The .DLL file extension is a Windows-based extension that allows programs to share programming code. This file extension, which stands for Dynamic Link Library, works much like an .EXE file would, except that they don’t actually execute a program.
Programs That Make Use of the .DLL File Extension
It is very common to see .DLL files bundled with software and games. Programmers use these as “shortcuts” to use code they have already written. Instead of writing the same code in every single program the code can essentially be “shared” amongst the programs.
Windows itself uses .DLL files extensively. If you navigate to the system folders that power Windows, you’ll notice there are a wide range of .DLL file extensions. What isn’t apparent, however, is that there are more .DLL files than you’re seeing. Interesting enough, .DLL files can be masqueraded as .EXE files, yet still only perform functions a .DLL file would.
Sadly, we have all likely experienced error messages that result in “Could not find .DLL”, or something similar. These error messages result when a program is moved or lacks necessary updates. Often times, this can be remedied with a re-installation or looking for program updates.
As .DLL file types are the foundation of many programs (and Windows itself), it would be unwise to try and open or edit them.
Programmers- Take Advantage of the .DLL!
Actually creating a .DLL file isn’t hard at all. Many development tools (i.e. Microsoft Visual Basic, C# Express, and many more) come with built-in functionality to create a .DLL file with ease. This makes the process much easier to interlink programs and resources.
In some instances, all that is required is to rename a file (such as a text file) to the .DLL extension. With the right code, a programmer can read the contents of the .DLL file without any problem at all. This goes to show that creating a .DLL file is just as easy as renaming the extension- but making use of the .DLL takes a lot more planning and code.
If you were, in fact, curious earlier as to what the inside of a .DLL file looks like, certain development tools can open them. It’s strongly recommended that only .DLL files you know are harmless and are not important are being worked with. Otherwise, your entire operating system may crash as a result.
A Note on Security
.DLL files can be potentially dangerous for obvious reasons. Since editing or attempting to open a .DLL file is strongly not recommended, many malicious coders might hide harmful code in .DLL files- since they know very few will investigate their contents. Actually opening a .DLL file in the conventional means (double clicking, for instance) will result in nothing- but they can indeed be inspected nonetheless.
Furthermore, .DLL files can be hard to pinpoint and remove by the average computer user. Due to this, it is highly recommended antivirus and antispyware software be installed. These .DLL files are not commonly seen as security threats in this day and age- largely due in part to these security programs.