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7.3.2. Program flow prediction

The following sections describe program flow prediction:

Predicted and nonpredicted instructions

This section shows the instructions that the processor predicts. Unless otherwise specified, the list applies to ARM, Thumb, ThumbEE, and Jazelle instructions.As a general rule, the flow prediction hardware predicts all branch instructions regardless of the addressing mode, including:

  • conditional branches

  • unconditional branches

  • indirect branches

  • PC-destination data-processing operations

  • branches that switch between ARM and Thumb states.

However, some branch instructions are nonpredicted:

  • Branches that switch between states (except ARM to Thumb transitions, and Thumb to ARM transitions).

  • Instructions with the S suffix are not predicted, because they are typically used to return from exceptions and have side effects that can change privilege mode and security state.

  • All mode changing instructions.

Thumb state conditional branches

In Thumb state, a branch that is normally encoded as unconditional can be made conditional by inclusion in an If-Then-Else (ITE) block. Then it is treated as a normal conditional branch.

Return stack predictions

The return stack stores the address and the instruction execution state of the instruction after a function-call type branch instruction. This address is equal to the link register value stored in r14. The following instructions cause a return stack push if predicted:

  • BL immediate

  • BLX(1) immediate

  • BLX(2) register

  • HBL (ThumbEE state)

  • HBLP (ThumbEE state).

The following instructions cause a return stack pop if predicted:

  • BX r14

  • MOV pc, r14

  • LDM r13, {…pc}

  • LDR pc, [r13].

The LDR instruction can use any of the addressing modes, as long as r13 is the base register. Additionally, in ThumbEE state you can also use r9 as a stack pointer so the LDR and LDM instructions with pc as a destination and r9 as a base register are also treated as a return stack pop.

Because return-from-exception instructions can change processor privilege mode and security state, they are not predicted. This includes the LDM(3) instruction, and the MOVS pc, r14 instruction.