 16kb of memory using the sys_brk() system call −

section	.text
   global _start         ;must be declared for using gcc
_start:	                 ;tell linker entry point

   mov	eax, 45		 ;sys_brk
   xor	ebx, ebx
   int	80h

   add	eax, 16384	 ;number of bytes to be reserved
   mov	ebx, eax
   mov	eax, 45		 ;sys_brk
   int	80h
   cmp	eax, 0
   jl	exit	;exit, if error 
   mov	edi, eax	 ;EDI = highest available address
   sub	edi, 4		 ;pointing to the last DWORD  
   mov	ecx, 4096	 ;number of DWORDs allocated
   xor	eax, eax	 ;clear eax
   std			 ;backward
   rep	stosd            ;repete for entire allocated area
   cld			 ;put DF flag to normal state
   mov	eax, 4
   mov	ebx, 1
   mov	ecx, msg
   mov	edx, len
   int	80h		 ;print a message

   mov	eax, 1
   xor	ebx, ebx
   int	80h
section	.data
msg    	db	"Allocated 16 kb of memory!", 10
len     equ	$ - msg

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Allocated 16 kb of memory!