Exploring Linux System Calls in Assembly Programming


System calls serve as the interface between the user space and the kernel space in operating systems. In assembly programming, Linux system calls provide a way to access kernel services from user programs. This article will focus on the usage of Linux system calls in assembly programming, explaining the steps involved and providing examples to demonstrate their practical application.

Understanding Linux System Calls:

Linux system calls can be utilized in assembly programs to interact with the underlying kernel. The following steps outline the process of using Linux system calls:

Set the System Call Number:

Place the system call number in the EAX register. Each system call has a unique number associated with it, defining the specific kernel service to be invoked.

Set the System Call Arguments:

Assign the system call arguments to the registers EBX, ECX, EDX, ESI, EDI, and EBP, depending on the number and nature of the arguments. These registers hold consecutive arguments, starting with EBX.

Invoke the Interrupt:

Call the relevant interrupt (80h) to initiate the system call and transfer control to the kernel.

Retrieve the Result:

The result of the system call is typically returned in the EAX register. Store or process the returned value as required.

Example Usage of Linux System Calls:

Let’s explore two commonly used system calls: sys_exit and sys_write.


The following code snippet demonstrates the use of the sys_exit system call, which terminates the program:

mov eax, 1 ; system call number (sys_exit)

int 0x80 ; call kernel


The sys_write system call is utilized to write data to a specified file descriptor (e.g., stdout). The code snippet below showcases the usage of sys_write to display a message on the screen:

mov edx, 4 ; message length

mov ecx, msg ; message to write

mov ebx, 1 ; file descriptor (stdout)

mov eax, 4 ; system call number (sys_write)

int 0x80 ; call kernel

Accessing System Call Numbers:

The system call numbers and their corresponding names can be found in the /usr/include/asm/unistd.h file. These numbers are used to populate the EAX register before invoking the interrupt.


Linux system calls offer a powerful mechanism for assembly programmers to access kernel services and perform essential operations. By understanding the steps involved and utilizing the appropriate registers, programmers can effectively integrate system calls into their assembly programs. Harnessing the capabilities of system calls expands the range of functionalities and interactions available in assembly programming on Linux systems.

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