Question regardin intel64 arch and page table setup

Eric W. Biederman ebiederm at
Wed Aug 11 17:54:08 EDT 2010

ebiederm at (Eric W. Biederman) writes:

> "H. Peter Anvin" <hpa at> writes:
>> On 08/11/2010 12:47 PM, Neil Horman wrote:
>>> Hey all-
>>> 	I've got a question regarding x86_64 and how linux uses the paging
>>> hardware.  I'm tinkering with ways to get kexec to boot a new kernel on panic
>>> without leaving long mode.  The idea being that if we can do that, then we don't
>>> need to store the new kdump kernel below the 4G physical limit for 32 bit
>>> systems.  In doing this though, I figured I would have to re-initalize the page
>>> table with an identity mapped set of page tables to cover all of ram and load
>>> that into cr3.  My question is, is it safe to do so while paging is enabled.
>>> The docs I've read are unclear on that and if I have to disable paging that
>>> automatically drops me out of long mode, which is bad.  I would think its safe
>>> to do, since I imagined we had to do on context switches in the scheduler, but
>>> the __switch_to implementation for x86_64 sems to do nothing but update the task
>>> register.  Intel vol 3a says we need to update cr3, but I don't see where that
>>> happens, so I'm not sure if theres some automated bit that does a cr3 update
>>> safely when we write tr.
>>> 	Anywho, any guidance, clarification would be appreciated.  Thanks!
>>> Neil
>> It is definitely safe to load a new CR3 while paging is done; it is done
>> all the time.  The currently executing page needs to be mapped to the
>> same physical and virtual address in most kernels.
>> However, there are a *LOT* of issues with having a kernel that is
>> completely above 4 GiB.  For one thing, a lot of device drivers simply
>> will not work if there is no memory below 4 GiB awavilable to the
>> kernel.   As such, I don't think you will be successful in this
>> project.
> A couple of pieces.
> 1) The kernel side of kexec and kexec on panic does not leave long mode.
>    Long mode is left by the glue code in /sbin/kexec.
> 2) I agree about the DMA limitation however there are enough systems
>    with iommu's these days you may be able to get it to work.
> 3) I would start just getting the normal kexec case to work.
>    The 64bit kernel does support starting at the 64bit entry point,
>    but I don't think it has been tested if loaded above 4G.
>    It certainly should work and as time goes by I expect running
>    a kernel above 4G to become an increasingly interesting use case.
>    So it is certainly worth play with.
>    But as Peter says having a kernel completely above 4GiB has is likely
>    to uncover a lot of baked in assumptions so we real problems might
>    result.
>    Hmm.  On the normal kexec side you don't loose the low 4GiB so that
>    case should be a lot easier to bootstrap with.  Once it works with
>    the low 4GiB you can add a mem= or whatever to disable using the low
>    4GiB and see what happens.
> Have fun.

I guess the one place where we have a bottleneck with loading above 4GiB
today is that we don't export the kernels 4GiB entry point in bzImage
(although it is at a stable offset from the 32bit one), and we can't
make up the kernel parameters from scratch because there are variables
in there with non-zero changing values that the kernel expects to have

But hacking around that for testing should not be hard.


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