Windows: Tips and Guides

What is a DLL file and how to open it on Windows PC

If you are a user of the Windows operating system, it is likely that by running certain programs you will have on more than one occasion talk about DLL files, which in general are related to some problems in the performance of our computer.

These DLL files are essential for the proper functioning of the applications, as they are part of it, as they contain various elements such as graphics, fonts, commands and others.

As mentioned, the DLL files are unfortunately related to errors on the PC, this happens due to a bad execution of the same due to the inattention of the programmer or due to the bad design of the program that uses these DLLs.

This means that once the application that uses them is closed, the DLLs continue to reside in memory, which in addition to damaging us in terms of the performance of our computer, poses compatibility problems.

What is a DLL file?

DLL files, also known as Dynamic Link Library (dynamic link library) is a type of file containing a compiled set of resources, such as policies, procedures and library controllers that use integrated Windows applications and third party programs that have been developed for Microsoft Windows.

These types of files are generally not visible to users because they have not been programmed to be seen by everyone, as they direct the internal processes of programs, such as when playing audio, viewing text, graphics, and any other element of which the software may need.

They are said to be dynamic because these DLL files can be used by more than one program, although these files themselves are not part of the original code of the software that uses them.

We could compare it to a shelf in a warehouse, the items are there available for programs to take when they need them without needing them to be included in their programming.

What is a DLL file for?

In principle, one of the most important advantages that DLL files or dynamic link libraries offer us is that thanks to their implementation it was possible to significantly reduce the size of the executable files of applications, since most of the program’s executable code can be stored in these DLL files, such as graphics, audio, text, typography and all other elements used by the app, thus obtaining a greater organization of processes, which translates into a better performance of the app, and therefore of the overall performance of the computer.

However, DLL files also offer other very interesting advantages, more related to the overall performance of the PC, since for example, many times the same dynamic link library or DLL can be used by different programs which are usually used by a large number of applications that run on the Windows operating system.

DLL files also allow you to increase memory usage and facilitate management through the application of certain algorithms that help improve the performance of the operating system and increase the speed when running applications that use the same DLL libraries, since they have been loaded previously.

How to open DLL files

For most people, DLLs  run in the background, so it’s not common to have to open them or do anything with them. However, sometimes it may be necessary to register a DLL file in a newly installed program for it to work effectively and efficiently.

Windows generally opens files with predefined programs for the type of file we want to use, but in the case of  DLLs it is very likely that we don’t have any associated programs to open them because, as mentioned before, we usually don’t have to access one of these libraries unless we are programmers or have no knowledge of software programming.

It is important to note that  changing the location of a DLL file can cause serious problems in the system , so it is not recommended to manipulate dynamic link libraries unless you know very well what you are doing.

One of the easiest and fastest ways to  view the contents of a DLL file  is to use Windows Notepad. All you have to do is right-click on the file and select “Open With”, then choose “Select one of the programs from the list of installed programs” . Then choose the tool Notepad and you click on “OK” .

You will now be able to see all the contents of  the DLL file, although it is very likely that you do not understand what is written inside, as it will only show you a large number of garbled characters.

How to decompile and view a DLL file

In order for the content of the file to be readable for us, it is necessary to decompile its contents, for this we will have to use a decompilation program, such as dotPeek.

Click  “File”> “Open”  and navigate to the DLL you want to decompile. You will be able to browse the contents of  the DLL file without affecting the system as long as you don’t make any changes.

Using “Assembly Explorer” you will be able to navigate through the different modules of the file, each code module works together with the others to form the complete DLL file. With the compilation explorer we can see each of the subsets contained in the module.

By double clicking on a module, its code will appear on the right side of the dotPeek window. You can review the code by scrolling through it. dotPeek can download additional libraries so you can view the original source code.

With the Quick Documentation option, you can see what the command does in case you come across a piece of code you don’t understand.

From the “Code Viewer” section, place your cursor on the piece of code you want to parse and load the code viewer window by pressing Ctrl + Q and following the hyperlinks you will be able to see more information about every aspect of the code you are looking at.

You can also export the code to Visual Basic for editing:

  • In Assembly Explorer, right-click the DLL file.
  • Select “Export to project”.
  • Choose your export options. You can have the project open immediately in Visual Studio.
  • Once the project has been loaded into Visual Studio, you can modify and compile the DLL  as you wish

Further information

We have already told you  how to open a DLL file in Windows.

Although these file types were originally unique to Windows, they have evolved over time and can now be used by all modern operating systems.

How to open DLL files on mac

Mac OS computers already have their own notepad and is known by the name Textedit, it is very similar to Windows notepad, as it generates plain text, but is quite useful for  opening a DLL file.

To be able to open it, right-click on the file and select “Open with” and then “Textedit” from the drop-down menu.

Once this is done, you will see that the file will open and you can view the code, in the same way as in Windows Notepad.

How to open DLL files on an Android device

Android does not natively have an application that allows you to  open a DLL file, but by downloading a file reader from the Google Play store it is possible to open and decompile them.

One of the apps available is File Viewer for Android.

Using this application is very simple, you just have to start it and once inside the app, browse the device files to find the DLL file, then press on the file to open it and that’s it.

How to open DLL files on an iOS device

As with Android, an iPhone does not have a native application that allows you to view these types of files, but you can download an application that facilitates this from the App Store.

The File Viewer app  is one of those we can use. The file viewer is a very simple app to use, you need to launch the application first, then search for the DLL file and then click on it to open it. That’s all.

Now you know how to open DLL files in Windows  and other operating systems as well.

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