MASM -- Microsoft Macro Assembler

MASM Microsoft Macro Assembler

When using Macro Assembler by Microsoft you should use the latest and greatest version because of the extended instruction sets. However, to use those new instructions you need to turn on functionality.

When using this assembler, the first thing you need to do is activate the appropriate CPU target by using one of the following assembler directives depending on what processor will be executing that section of code. There are several of these directives such as .386, .486, .586, etc. If the target is for an embedded 486, then obviously the .586 directive would not be used, as instructions would be allowed that the 486 would not understand. When you write your code for a single processor you can merely set the appropriate directive(s) at the top of the file, but quite often a single file will contain sets of code unique to individual processors.

  • .686 This allows Model 6 type x86 code to be assembled . The next line actually allows MMX instructions to be assembled. You can pretty much have this directive as most processors being released these days support MMX. You do need to make sure that the code is only going to be executed by one of those processors, however.

    The directives not only target processors but certain instruction sets, and so care must be used when setting the appropriate directives.

  • .MMX An alternate method is to set the supported instruction sets such as this directive for enabling MMX code.

  • .K3D This is the directive for the 3DNow! instruction set. As you do not want an Intel processor trying to execute one of these instructions, only insert this above 3DNow! instruction code. These are also order dependent and so this must occur after the.MMX directive.

  • .XMM Use this if you are using any SSE-based instructions requiring XMM registers.

There are other legacy declarations such as .387, .286, .386, .386P, .486,.486P, etc. The suffix "P" indicates an enabling of privileged instructions.

For more information, see,vs.80).aspx.

Here is a sample file that you should be able to drop into a Win32 application in conjunction with the Visual C++ compiler:

 TITLE zipX86M.asm  My x86 (MASM) Assembly          PAGE    53,160 ;        This module is designed to Blah Blah Blah! ; ;        Created - 20 May 98 - J.Leiterman ;        Tabs = 8              .686          .MMX          .K3D          .model flat, C              .data          ALIGN 4 foo      dd       0                   ; Data value     zipX86M  SEGMENT USE32 PUBLIC 'CODE'     ; ; void unzip(byte *pRaw, byte *pZip, uint nWidth); ;           align        16 unzip     PROC C PUBLIC USES ebx esi edi pRaw:PTR, pZip:PTR,             nWidth:DWORD               mov      esi,pRaw           mov      edi,pZip           mov      ecx,nWidth          ;          ;          ;          ret unzip    endp     zipX86M  ends          end 

The function is declared PUBLIC, meaning it's global in definition and can therefore be accessed by functions in other files.

 unzip    PROC C PUBLIC USES ebx esi edi pRaw:PTR, pZip:PTR,            nWidth:DWORD 

For convenience, you can specify the registers to push onto the stack and in what order. The RET instruction is actually a macro when used within this PROC, and therefore the registers are popped automatically in a reverse order wherever a RET instruction is encountered . The coup de grce? No more pesky code like:

 mov   esi,[ebp+arg1]      ; pRaw 

Instead, you just use:

 mov   esi,pRaw 

The assembler expands the PROC macro and takes care of everything for you, making your code a little more readable.

You will notice that I used the default data segment (.data) as this is a flat memory model, but I declared a 32-bit Protected Mode code segment. The reasoning is that I tend to group my assembly files using an object-oriented approach and as such all my decompression functions/ procedures would reside within this segment. Other assembly code related to other functionality would be contained in a different file with a different segment name. They can occur with the same segment name but they wouldn't appear very organized, especially in the application address/data map.

 zipX86M   SEGMENT USE32 PUBLIC 'CODE' : : zipX86M   ends 

Since segments are being mentioned I am going to give you a snapshot of segments back in the days of DOS and DOS extenders. Code and data was differentiated by 16-bit code/data versus 32-bit code/data addressing. The following is a snippet of code from those days.

 ;   Segment Ordering Sequence     INN_CODE32  segment para USE32 'CODE'     INN_CODE32  ends     _TEXT       segment     _TEXT       ends     INN_DATA32  segment para USE32 'DATA'     INN_DATA32  ends         DGROUP      GROUP INN_DATA32     CGROUP      GROUP _TEXT     CGROUP      GROUP INN_CODE32 

We also must not forget the (end) signal to the assembler that it has reached the end of the file:


I personally think this is just a carryover from the good old days of much simpler assemblers. With the advent of macros such as the following, you can turn on or off various sections of code and not just the bottom portion of your file:

 if  0 else endif 

Visual C++ has never really had a peaceful coexistence with its own MASM Assembler. In the early days of around version 3.x you had to assemble your files using batch files or external make files and only link the *.obj files into your project files. Microsoft has fortunately made this a little simpler, but in my opinion it still seems shortsighted. My assumption is that they would prefer you to use either inline assembly or none at all. (But I've been known to be wrong before!)

