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13.3. Memory attributes

The memory map of a system is partitioned into a number of regions. Each region might need different memory attributes, such as access permissions that include read and write permissions for different privilege levels, memory type, and cache policies. Functional pieces of code and data are generally grouped together in the memory map and the attributes for each of these areas controlled separately. This function is performed by the Memory Management Unit. Translation table entries enable the MMU hardware to translate Virtual Addresses to Physical Addresses. In addition, they specify a number of attributes associated with each page.

Figure 13.3 shows how memory attributes are specified in a stage 1 block entry. The block entry in the translation table defines the attributes for each memory region. Stage 2 entries have a different layout.

Figure 13.3. Stage 1 block memory attributes

Figure 13.3. Stage 1 block memory attributes


  • UXN and PXN are execution permissions

  • AF is the access flag

  • SH is the shareable attribute

  • AP is the access permission

  • NS is the security bit, but only at EL3 and Secure EL1

  • Indx is the index into the Memory Attribute Indirection Register MAIR_ELn


For clarity, not all bits are shown in the figure.

The descriptor format provides support for hierarchical attributes, so that an attribute set at one level can be inherited by lower levels. It means that a table entry in an L0, L1, or L2 table can override one or more attributes specified in the table that it points to. This can be used for access permissions, security, and execution permissions. For example, an entry in the L1 table that has NSTable=1 means that the NS bits in the L2 and L3 tables that it points to are ignored and all of the entries are treated as having NS=1. This feature only restricts subsequent levels of look-up for the same stage of translation.

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