X86 Assembly/Arithmetic

All arithmetic instructions are executed in (one of) the ALUs. The ALU can only perform integer arithmetics, for floating point instructions see chapter “Floating Point”.

Basic operationsEdit

Arithmetic instructions take two operands: a destination and a source.

  • The destination must be a register or a memory location.
  • The source may be either a memory location, a register, or a constant value.

Note that at least one of the two must be a register, because operations may not use a memory location as both a source and a destination.

Addition and SubtractionEdit

add addend, destination GAS Syntax
add destination, addend Intel Syntax

This adds addend to destination and stores the result in destination.

sub subtrahend, destination GAS Syntax
sub destination, subtrahend Intel Syntax

Like add, only it subtracts subtrahend from destination instead. In C: destination -= subtrahend;


Unsigned MultiplicationEdit

mul multiplicand

This multiplies multiplicand by the value of corresponding byte-length in the accumulator.

width of multiplicand 1 byte 2 bytes 4 bytes 8 bytes
corresponding multiplier AL AX EAX RAX
product higher part stored in AH DX EDX RDX
product lower part stored in AL AX EAX RAX
result registers used by mul

In the second case, the target is not EAX for backward compatibility with code written for older processors.

Affected flags are:

  • OF ≔ higher part of product ≠ 0
  • CF ≔ higher part of product ≠ 0

All other flags are undefined.

Signed MultiplicationEdit

imul multiplicand

This instruction is almost like mul, but it treats the sign bit (the MSB), differently.

The imul instruction also accepts two other formats:

imul src, dest GAS Syntax
imul dest, src Intel Syntax

imul multiplicand, destination GAS Syntax
imul destination, multiplicand Intel Syntax

This multiplies destination by multiplicand and puts the result, the product, in destination

imul multiplicand, multiplier, product GAS Syntax
imul product, multiplier, multiplicand Intel Syntax

This multiplies multiplier by multiplicand and places it into product.


div divisor

This divides the value in the dividend register(s) by divisor, see table below.

width of divisor 1 byte 2 bytes 4 bytes 8 bytes
remainder stored in AH DX EDX RDX
quotient stored in AL AX EAX RAX
result registers for div

The circle () means concatenation. With divisor size 4, this means that EDX are the bits 32-63 and EAX are bits 0-31 of the input number (with lower bit numbers being less significant, in this example).

As you typically have 32-bit input values for division, you often need to use CDQ to sign-extend EAX into EDX just before the division.

If quotient does not fit into quotient register, arithmetic overflow interrupt occurs. All flags are in undefined state after the operation.

idiv arg

As div, only signed.

Sign InversionEdit

neg arg

Arithmetically negates the argument (i.e. two's complement negation).

Carry Arithmetic InstructionsEdit

adc src, dest GAS Syntax
adc dest, src Intel Syntax

Add with carry. Adds src + CF to dest, storing result in dest. Usually follows a normal add instruction to deal with values twice as large as the size of the register. In the following example, source contains a 64-bit number which will be added to destination.

mov eax, [source] ; read low 32 bits
mov edx, [source+4] ; read high 32 bits
add [destination], eax ; add low 32 bits
adc [destination+4], edx ; add high 32 bits, plus carry

sbb src, dest GAS Syntax
sbb dest, src Intel Syntax

Subtract with borrow. Subtracts src + CF from dest, storing result in dest. Usually follows a normal sub instruction to deal with values twice as large as the size of the register.

Increment and DecrementEdit


inc augend

Increments the register value in the argument by 1. Performs much faster than add arg, 1.


dec minuend


Decrements the value in minuend by 1, but this is much faster than the equivalent sub minuend, 1.


Minuend may be either a register or memory operand.


  • Some programming language represent Boolean values with either all bits zero, or all bits set to one. When you are programming Boolean functions you need to take account of this. The dec instruction can help you with this. Very often you set the final (Boolean) result based on flags. By choosing an instruction that is opposite of the intended and then decrementing the resulting value you will obtain a value satisfying the programming language’s requirements. Here is a trivial example testing for zero.
    xor rax, rax   ; rax ≔ false (ensure result is not wrong due to any residue)
    test rdi, rdi  ; rdi ≟ 0 (ZF ≔ rax = 0)
    setnz al       ;  al ≔ ¬ZF
    dec rax        ; rax ≔ rax − 1
    If you intend to set false the “erroneously” set 1 will be “fixed” by dec. If you intend to set true, which is represented by −1, you will decrement the value zero.

Pointer arithmeticEdit

The lea instruction can be used for arithmetic, especially on pointers. See chapter “data transfer”, § “load effective address”.