Assembly || Which Assembler To Use?

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A common question one may wonder is, which assembler should I use? There are a few choices, and your choice should probably be based on the type of platform you decide to operate with.

In terms of Assembly, there is a whole family of languages each specific to a different processor, and each language has several different names for a single language. These are the following designations which are often seen: IA-32, X86-32, X86-i386, 80×86, X86, X86-16, IA-64, X86-64, and so on. Some of those early languages are now obsolete. The extension of Assembly which will be presented on this site is the x86 instruction set, specifically being X86-64 (which is known as IA-64 in some documents). The X86-64 Assembly code will be assembled using the Unix platform (Ubuntu) in association with C/C++ files, demonstrating how each language “talks” to each other.

As far as which assembler to use, there are a few high level ones which are available to choose from. Some high level assemblers are Borland’s TASM, The Netwide Assembler’s NASM, Microsoft’s MASM, IBM’s HLASM (for z/Architecture systems), Alessandro Ghignola’s Linoleum, and Niklaus Wirth’s PL/360.

Of the assemblers listed above, The Netwide Assembler (NASM) is the recommended choice, as it is open source and free of charge. The Microsoft Macro Assembler (MASM), and The Borland Company’s Turbo Assembler (TASM) can also be used to learn Assembly Language. You may use other assemblers if you wish, though it is not guaranteed that the code presented on this site will work for assemblers other than NASM.


– On Windows –

(1) Visit the NASM homepage, and click on the tab which says "Downloads"

(2) Click on the link to the most current version of NASM, downloading the most recent archive for NASM (the zip file) located under the "win32" directory

(3) Once you've obtained the appropriate archive for NASM, or (where XXX denotes the version number of NASM contained in the archive), unpack it into its own directory (for example c:nasm).

Note: You can alternatively download the installer file located in the "win32" directory which will install NASM for you, forgoing the remaining steps.

(4) The archive will contain a set of executable files: the NASM executable file nasm.exe, the NDISASM executable file ndisasm.exe, and possibly additional utilities to handle the RDOFF file format.

(5) The only file NASM needs to run is its own executable, so copy nasm.exe to a directory on your PATH, or alternatively edit autoexec.bat to add the nasm directory to your PATH (to do that under Windows XP, go to Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Environment Variables; these instructions may work under other versions of Windows as well.)

(6) That's it - NASM is installed. You don't need the nasm directory to be present to run NASM (unless you've added it to your PATH), so you can delete it if you need to save space; however, you may want to keep the documentation or test programs.

– On Ubuntu –

NASM is currently located in the Ubuntu repository, so you can install it by simply opening the terminal window and entering the command:

sudo apt-get install nasm

– On Other Versions Of Unix –

(1) Visit the NASM homepage, and click on the tab which says "Downloads"

(2) Once you've obtained the Unix source archive for NASM, nasm-XXX.tar.gz (where XXX denotes the version number of NASM contained in the archive), unpack it into a directory such as /usr/local/src. The archive, when unpacked, will create its own subdirectory nasm-XXX.

(3) NASM is an auto-configuring package: once you've unpacked it, cd to the directory it's been unpacked into and type ./configure. This shell script will find the best C compiler to use for building NASM and set up Makefiles accordingly.

(4) Once NASM has auto-configured, you can type make to build the nasm and ndisasm binaries, and then make install to install them in /usr/local/bin and install the man pages nasm.1 and ndisasm.1 in /usr/local/man/man1. Alternatively, you can give options such as --prefix to the configure script (see the file INSTALL for more details), or install the programs yourself.

(5) NASM also comes with a set of utilities for handling the RDOFF custom object-file format, which are in the rdoff subdirectory of the NASM archive. You can build these with make rdf and install them with make rdf_install, if you want them.

Note: Instructions for installing NASM was taken from the official website located here. If you need further assistance installing NASM onto your computer, check out the help forums.

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