When the 80386 is executing in V86 mode, the instructions PUSHF, POPF, INT n, and IRET are sensitive to IOPL. The instructions IN, INS, OUT, and OUTS, which are ordinarily sensitive in protected mode, are not sensitive in V86 mode. Following is a complete list of instructions that are sensitive in V86 mode:
CLI -- Clear Interrupt-Enable Flag STI -- Set Interrupt-Enable Flag LOCK -- Assert Bus-Lock Signal PUSHF -- Push Flags POPF -- Pop Flags INT n -- Software Interrupt RET -- Interrupt ReturnCPL is always three in V86 mode; therefore, if IOPL < 3, these instructions will trigger a general-protection exceptions. These instructions are made sensitive so that their functions can be simulated by the V86 monitor.
INT n is sensitive so that the V86 monitor can intercept calls to the 8086 OS. Many 8086 operating systems are called by pushing parameters onto the stack, then executing an INT n instruction. If IOPL < 3, INT n instructions will be intercepted by the V86 monitor. The V86 monitor can then emulate the function of the 8086 operating system or reflect the interrupt back to the 8086 operating system in V86 mode.
When the processor is executing 8086 code in a V86 task, the instructions PUSHF, POPF, and IRET are sensitive to IOPL so that the V86 monitor can control changes to the interrupt-enable flag (IF). Other instructions that affect IF (STI and CLI) are IOPL sensitive both in 8086 code and in 80386/80386 code.
Many 8086 programs that were designed to execute on single-task systems set and clear IF to control interrupts. However, when these same programs are executed in a multitasking environment, such control of IF can be disruptive. If IOPL is less than three, all instructions that change or interrogate IF will trap to the V86 monitor. The V86 monitor can then control IF in a manner that both suits the needs of the larger environment and is transparent to the 8086 program.