dynamic link library (DLL)

A dynamic link library (DLL) is a collection of small programs that can be loaded when needed by larger programs and used at the same time. The small program lets the larger program communicate with a specific device, such as a printer or scanner. It is often packaged as a DLL program, which is usually referred to as a DLL file. DLL files that support specific device operation are known as device drivers.

A DLL file is often given a ".dll" file name suffix. DLL files are dynamically linked with the program that uses them during program execution rather than being compiled into the main program.

The advantage of DLL files is space is saved in random access memory (RAM) because the files don't get loaded into RAM together with the main program. When a DLL file is needed, it is loaded and run. For example, as long as a user is editing a document in Microsoft Word, the printer DLL file does not need to be loaded into RAM. If the user decides to print the document, the Word application causes the printer DLL file to be loaded and run.

A program is separated into modules when using a DLL. With modularized components, a program can be sold by module, have faster load times and be updated without altering other parts of the program. DLLs help operating systems and programs run faster, use memory efficiently and take up less disk space.

This was last updated in June 2007

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