Difference between DLL and EXE

Both DLL and EXE is a computer file format and contain the exact same layout. They are Portable Executable (PE) File Format. But they are not exactly same. Their exits some differences between them. This article describes what is the difference between .dll and .exe file? Summary of the article:

  • What is exe file?
  • What is dll file?
  • DLL VS EXE

Before start comparison lets start with some basic information about .dll and .dxe file.

What is exe File?
An executable file or .exe file is a computer file that contains instructions in a format that a computer’s operating system or application can understand and follow. The exe files are known as in-process components which were capable of running on their own. Also they can provide the support for others to execute. An exe file is generated after the compilations of projects like: Console Applications, Windows Forms Applications, Windows Services, and WPF Applications.

exe

What is DLL File?
A DLL (Dynamic-Link Library) is a library that contains code and data that can be used by more than one program or application simultaneously. The dll files are known as out-process components which were not capable of running on their own. They can only execute with the help of other applications. A dll file is generated after the compilations of projects like: Class Library or Windows Forms Control Library.

dll

DLL VS EXE
The differences between .dll and .exe files are given bellow:
Dynamic-Link Library (DLL)

  1. Its full meaning is Dynamic Link Library
  2. It can not execute without the help of EXE file. That means dll files are not independent
  3. It has not main function.
  4. A dll is a library that an exe (or another dll) may call
  5. In one application many dll files may exists
  6. A dll can be shared with others applications. That means dll is reusable
  7. dll is an In-Process Component
  8. A dll can never run in its own memory address space

Executable File (EXE)

  1. It’s full meaning Executable File.
  2. It can execute with the help of OS. That means exe files are independent
  3. It has main function
  4. An exe is a program
  5. In one application only one exe files exists
  6. An exe cannot be shared with others applications. That means exe is not reusable
  7. EXE is an Out-Process Component
  8. An exe always runs in its own memory address space

The EXE files are executable programs while DLLs are libraries loaded into a process and contain some sort of useful functionality like: database access, security or something else.

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