Five EmbedDev logo Five EmbedDev

An Embedded RISC-V Blog
RISC-V Instruction Set Manual, Volume I: RISC-V User-Level ISA , 20191214- December 2019

2 RV32I Base Integer Instruction Set, Version 2.1

This chapter describes version 2.0 of the RV32I base integer instruction set.

RV32I was designed to be sufficient to form a compiler target and to support modern operating system environments. The ISA was also designed to reduce the hardware required in a minimal implementation. RV32I contains 40 unique instructions, though a simple implementation might cover the ECALL/EBREAK instructions with a single SYSTEM hardware instruction that always traps and might be able to implement the FENCE instruction as a NOP, reducing base instruction count to 38 total. RV32I can emulate almost any other ISA extension (except the A extension, which requires additional hardware support for atomicity).

In practice, a hardware implementation including the machine-mode privileged architecture will also require the 6 CSR instructions.

Subsets of the base integer ISA might be useful for pedagogical purposes, but the base has been defined such that there should be little incentive to subset a real hardware implementation beyond omitting support for misaligned memory accesses and treating all SYSTEM instructions as a single trap.

Most of the commentary for RV32I also applies to the RV64I base.

2.1 Programmers’ Model for Base Integer ISA

Figure 1.1 shows the unprivileged state for the base integer ISA. For RV32I, the 32 x registers are each 32 bits wide, i.e., XLEN=32. Register x0 is hardwired with all bits equal to 0. General purpose registers x1x31 hold values that various instructions interpret as a collection of Boolean values, or as two’s complement signed binary integers or unsigned binary integers.

There is one additional unprivileged register: the program counter pc holds the address of the current instruction.

RISC-V base unprivileged integer register state.

There is no dedicated stack pointer or subroutine return address link register in the Base Integer ISA; the instruction encoding allows any x register to be used for these purposes. However, the standard software calling convention uses register x1 to hold the return address for a call, with register x5 available as an alternate link register. The standard calling convention uses register x2 as the stack pointer.

Hardware might choose to accelerate function calls and returns that use x1 or x5. See the descriptions of the JAL and JALR instructions.

The optional compressed 16-bit instruction format is designed around the assumption that x1 is the return address register and x2 is the stack pointer. Software using other conventions will operate correctly but may have greater code size.

The number of available architectural registers can have large impacts on code size, performance, and energy consumption. Although 16 registers would arguably be sufficient for an integer ISA running compiled code, it is impossible to encode a complete ISA with 16 registers in 16-bit instructions using a 3-address format. Although a 2-address format would be possible, it would increase instruction count and lower efficiency. We wanted to avoid intermediate instruction sizes (such as Xtensa’s 24-bit instructions) to simplify base hardware implementations, and once a 32-bit instruction size was adopted, it was straightforward to support 32 integer registers. A larger number of integer registers also helps performance on high-performance code, where there can be extensive use of loop unrolling, software pipelining, and cache tiling.

For these reasons, we chose a conventional size of 32 integer registers for the base ISA. Dynamic register usage tends to be dominated by a few frequently accessed registers, and regfile implementations can be optimized to reduce access energy for the frequently accessed registers [jtseng:sbbci]). The optional compressed 16-bit instruction format mostly only accesses 8 registers and hence can provide a dense instruction encoding, while additional instruction-set extensions could support a much larger register space (either flat or hierarchical) if desired.

For resource-constrained embedded applications, we have defined the RV32E subset, which only has 16 registers (Chapter [rv32e]).

2.2 Base Instruction Formats

In the base RV32I ISA, there are four core instruction formats (R/I/S/U), as shown in Figure 1.2. All are a fixed 32 bits in length and must be aligned on a four-byte boundary in memory. An instruction-address-misaligned exception is generated on a taken branch or unconditional jump if the target address is not four-byte aligned. This exception is reported on the branch or jump instruction, not on the target instruction. No instruction-address-misaligned exception is generated for a conditional branch that is not taken.

