If you’re a Windows user, we’re pretty sure you must have encountered an error telling you that some DLL file is missing. And it’s okay if you don’t know what DLL files are because most users don’t. So, we will break the myth and tell all you need to know about DLL files.

DLL Files

Firstly, DLL stands for Dynamic Link Library. These library files contain code to carry out a specific function for an application in the Windows operating systems. They consist of classes, variables, and resources that may include images, icons and files, and user interfaces.

DLL files consist of C or C++ programming languages. Mostly, it uses C++. Interestingly, you can even write your own DLL code. However, it’s better to know some basics before you attempt to tinker with the existing DLLs.

A DLL file will have a .dll extension. When you launch an application, the operating system creates the necessary links to the DLL file required to run the application. Because of this, a DLL file may provide services to more than one application at the same time.

What do DLL Files Do?

As mentioned earlier, DLL files serve single or multiple applications depending upon the service required of them. For example, you may call an xyz.dll file to print a page. Usually, these DLL files come with the operating system.

One of DLL files’ primary tasks is to find free space on the hard drive, locating a specific directory, etc.

How Dynamic Linking Helps?

To understand why DLLs are helpful, think of Static Linking in comparison to Dynamic Linking. Traditionally, static linking is part of many operating systems. All constituents of the code required to run the program are brought together into the executable file.

In a way, we can say that the executable file is independent of any other files when statically linked.

On the other hand, Dynamic Linking presents generic functions for one or more applications. Hence, a single DLL file serves as a command and control center for various files. 

Thus, each application doesn’t require its code. Therefore, it reduces the application size and saves storage space on your hard drive.

Opening a DLL File

While you shouldn’t mess with DLL files, it is better to use trusted software if you still want to open any such file. Hence, trusted software like Microsoft Disassembler and Microsoft Visual Studio are the best options for opening a DLL file.

If you can’t find a DLL file in your system, here is how you can view several DLL files in your PC:

  1. Go to your Windows folder. It’s in the Program Files folder.
  2. Inside the Windows folder, go to the System 32 folder.
  3. Here, you can see multiple .dll files used by your system.
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DLL File Error

When you launch an application, the system will gather all the necessary functions and files needed to run your file. Since Windows uses the dynamic model, if any of the .dll files are missing, the system will present an error message.

Usually, the message says: “missing xyz.dll file.”

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Downloading a DLL File

You can download DLL files from trusted sources and add the downloaded DLL file to appropriate directory in Windows to fix DLL not found or missing errors.

Deleting a DLL File

Firstly, DLL files can be hard to interpret because they serve multiple files at the same time. Hence, you cannot predict whether a DLL file is useful or not. Therefore, if you were thinking of deleting a DLL file in your system, you better drop the idea. Deleting a DLL file is usually a hazardous exercise.

DLL Hell

‘DLL Hell’ is a term very commonly used in the developers’ circuit. At times, when a new program installs, or when a system receives an upgrade, there can be a mismatch between the original files and the existing DLL versions.

Hence, it causes the applications to either crash or not launch at all. However, .NET platforms usually are safe from such issues. To overcome DLL Hell, Windows came up with Windows File Protect (WFP) and protected DLLs.

With protected DLLs, your existing DLL files only update when an official Windows update arrives. Even then, if any other program updates a DLL file, Windows restores it to the original version to avoid mismatch problems.

EXE files or DLL

Often, tech enthusiasts draw comparisons between EXE and DLL files. However, there is a vast difference between them. Firstly, unlike an EXE file, you cannot launch a DLL file by clicking on it. They don’t execute directly.

On the other hand, DLL files have the same format as the EXE file. Some DLL files even use the .exe extension. Normally, DLL files end with a .dll extension, some other common extensions are .ocx, .drv and .cpl.


Dealing with DLL errors can be a tricky business. However, you can scan for corrupt files, take help from the Windows Resource Protection tool, or simply reinstall the application. These steps usually resolve DLL related issues.

The safest way around DLL errors is to ensure that you never touch a DLL file.

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