Protected mode is the main operating mode of modern Intel processors (and clones) since the 80286 (there in 16 bit). On 80386s and later, the 32 bit Protected Mode (henceforth just called Protected Mode) allows to work with several virtual address spaces, each of which has a maximum of 4GB of addressable memory; and and enables the system to enforce strict memory and hardware I/O protection as well as restricting the available instruction set (so that your application cannot access the hardware directly; while the kernel can).
A CPU that is initialized by the BIOS starts in Real Mode. Enabling Protected Mode unleashes the real power of your CPU. However, it will prevent you from using most of the BIOS interrupts, since these work in Real Mode (unless you have also written a V86 monitor).
Before switching to Protected Mode, you have to disable interrupts, including NMI (as suggested by Intel Developers Manual), possibly enable the A20 Line, and load the Global Descriptor Table with segment descriptors suitable for code, data, and stack.
Whether the CPU is in Real Mode or in Protected Mode is defined by the lowest bit of the CR0 or MSW register.
An example (TODO: explain):
cli ; disable interrupts lgdt [gdtr] ; load GDT register with start address of Global Descriptor Table mov eax, cr0 or al, 1 ; set PE (Protection Enable) bit in CR0 (Control Register 0) mov cr0, eax ; Perform far jump to selector 08h (offset into GDT, pointing at a 32bit PM code segment descriptor) ; to load CS with proper PM32 descriptor) JMP 08h:PModeMain ; [...] PModeMain: ; load DS, ES, FS, GS, SS, ESP.
This takes you to Protected Mode...
- OSRC: protected mode
- http://home.swipnet.se/smaffy/asm/info/embedded_pmode.pdf - pragmatic tutorial on pmode