8086 Data Transfer Instructions – Assembly Language Programming

In this article, we will see different types of data transfer instructions supported by the 8086 microprocessor. We will see the function of each instruction with the help of an assembly language program. These are the instructions that transfer the data from source to destination. They include:

  • MOV, PUSH, POP, XCHG, XLAT transfer bytes, or words.
  • IN, OUT transfer input and output ports.
  • LEA, LDS, LES transfer addresses.
  • LAHF, SAHF, PUSHF, POPF transfer flag registers.

In the last tutorial, we have discussed 8086 addressing modes.

8086 Microprocessor Data Transfer Instructions

All of these instructions are discussed in detail.

1. MOV Instruction

The MOV instruction copies a byte or a word from source to destination. Both operands should be of same type either byte or a word. The syntax of this instruction is:

MOV Destination, Source

The destination operand can be any register or a memory location whereas the source operand can be a register, memory address, or a constant/immediate. The 8086 MOV instruction supports the following operands:

Memory AddressRegMOV CX, [2341]
RegMemory AddressMOV [7012], AH
ImmediateRegMOV AL, 21C
ImmediateMemory AddressMOV [2310], 37B2
Segment RegisterRegMOV AX, DS
RegSegment RegisterMOV CS, CX

The instruction MOV mem, mem is illegal. It is not possible to transfer data directly from one memory location to another. Therefore, both source and destination operands cannot be memory address. The MOV instruction does not affect any value in the flag register.

Example Assembly Code

Consider an example to understand the behavior of MOV instruction. In the code given below, a and b are the variables. DB is used for storing byte and DW is used for storing a word (2 bytes).

ORG 100h 
MOV AX, a           ;Set AX to 'a' variable
MOV CX, 712h        ;Set CX to 712h 
MOV DS, CX          ;Copies value of CX into DS
MOV SI, 25          ;Set SI to 0019 (decimal value of 25)
MOV [105], 6Ah      ;Sets memory address 02712:0069 to 6Ah
MOV 25[BP][SI], AX  ;PA=SS(Shifted left)+a+BP+SI
                    ;Copy data from AX to physical address(PA)
MOV DL, [BX]+6      ;Load data from PA=DS(Shifted left)+BX+6 to DL
RET                 ;stops the program

a DW 5C21h                                      


8086 assembly language mov instruction

The memory block has four columns. First column is of offset address. Second and third column shows the hexadecimal value and decimal value stored in that offset address. The last column indicates the ASCII character value. The 6th instruction in the code stores the hexadecimal value 6Ah at Physical address 07189 (07120h + 0069h). In the 7th instruction, the value of AX is stored at physical address 07032 (07000h+0032h). The instruction MOV DL, [BX]+6 loads the value from memory location 07126 into DX shown in figure (3).

8086 assembly language mov instruction 2

2. 8086 PUSH Instruction

The PUSH instruction pushes the data in the stack. The format of PUSH instruction is:

PUSH Source

It decrements the stack pointer by two and then stores the data from the source operand at the position of the stack pointer. The source operand can be a general-purpose register, segment register or a memory address but it should be a word.

PUSH Assembly Code

The PUSH instruction decrements the SP by 2. You can see in the output the SP=FFFC which decrements by 2 becomes FFFA. The data of AX is pushed to memory location DS: FFFA which is 16FFA in this example.

ORG 100h 
MOV AX, 1C2Bh       ;Set AX to 1C2B    
PUSH AX             ;Set SP=SP-2
                    ;Push AX data to stack location DS:SP
MOV BX, 302Ah       ;Set BX to 302A
PUSH BX             ;SP=SP-2
                    ;Push BX data to stack location DS:SP
RET                 ;stops the program


8086 assembly language push instruction

3. 8086 POP Instruction

It is opposite to the POP instruction. The POP instruction loads the word from the stack pointed by SP and then increments the SP by 2. The format for this instruction is:

POP destination

The destination operand can be a general-purpose register, segment register, or memory address. The POP instruction does not support CS as a destination operation.

POP Example Assembly Code

ORG 100h 
MOV AX, 1C2Bh       ;Set AX to 1C2B    
PUSH AX             ;Set SP=SP-2
                    ;Push AX data to stack location DS:SP
MOV BX, 302Ah       ;Set BX to 302A
PUSH BX             ;SP=SP-2
                    ;Push BX data to stack location DS:SP 
POP CX              ;Load the last value stored at stack into CX which is BX
                    ;increment SPby 2 i.e., SP=SP+2
POP [12H]           ;Load the value from location of SP to memory address DS:0012H
                    ;increment SP by 2
RET                 ;stops the program

4. Operand Exchange Instruction (XCHG)

The XCHG instruction exchanges the contents of the source and destination. Both operands should be of the same type either word (16 bits) or a byte (8 bits). It does not support segment registers.  The direct exchange of data between memory locations is illegal. Both operands should be a general-purpose register. The syntax of instructions is:

XCHG Destination, Source

For example

  • XCHG AX, BX exchanges words
  • XCHG AL, BL exchanges bytes.

XCHG CL, 25[BX] exchanges bytes of CL with bytes stored in memory location DS:25+BX.

XCHG CS, AX is illegal.

