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up: Chapter 15 -- Virtual 8086 Mode
prev: 15.1 Executing 8086 Code
next: 15.3 Entering and Leaving V86 Mode


15.2 Structure of a V86 Task

A V86 task consists partly of the 8086 program to be executed and partly of 80386 "native mode" code that serves as the virtual-machine monitor. The task must be represented by an 80386 TSS (not an 80286 TSS). The processor enters V86 mode to execute the 8086 program and returns to protected mode to execute the monitor or other 80386 tasks.

To run successfully in V86 mode, an existing 8086 program needs the following:

  • A V86 monitor.
  • Operating-system services.
The V86 monitor is 80386 protected-mode code that executes at privilege-level zero. The monitor consists primarily of initialization and exception-handling procedures. As for any other 80386 program, executable-segment descriptors for the monitor must exist in the GDT or in the task's LDT. The linear addresses above 10FFEFH are available for the V86 monitor, the operating system, and other systems software. The monitor may also need data-segment descriptors so that it can examine the interrupt vector table or other parts of the 8086 program in the first megabyte of the address space.

In general, there are two options for implementing the 8086 operating system:

  1. The 8086 operating system may run as part of the 8086 code. This approach is desirable for any of the following reasons:
    • The 8086 applications code modifies the operating system.
    • There is not sufficient development time to reimplement the 8086 operating system as 80386 code.
  2. The 8086 operating system may be implemented or emulated in the V86 monitor. This approach is desirable for any of the following reasons:
    • Operating system functions can be more easily coordinated among several V86 tasks.
    • The functions of the 8086 operating system can be easily emulated by calls to the 80386 operating system.
Note that, regardless of the approach chosen for implementing the 8086 operating system, different V86 tasks may use different 8086 operating systems.

15.2.1 Using Paging for V86 Tasks

Paging is not necessary for a single V86 task, but paging is useful or necessary for any of the following reasons:
  • To create multiple V86 tasks. Each task must map the lower megabyte of linear addresses to different physical locations.
  • To emulate the megabyte wrap. On members of the 8086 family, it is possible to specify addresses larger than one megabyte. For example, with a selector value of 0FFFFH and an offset of 0FFFFH, the effective address would be 10FFEFH (one megabyte + 65519). The 8086, which can form addresses only up to 20 bits long, truncates the high-order bit, thereby "wrapping" this address to 0FFEFH. The 80386, however, which can form addresses up to 32 bits long does not truncate such an address. If any 8086 programs depend on this addressing anomaly, the same effect can be achieved in a V86 task by mapping linear addresses between 100000H and 110000H and linear addresses between 0 and 10000H to the same physical addresses.
  • To create a virtual address space larger than the physical address space.
  • To share 8086 OS code or ROM code that is common to several 8086 programs that are executing simultaneously.
  • To redirect or trap references to memory-mapped I/O devices.

15.2.2 Protection within a V86 Task

Because it does not refer to descriptors while executing 8086 programs, the processor also does not utilize the protection mechanisms offered by descriptors. To protect the systems software that runs in a V86 task from the 8086 program, software designers may follow either of these approaches:
  • Reserve the first megabyte (plus 64 kilobytes) of each task's linear address space for the 8086 program. An 8086 task cannot generate addresses outside this range.
  • Use the U/S bit of page-table entries to protect the virtual-machine monitor and other systems software in each virtual 8086 task's space. When the processor is in V86 mode, CPL is 3. Therefore, an 8086 program has only user privileges. If the pages of the virtual-machine monitor have supervisor privilege, they cannot be accessed by the 8086 program.


up: Chapter 15 -- Virtual 8086 Mode
prev: 15.1 Executing 8086 Code
next: 15.3 Entering and Leaving V86 Mode