The first thing you need to do is add the MASM hooks into your version 5.0 or above Visual C++ environment. Select the ToolsOptions menu item, and then select the Directories tab. Set the following to the path of your MASM installation:

 Executable Files:   c:\masm\bin                     c:\masm\binr Include Files:      c:\masm\include 

With your project loaded in your FileView tab, just right-click on the project files folder, and select the pop-up menu item Add Files to Project. The Insert Files into Project dialog box will be displayed. That dialog seems to support almost every file type known except for assembly! What you need to do is select the All Files (*.*) option, select the assembly file you desire , and then press the OK button.

Now that the file occurs in your list of files in your project, right- click on that file and select the Settings item from the pop-up menu. In the Commands edit box insert the following:

 ml @MyGame.amk ..\util\unzipx86.asm 

This will execute the assembler using the option switches defined in the MyGame.amk file. In the Outputs edit box insert the following:


Then press the OK button.

To make my life simpler I use a file, such as the following, that I refer to as my assembly make file. I clone it from project to project, as you'll never know when you'll need to tweak it.

 File: MYGAME.AMK       /L../util       /c       /coff       /Cp       /Fl       /Fm       /FR       /Sg       /Zd       /Zi 

For those of you who would prefer to use in-line assembly or just plain don't have an assembler, you can do the same thing with the following from within your C/C++ code.

image from book
Figure 20-1: VC6 assembler configuration display
 void unzip(byte *pRaw, byte *pZip, uint nWidth) {     __asm {         mov      esi,pRaw         mov      edi,pZip         mov      ecx,nWidth           }; } 

You should be very careful if you mix C/C++ and in-line assembly code unless you push the registers to save them. Setting a breakpoint at the beginning of your function and then examining the source code during run time can help point out any register use conflicts.

MASM is my favorite macro assembler as it has an excellent macro expansion ability. Not only can new instructions be incorporated by use of macros but the predefined macro expansion can be taken to advantage as they are C like. In some cases, I find it better than C. In fact, in-line assembly sucks! (Another technical term !) (Note: I only said in some cases!) The following are some of the highlights. For details, read the technical manuals. For example, the MASM toolset has the following manuals:

  • Environment and Tools

  • Programmers Guide

  • Reference

In the following charts , notice the C method on the left and the MASM method on the right.

Defines are pretty similar; however, enums do not exist and so must be emulated with a standard equate.



 #define FOO 3 typedef enum { CPUVEN_UNKNOWN = 0, } CPUVEN; 

MASM can contain a structure definition just like C:



 typedef struct CpuInfoType {  uint   nCpuId;  // CPU Id uint   nFpuId;  // FPU Id uint   nBits;  // Feature uint   nMfg;  // Mfg uint16 SerialNum[6]; uint   nSpeed;  // Speed } CpuInfo; 
 CpuInfo struct 4 nCpuId   dd 0  ; CPU Id nFpuId   dd 0  ; FPU Id nBits   dd 0  ; Feature nMfg   dd 0  ; Mfg. SerialNum dw 0,0,0,0,0,0 nSpeed   dd 0  ; Speed CpuInfo ends 

In C there is no looping macro expansion; there is only one-shot (a definition gets expanded). However, some special macro functionality is available when using a MACRO assembler.


MASM supports the repeat declaration when used in conjunction with a local temporary argument.

 i = 0    REPEAT 5 mov [i + ebx],eax i = i + 4    ENDM 

The i is temporary and expands the code. For this example, the REPEAT macro is replicated five times and adds 4 (the size of the write) onto every iteration. So the code is unrolled:

 mov [0 + ebx],eax mov [4 + ebx],eax mov [8 + ebx],eax mov [12 + ebx],eax mov [16 + ebx],eax 


MASM also supports a while loop.

 i = 0    WHILE i LE 20   ; < mov [i + ebx],eax i = i + 4    ENDM 

This is essentially similar code. The example was a simple loop, but while loops are typically used in loops of more complexity.


MASM also supports a for loop.

 FOR  arg, <1,3,5,7,9,11,13,17,19,23> out dx,arg    ENDM 

As mentioned, these are examples of MASM related code. Those assemble-time loops are something not available to a C compiler. Other items are available including access to data/code segment specification and all assembly instructions, while inline assembly has only a limited set of instructions available. The macro assembler allows code/data intermixed, while a C compiler does not. The IF-ELSE-ENDIF conditionals are also available, along with other features available in a standard C compiler.

32.64-Bit 80X86 Assembly Language Architecture
32/64-Bit 80x86 Assembly Language Architecture
ISBN: 1598220020
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 191

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