The alignment constraint for base ISA instructions is relaxed to a two-byte boundary when instruction extensions with 16-bit lengths or other odd multiples of 16-bit lengths are added (i.e., IALIGN=16).

Instruction-address-misaligned exceptions are reported on the branch or jump that would cause instruction misalignment to help debugging, and to simplify hardware design for systems with IALIGN=32, where these are the only places where misalignment can occur.

The behavior upon decoding a reserved instruction is .

Some platforms may require that opcodes reserved for standard use raise an illegal-instruction exception. Other platforms may permit reserved opcode space be used for non-conforming extensions.

RISC-V base instruction formats. Each immediate subfield is labeled with the bit position (imm[x ]) in the immediate value being produced, rather than the bit position within the instruction’s immediate field as is usually done.

The RISC-V ISA keeps the source (rs1 and rs2) and destination (rd) registers at the same position in all formats to simplify decoding. Except for the 5-bit immediates used in CSR instructions (Chapter [csrinsts]), immediates are always sign-extended, and are generally packed towards the leftmost available bits in the instruction and have been allocated to reduce hardware complexity. In particular, the sign bit for all immediates is always in bit 31 of the instruction to speed sign-extension circuitry.

Decoding register specifiers is usually on the critical paths in implementations, and so the instruction format was chosen to keep all register specifiers at the same position in all formats at the expense of having to move immediate bits across formats (a property shared with RISC-IV aka. SPUR [spur-jsscc1989])).

In practice, most immediates are either small or require all XLEN bits. We chose an asymmetric immediate split (12 bits in regular instructions plus a special load-upper-immediate instruction with 20 bits) to increase the opcode space available for regular instructions.

Immediates are sign-extended because we did not observe a benefit to using zero-extension for some immediates as in the MIPS ISA and wanted to keep the ISA as simple as possible.

2.3 Immediate Encoding Variants

There are a further two variants of the instruction formats (B/J) based on the handling of immediates, as shown in Figure 1.3.

RISC-V base instruction formats showing immediate variants.

The only difference between the S and B formats is that the 12-bit immediate field is used to encode branch offsets in multiples of 2 in the B format. Instead of shifting all bits in the instruction-encoded immediate left by one in hardware as is conventionally done, the middle bits (imm[10:1]) and sign bit stay in fixed positions, while the lowest bit in S format (inst[7]) encodes a high-order bit in B format.

Similarly, the only difference between the U and J formats is that the 20-bit immediate is shifted left by 12 bits to form U immediates and by 1 bit to form J immediates. The location of instruction bits in the U and J format immediates is chosen to maximize overlap with the other formats and with each other.

Figure 1.4 shows the immediates produced by each of the base instruction formats, and is labeled to show which instruction bit (inst[y ]) produces each bit of the immediate value.

Types of immediate produced by RISC-V instructions. The fields are labeled with the instruction bits used to construct their value. Sign extension always uses inst[31].

Sign-extension is one of the most critical operations on immediates (particularly for XLEN>32), and in RISC-V the sign bit for all immediates is always held in bit 31 of the instruction to allow sign-extension to proceed in parallel with instruction decoding.

Although more complex implementations might have separate adders for branch and jump calculations and so would not benefit from keeping the location of immediate bits constant across types of instruction, we wanted to reduce the hardware cost of the simplest implementations. By rotating bits in the instruction encoding of B and J immediates instead of using dynamic hardware muxes to multiply the immediate by 2, we reduce instruction signal fanout and immediate mux costs by around a factor of 2. The scrambled immediate encoding will add negligible time to static or ahead-of-time compilation. For dynamic generation of instructions, there is some small additional overhead, but the most common short forward branches have straightforward immediate encodings.

2.4 Integer Computational Instructions

Most integer computational instructions operate on XLEN bits of values held in the integer register file. Integer computational instructions are either encoded as register-immediate operations using the I-type format or as register-register operations using the R-type format. The destination is register rd for both register-immediate and register-register instructions. No integer computational instructions cause arithmetic exceptions.

