How does xchg work in Intel Assembly Language


xchg works like Intel's documentation says.

I think the comment on the 2nd line is wrong. It should be eax=2, arrayD = 1,1,3. So you're correct, and you should email your instructor to say you think you've found a mistake, unless you missed something in your notes.

xchg only stores one element, and it can't magically look back in time to know where the value in eax came from and swap two memory locations with one xchg instruction.

The only way to swap 1,2 to 2,1 in one instruction would be a 64-bit rotate, like rol qword ptr [arrayD], 32 (x86-64 only).

BTW, don't use xchg with a memory operand if you care about performance. It has an implicit lock prefix, so it's a full memory barrier and takes about 20 CPU cycles on Haswell/Skylake ( Of course, multiple instructions can be in flight at once, but xchg mem,reg is 8 uops, vs. 2 total for separate load + store. xchg doesn't stall the pipeline, but the memory barrier hurts a lot, as well as it just being a lot of work for the CPU to do to make it atomic.


Alloysius Goh
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Alloysius Goh

Updated on June 25, 2022


  • Alloysius Goh
    Alloysius Goh 11 months

    can someone explain how does the xchg work in this code? Given that arrayD is an DWORD array of 1,2,3.

    mov eax, arrayD ; eax=1
    xchg eax, [arrayD+4]; eax=2 arrayD=2,1,3

    Why isn't the array 1,1,3 after the xchg?