Example Assembly Code

ORG 100h 
MOV AX, a           ;Set AX to 'a' variable
MOV CX, b           ;Set CX to 'b' variable 
XCHG AX, CX         ;Exchange words of AX and CX
XCHG AH, CL         ;Exchange bytes of AH and CL
RET                 ;stops the program

a DW 5C21h
b DW 3D05h                                          


8086 data transfer XCHG instruction

The code given above first sets AX to 5C21 and CX to 3D05.


After execution of fourth instruction XCHG AX, CX, the contents of AX and CX are exchanged. AX becomes CX and CX becomes AX.


Then XCHG AH, CL exchanges the most significant bits of AH with lower bits of CL. The final output becomes:


Just like MOV instruction, the XCHG instruction does not modify the contents of flag register. The

5. XLAT Instruction

The XLAT instruction takes no operands. It is used in lookup tables. The BX register contains the offset address of the lookup table. The AL register has a byte number. The XLAT instruction takes the byte number from AL and load the contents of address DS: BX+AL into AL register. The syntax for this instruction is:

XLAT Table_Name

First, you’ll have to store the starting offset address of table into BX register which is done by:


Example Assembly Code

Now, consider an example which takes a variable a in a range 1 to 15 and display it as a hexadecimal digit. We have taken a=13.

ORG 100h   
TABLE DB '0123456789ABCDEF'
a     DB      13
MOV AL,a            ;AL stores the byte number
MOV BX,OFFSET TABLE ;Sets BX to offset of starting address of the table
XLAT                ;Sets AL to the hexa decimal value of var a
MOV AH,02H          ;Displays the charachter stored in DL
RET                 ;stops the program


8086 data transfer XLAT instruction output
8086 data transfer XLAT instruction

8086 I/O Port Data Transfer Instructions

These two instructions are supported by 8086 microprocessor to take directly transfer data between GPIO ports.

IN Instruction

The IN instruction takes the input from the port and transfers that data into the register. Thus, data transfer takes place between register and I/O device. The syntax of IN instruction is:

IN Reg, Port Address

The range of port addresses is from 000H to FFFFH.

IN AX, 29H

If you want to access a port number over 255 then first load the port address into DX and then use IN instruction.


OUT Instruction

The OUT instruction outputs the data of register on to a port specified in the instruction. The syntax of this instruction is:

OUT Port Address, Register



If you want to use port address over 255, then store this port address to DX and then execute OUT instruction


LEA Instruction

The LEA stands for load Effective address. As the name implies, it takes the data from the source and copies it to the destination operand. The destination is always a register whereas the source can be an offset address of a variable or a memory location. Both MOV and LEA instructions copy data from source to destination but the difference between them is LEA copies only offset address or a memory address to destination register. The syntax of LEA instruction is:

LEA Reg, Source

For example:

  • LEA AX, [BX] Stores the offset address of BX into AX.
  • LEA CX, var_1 Stores the address of var_1 into CX register
  • LEA BX, [BP][SI] Loads effective address = BP+SI into BX register

Example Assembly Code

ORG 100h   
VAR DB 23h
MOV AX,@DATA  ;Sets AX equal to the starting address of data segment
MOV DS,AX     ;Copy AX to DS
LEA DX,VAR    ;Loads the address of VAR
RET           ;stops the program


In this example, you can see in the memory block, the offset address of variable VAR is 0102h which is stored in DX after execution of LEA instruction.

8086 data transfer LEA instruction

LDS Instruction

The LDS instruction stores four consecutive memory locations into a specified destination register and a DS register. The format of LDS instruction is:

LDS Reg, Memory Address

The word from first two memory locations is loaded into a register and the word from the next two memory locations gets stored to DS register.

Example Assembly Code

ORG 100h   
VAR DB 23h


8086 data transfer LDS instruction

You can observe from the output that the address of variable var is 07012. The words from 07102h, 07103h locations gets stored into AL and AH. The contents of other two memory addresses 07104h and 07105h are loaded into DS.

8086 LES Instruction

This instruction is almost similar to the LDS instruction. It loads data from first two memory locations to a specified register. The data of the next two memory location goes to ES register. The syntax of LES instruction is:

LES Reg, Memory Address

Example Assembly Code

ORG 100h   
MOV AX,0710H
LES BX,[8H]   


8086 data transfer LES instruction

The memory address of Num variable is 7102h. The instruction “LES SI, Num” sets SI to C45C and ES to 0236. The next instruction “LES BX, [8H]” sets BX to 0710 and ES to D88E.

Other 8086 Data Movement Instructions

11. LAHF

The LAHF instruction loads the lower 8 bits of the flag register into AH register. The lower eight bits of flag register includes SF, ZF, AF, PF and CF flags. It does not require any operand.

12. SAHF

The SAHF instruction stores the 8-bit data of AH register into the lower 8 bits of the flag register. It has no operands.


It pushes the contents of flag register onto the top of stack. The PUSHF instruction decrements the stack pointer by two and then store the data of flag register at location pointed by stack pointer (SP).

14. POPF

It pops the data from the first two memory locations pointed by stack pointer into the flag register and then increment SP by 2. The POPF instruction has no operands.

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