We did not include special instruction-set support for overflow checks on integer arithmetic operations in the base instruction set, as many overflow checks can be cheaply implemented using RISC-V branches. Overflow checking for unsigned addition requires only a single additional branch instruction after the addition: add t0, t1, t2; bltu t0, t1, overflow.

For signed addition, if one operand’s sign is known, overflow checking requires only a single branch after the addition: addi t0, t1, +imm; blt t0, t1, overflow. This covers the common case of addition with an immediate operand.

For general signed addition, three additional instructions after the addition are required, leveraging the observation that the sum should be less than one of the operands if and only if the other operand is negative.

         add t0, t1, t2
         slti t3, t2, 0
         slt t4, t0, t1
         bne t3, t4, overflow

In RV64I, checks of 32-bit signed additions can be optimized further by comparing the results of ADD and ADDW on the operands.

Integer Register-Immediate Instructions


ADDI adds the sign-extended 12-bit immediate to register rs1. Arithmetic overflow is ignored and the result is simply the low XLEN bits of the result. ADDI rd, rs1, 0 is used to implement the MV rd, rs1 assembler pseudoinstruction.

SLTI (set less than immediate) places the value 1 in register rd if register rs1 is less than the sign-extended immediate when both are treated as signed numbers, else 0 is written to rd. SLTIU is similar but compares the values as unsigned numbers (i.e., the immediate is first sign-extended to XLEN bits then treated as an unsigned number). Note, SLTIU rd, rs1, 1 sets rd to 1 if rs1 equals zero, otherwise sets rd to 0 (assembler pseudoinstruction SEQZ rd, rs).

ANDI, ORI, XORI are logical operations that perform bitwise AND, OR, and XOR on register rs1 and the sign-extended 12-bit immediate and place the result in rd. Note, XORI rd, rs1, -1 performs a bitwise logical inversion of register rs1 (assembler pseudoinstruction NOT rd, rs).


Shifts by a constant are encoded as a specialization of the I-type format. The operand to be shifted is in rs1, and the shift amount is encoded in the lower 5 bits of the I-immediate field. The right shift type is encoded in bit 30. SLLI is a logical left shift (zeros are shifted into the lower bits); SRLI is a logical right shift (zeros are shifted into the upper bits); and SRAI is an arithmetic right shift (the original sign bit is copied into the vacated upper bits).


LUI (load upper immediate) is used to build 32-bit constants and uses the U-type format. LUI places the U-immediate value in the top 20 bits of the destination register rd, filling in the lowest 12 bits with zeros.

AUIPC (add upper immediate to pc) is used to build pc-relative addresses and uses the U-type format. AUIPC forms a 32-bit offset from the 20-bit U-immediate, filling in the lowest 12 bits with zeros, adds this offset to the address of the AUIPC instruction, then places the result in register rd.

The AUIPC instruction supports two-instruction sequences to access arbitrary offsets from the PC for both control-flow transfers and data accesses. The combination of an AUIPC and the 12-bit immediate in a JALR can transfer control to any 32-bit PC-relative address, while an AUIPC plus the 12-bit immediate offset in regular load or store instructions can access any 32-bit PC-relative data address.

The current PC can be obtained by setting the U-immediate to 0. Although a JAL +4 instruction could also be used to obtain the local PC (of the instruction following the JAL), it might cause pipeline breaks in simpler microarchitectures or pollute BTB structures in more complex microarchitectures.

Integer Register-Register Operations

RV32I defines several arithmetic R-type operations. All operations read the rs1 and rs2 registers as source operands and write the result into register rd. The funct7 and funct3 fields select the type of operation.


ADD performs the addition of rs1 and rs2. SUB performs the subtraction of rs2 from rs1. Overflows are ignored and the low XLEN bits of results are written to the destination rd. SLT and SLTU perform signed and unsigned compares respectively, writing 1 to rd if ${\em rs1} < {\em rs2}$, 0 otherwise. Note, SLTU rd, x0, rs2 sets rd to 1 if rs2 is not equal to zero, otherwise sets rd to zero (assembler pseudoinstruction SNEZ rd, rs). AND, OR, and XOR perform bitwise logical operations.

SLL, SRL, and SRA perform logical left, logical right, and arithmetic right shifts on the value in register rs1 by the shift amount held in the lower 5 bits of register rs2.

NOP Instruction


The NOP instruction does not change any architecturally visible state, except for advancing the pc and incrementing any applicable performance counters. NOP is encoded as ADDI x0, x0, 0.

NOPs can be used to align code segments to microarchitecturally significant address boundaries, or to leave space for inline code modifications. Although there are many possible ways to encode a NOP, we define a canonical NOP encoding to allow microarchitectural optimizations as well as for more readable disassembly output. The other NOP encodings are made available for HINT instructions (Section 1.9).

ADDI was chosen for the NOP encoding as this is most likely to take fewest resources to execute across a range of systems (if not optimized away in decode). In particular, the instruction only reads one register. Also, an ADDI functional unit is more likely to be available in a superscalar design as adds are the most common operation. In particular, address-generation functional units can execute ADDI using the same hardware needed for base+offset address calculations, while register-register ADD or logical/shift operations require additional hardware.

2.5 Control Transfer Instructions

RV32I provides two types of control transfer instructions: unconditional jumps and conditional branches. Control transfer instructions in RV32I do not have architecturally visible delay slots.

If an instruction access exception or instruction page fault occurs on the target of a jump or taken branch, the exception is reported on the target instruction, not on the jump or branch instruction.

Unconditional Jumps

The jump and link (JAL) instruction uses the J-type format, where the J-immediate encodes a signed offset in multiples of 2 bytes. The offset is sign-extended and added to the address of the jump instruction to form the jump target address. Jumps can therefore target a ±1 MiB range. JAL stores the address of the instruction following the jump (pc+4) into register rd. The standard software calling convention uses x1 as the return address register and x5 as an alternate link register.

The alternate link register supports calling millicode routines (e.g., those to save and restore registers in compressed code) while preserving the regular return address register. The register x5 was chosen as the alternate link register as it maps to a temporary in the standard calling convention, and has an encoding that is only one bit different than the regular link register.

Plain unconditional jumps (assembler pseudoinstruction J) are encoded as a JAL with rd=x0.


The indirect jump instruction JALR (jump and link register) uses the I-type encoding. The target address is obtained by adding the sign-extended 12-bit I-immediate to the register rs1, then setting the least-significant bit of the result to zero. The address of the instruction following the jump (pc+4) is written to register rd. Register x0 can be used as the destination if the result is not required.


The unconditional jump instructions all use PC-relative addressing to help support position-independent code. The JALR instruction was defined to enable a two-instruction sequence to jump anywhere in a 32-bit absolute address range. A LUI instruction can first load rs1 with the upper 20 bits of a target address, then JALR can add in the lower bits. Similarly, AUIPC then JALR can jump anywhere in a 32-bit pc-relative address range.

Note that the JALR instruction does not treat the 12-bit immediate as multiples of 2 bytes, unlike the conditional branch instructions. This avoids one more immediate format in hardware. In practice, most uses of JALR will have either a zero immediate or be paired with a LUI or AUIPC, so the slight reduction in range is not significant.

Clearing the least-significant bit when calculating the JALR target address both simplifies the hardware slightly and allows the low bit of function pointers to be used to store auxiliary information. Although there is potentially a slight loss of error checking in this case, in practice jumps to an incorrect instruction address will usually quickly raise an exception.

When used with a base rs1=x0, JALR can be used to implement a single instruction subroutine call to the lowest 2 KiB or highest 2 KiB address region from anywhere in the address space, which could be used to implement fast calls to a small runtime library. Alternatively, an ABI could dedicate a general-purpose register to point to a library elsewhere in the address space.

The JAL and JALR instructions will generate an instruction-address-misaligned exception if the target address is not aligned to a four-byte boundary.

Instruction-address-misaligned exceptions are not possible on machines that support extensions with 16-bit aligned instructions, such as the compressed instruction-set extension, C.

Return-address prediction stacks are a common feature of high-performance instruction-fetch units, but require accurate detection of instructions used for procedure calls and returns to be effective. For RISC-V, hints as to the instructions’ usage are encoded implicitly via the register numbers used. A JAL instruction should push the return address onto a return-address stack (RAS) only when rd=x1/x5. JALR instructions should push/pop a RAS as shown in the Table [rashints].

rd rs1 rs1=rd RAS action
!link !link - none
!link link - pop
link !link - push
link link 0 pop, then push
link link 1 push

Some other ISAs added explicit hint bits to their indirect-jump instructions to guide return-address stack manipulation. We use implicit hinting tied to register numbers and the calling convention to reduce the encoding space used for these hints.

When two different link registers (x1 and x5) are given as rs1 and rd, then the RAS is both popped and pushed to support coroutines. If rs1 and rd are the same link register (either x1 or x5), the RAS is only pushed to enable macro-op fusion of the sequences: lui ra, imm20; jalr ra, imm12(ra)  and  auipc ra, imm20; jalr ra, imm12(ra)

Conditional Branches

All branch instructions use the B-type instruction format. The 12-bit B-immediate encodes signed offsets in multiples of 2 bytes. The offset is sign-extended and added to the address of the branch instruction to give the target address. The conditional branch range is ±4 KiB.


Branch instructions compare two registers. BEQ and BNE take the branch if registers rs1 and rs2 are equal or unequal respectively. BLT and BLTU take the branch if rs1 is less than rs2, using signed and unsigned comparison respectively. BGE and BGEU take the branch if rs1 is greater than or equal to rs2, using signed and unsigned comparison respectively. Note, BGT, BGTU, BLE, and BLEU can be synthesized by reversing the operands to BLT, BLTU, BGE, and BGEU, respectively.

Signed array bounds may be checked with a single BLTU instruction, since any negative index will compare greater than any nonnegative bound.

Software should be optimized such that the sequential code path is the most common path, with less-frequently taken code paths placed out of line. Software should also assume that backward branches will be predicted taken and forward branches as not taken, at least the first time they are encountered. Dynamic predictors should quickly learn any predictable branch behavior.

Unlike some other architectures, the RISC-V jump (JAL with rd=x0) instruction should always be used for unconditional branches instead of a conditional branch instruction with an always-true condition. RISC-V jumps are also PC-relative and support a much wider offset range than branches, and will not pollute conditional-branch prediction tables.

The conditional branches were designed to include arithmetic comparison operations between two registers (as also done in PA-RISC, Xtensa, and MIPS R6), rather than use condition codes (x86, ARM, SPARC, PowerPC), or to only compare one register against zero (Alpha, MIPS), or two registers only for equality (MIPS). This design was motivated by the observation that a combined compare-and-branch instruction fits into a regular pipeline, avoids additional condition code state or use of a temporary register, and reduces static code size and dynamic instruction fetch traffic. Another point is that comparisons against zero require non-trivial circuit delay (especially after the move to static logic in advanced processes) and so are almost as expensive as arithmetic magnitude compares. Another advantage of a fused compare-and-branch instruction is that branches are observed earlier in the front-end instruction stream, and so can be predicted earlier. There is perhaps an advantage to a design with condition codes in the case where multiple branches can be taken based on the same condition codes, but we believe this case to be relatively rare.

We considered but did not include static branch hints in the instruction encoding. These can reduce the pressure on dynamic predictors, but require more instruction encoding space and software profiling for best results, and can result in poor performance if production runs do not match profiling runs.

We considered but did not include conditional moves or predicated instructions, which can effectively replace unpredictable short forward branches. Conditional moves are the simpler of the two, but are difficult to use with conditional code that might cause exceptions (memory accesses and floating-point operations). Predication adds additional flag state to a system, additional instructions to set and clear flags, and additional encoding overhead on every instruction. Both conditional move and predicated instructions add complexity to out-of-order microarchitectures, adding an implicit third source operand due to the need to copy the original value of the destination architectural register into the renamed destination physical register if the predicate is false. Also, static compile-time decisions to use predication instead of branches can result in lower performance on inputs not included in the compiler training set, especially given that unpredictable branches are rare, and becoming rarer as branch prediction techniques improve.

We note that various microarchitectural techniques exist to dynamically convert unpredictable short forward branches into internally predicated code to avoid the cost of flushing pipelines on a branch mispredict [heil-tr1996 Klauser-1998 Kim-micro2005]; ???; ???) and have been implemented in commercial processors [ibmpower7]). The simplest techniques just reduce the penalty of recovering from a mispredicted short forward branch by only flushing instructions in the branch shadow instead of the entire fetch pipeline, or by fetching instructions from both sides using wide instruction fetch or idle instruction fetch slots. More complex techniques for out-of-order cores add internal predicates on instructions in the branch shadow, with the internal predicate value written by the branch instruction, allowing the branch and following instructions to be executed speculatively and out-of-order with respect to other code [ibmpower7]).

The conditional branch instructions will generate an instruction-address-misaligned exception if the target address is not aligned to a four-byte boundary and the branch condition evaluates to true. If the branch condition evaluates to false, the instruction-address-misaligned exception will not be raised.

Instruction-address-misaligned exceptions are not possible on machines that support extensions with 16-bit aligned instructions, such as the compressed instruction-set extension, C.

2.6 Load and Store Instructions

RV32I is a load-store architecture, where only load and store instructions access memory and arithmetic instructions only operate on CPU registers. RV32I provides a 32-bit address space that is byte-addressed. The EEI will define what portions of the address space are legal to access with which instructions (e.g., some addresses might be read only, or support word access only). Loads with a destination of x0 must still raise any exceptions and cause any other side effects even though the load value is discarded.

The EEI will define whether the memory system is little-endian or big-endian. In RISC-V, endianness is byte-address invariant.

In a system for which endianness is byte-address invariant, the following property holds: if a byte is stored to memory at some address in some endianness, then a byte-sized load from that address in any endianness returns the stored value.

In a little-endian configuration, multibyte stores write the least-significant register byte at the lowest memory byte address, followed by the other register bytes in ascending order of their significance. Loads similarly transfer the contents of the lesser memory byte addresses to the less-significant register bytes.

In a big-endian configuration, multibyte stores write the most-significant register byte at the lowest memory byte address, followed by the other register bytes in descending order of their significance. Loads similarly transfer the contents of the greater memory byte addresses to the less-significant register bytes.



Load and store instructions transfer a value between the registers and memory. Loads are encoded in the I-type format and stores are S-type. The effective address is obtained by adding register rs1 to the sign-extended 12-bit offset. Loads copy a value from memory to register rd. Stores copy the value in register rs2 to memory.

The LW instruction loads a 32-bit value from memory into rd. LH loads a 16-bit value from memory, then sign-extends to 32-bits before storing in rd. LHU loads a 16-bit value from memory but then zero extends to 32-bits before storing in rd. LB and LBU are defined analogously for 8-bit values. The SW, SH, and SB instructions store 32-bit, 16-bit, and 8-bit values from the low bits of register rs2 to memory.

Regardless of EEI, loads and stores whose effective addresses are naturally aligned shall not raise an address-misaligned exception. Loads and stores where the effective address is not naturally aligned to the referenced datatype (i.e., on a four-byte boundary for 32-bit accesses, and a two-byte boundary for 16-bit accesses) have behavior dependent on the EEI.

An EEI may guarantee that misaligned loads and stores are fully supported, and so the software running inside the execution environment will never experience a contained or fatal address-misaligned trap. In this case, the misaligned loads and stores can be handled in hardware, or via an invisible trap into the execution environment implementation, or possibly a combination of hardware and invisible trap depending on address.

An EEI may not guarantee misaligned loads and stores are handled invisibly. In this case, loads and stores that are not naturally aligned may either complete execution successfully or raise an exception. The exception raised can be either an address-misaligned exception or an access-fault exception. For a memory access that would otherwise be able to complete except for the misalignment, an access exception can be raised instead of an address-misaligned exception if the misaligned access should not be emulated, e.g., if accesses to the memory region have side effects. When an EEI does not guarantee misaligned loads and stores are handled invisibly, the EEI must define if exceptions caused by address misalignment result in a contained trap (allowing software running inside the execution environment to handle the trap) or a fatal trap (terminating execution).

Misaligned accesses are occasionally required when porting legacy code, and help performance on applications when using any form of packed-SIMD extension or handling externally packed data structures. Our rationale for allowing EEIs to choose to support misaligned accesses via the regular load and store instructions is to simplify the addition of misaligned hardware support. One option would have been to disallow misaligned accesses in the base ISA and then provide some separate ISA support for misaligned accesses, either special instructions to help software handle misaligned accesses or a new hardware addressing mode for misaligned accesses. Special instructions are difficult to use, complicate the ISA, and often add new processor state (e.g., SPARC VIS align address offset register) or complicate access to existing processor state (e.g., MIPS LWL/LWR partial register writes). In addition, for loop-oriented packed-SIMD code, the extra overhead when operands are misaligned motivates software to provide multiple forms of loop depending on operand alignment, which complicates code generation and adds to loop startup overhead. New misaligned hardware addressing modes take considerable space in the instruction encoding or require very simplified addressing modes (e.g., register indirect only).

Even when misaligned loads and stores complete successfully, these accesses might run extremely slowly depending on the implementation (e.g., when implemented via an invisible trap). Furthermore, whereas naturally aligned loads and stores are guaranteed to execute atomically, misaligned loads and stores might not, and hence require additional synchronization to ensure atomicity.

We do not mandate atomicity for misaligned accesses so execution environment implementations can use an invisible machine trap and a software handler to handle some or all misaligned accesses. If hardware misaligned support is provided, software can exploit this by simply using regular load and store instructions. Hardware can then automatically optimize accesses depending on whether runtime addresses are aligned.

2.7 Memory Ordering Instructions


The FENCE instruction is used to order device I/O and memory accesses as viewed by other RISC-V harts and external devices or coprocessors. Any combination of device input (I), device output (O), memory reads (R), and memory writes (W) may be ordered with respect to any combination of the same. Informally, no other RISC-V hart or external device can observe any operation in the successor set following a FENCE before any operation in the predecessor set preceding the FENCE. Chapter [ch:memorymodel] provides a precise description of the RISC-V memory consistency model.

The EEI will define what I/O operations are possible, and in particular, which memory addresses when accessed by load and store instructions will be treated and ordered as device input and device output operations respectively rather than memory reads and writes. For example, memory-mapped I/O devices will typically be accessed with uncached loads and stores that are ordered using the I and O bits rather than the R and W bits. Instruction-set extensions might also describe new I/O instructions that will also be ordered using the I and O bits in a FENCE.

Fence mode encoding.

The fence mode field fm defines the semantics of the FENCE. A FENCE with fm=0000 orders all memory operations in its predecessor set before all memory operations in its successor set.

The optional FENCE.TSO instruction is encoded as a FENCE instruction with fm=1000, predecessor=RW, and successor=RW. FENCE.TSO orders all load operations in its predecessor set before all memory operations in its successor set, and all store operations in its predecessor set before all store operations in its successor set. This leaves non-AMO store operations in the FENCE.TSO’s predecessor set unordered with non-AMO loads in its successor set.

The FENCE.TSO encoding was added as an optional extension to the original base FENCE instruction encoding. The base definition requires that implementations ignore any set bits and treat the FENCE as global, and so this is a backwards-compatible extension.

The unused fields in the FENCE instructions—rs1 and rd—are reserved for finer-grain fences in future extensions. For forward compatibility, base implementations shall ignore these fields, and standard software shall zero these fields. Likewise, many fm and predecessor/successor set settings in Table 1.5 are also reserved for future use. Base implementations shall treat all such reserved configurations as normal fences with fm=0000, and standard software shall use only non-reserved configurations.

We chose a relaxed memory model to allow high performance from simple machine implementations and from likely future coprocessor or accelerator extensions. We separate out I/O ordering from memory R/W ordering to avoid unnecessary serialization within a device-driver hart and also to support alternative non-memory paths to control added coprocessors or I/O devices. Simple implementations may additionally ignore the predecessor and successor fields and always execute a conservative fence on all operations.

2.8 Environment Call and Breakpoints

SYSTEM instructions are used to access system functionality that might require privileged access and are encoded using the I-type instruction format. These can be divided into two main classes: those that atomically read-modify-write control and status registers (CSRs), and all other potentially privileged instructions. CSR instructions are described in Chapter [csrinsts], and the base unprivileged instructions are described in the following section.

The SYSTEM instructions are defined to allow simpler implementations to always trap to a single software trap handler. More sophisticated implementations might execute more of each system instruction in hardware.


These two instructions cause a precise requested trap to the supporting execution environment.

The ECALL instruction is used to make a service request to the execution environment. The EEI will define how parameters for the service request are passed, but usually these will be in defined locations in the integer register file.

The EBREAK instruction is used to return control to a debugging environment.

ECALL and EBREAK were previously named SCALL and SBREAK. The instructions have the same functionality and encoding, but were renamed to reflect that they can be used more generally than to call a supervisor-level operating system or debugger.

EBREAK was primarily designed to be used by a debugger to cause execution to stop and fall back into the debugger. EBREAK is also used by the standard gcc compiler to mark code paths that should not be executed.

Another use of EBREAK is to support “semihosting”, where the execution environment includes a debugger that can provide services over an alternate system call interface built around the EBREAK instruction. Because the RISC-V base ISA does not provide more than one EBREAK instruction, RISC-V semihosting uses a special sequence of instructions to distinguish a semihosting EBREAK from a debugger inserted EBREAK.

    slli x0, x0, 0x1f   # Entry NOP
    ebreak              # Break to debugger
    srai x0, x0, 7      # NOP encoding the semihosting call number 7

Note that these three instructions must be 32-bit-wide instructions, i.e., they mustn’t be among the compressed 16-bit instructions described in Chapter [compressed].

The shift NOP instructions are still considered available for use as HINTS.

Semihosting is a form of service call and would be more naturally encoded as an ECALL using an existing ABI, but this would require the debugger to be able to intercept ECALLs, which is a newer addition to the debug standard. We intend to move over to using ECALLs with a standard ABI, in which case, semihosting can share a service ABI with an existing standard.

We note that ARM processors have also moved to using SVC instead of BKPT for semihosting calls in newer designs.

2.9 HINT Instructions

RV32I reserves a large encoding space for HINT instructions, which are usually used to communicate performance hints to the microarchitecture. HINTs are encoded as integer computational instructions with rd=x0. Hence, like the NOP instruction, HINTs do not change any architecturally visible state, except for advancing the pc and any applicable performance counters. Implementations are always allowed to ignore the encoded hints.

This HINT encoding has been chosen so that simple implementations can ignore HINTs altogether, and instead execute a HINT as a regular computational instruction that happens not to mutate the architectural state. For example, ADD is a HINT if the destination register is x0; the five-bit rs1 and rs2 fields encode arguments to the HINT. However, a simple implementation can simply execute the HINT as an ADD of rs1 and rs2 that writes x0, which has no architecturally visible effect.

Table 1.6 lists all RV32I HINT code points. 91% of the HINT space is reserved for standard HINTs, but none are presently defined. The remainder of the HINT space is reserved for custom HINTs: no standard HINTs will ever be defined in this subspace.

No standard hints are presently defined. We anticipate standard hints to eventually include memory-system spatial and temporal locality hints, branch prediction hints, thread-scheduling hints, security tags, and instrumentation flags for simulation/emulation.

RV32I HINT instructions.