(For 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows, inter-process sharing occurs only where different executables load a module from exactly the same directory; the code but not the stack is shared between processes through a process called "memory mapping".) Thus, even when the desired DLL is located in a directory where it can be expected to be found, such as in the system directory or the application directory, neither of these instances will be used if another application has started with an incompatible version from a third directory.
This issue can manifest itself as a 16-bit application error that occurs only when applications are started in a specific order.
Even minor changes to the DLL code can cause this directory to be re-arranged, in which case an application that calls a particular method believing it to be the 4th item in the directory might end up calling an entirely different and incompatible routine, which would normally cause the application to crash.
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Shared libraries allow common code to be bundled into a wrapper, the DLL, and used by any application software on the system without loading multiple copies into memory.
A simple example might be the GUI text editor, which is widely used by many programs.
Standard tools to simplify application deployment (which always involves shipping the dependent operating system DLLs) were provided by Microsoft and other 3rd party tools vendors.
Microsoft even required application vendors to use a standard installer and have their installation program certified to work correctly, before being granted use of the Microsoft logo.
DLL incompatibility has been caused by: DLL Hell was a very common phenomenon on pre-Windows NT versions of Microsoft operating systems, the primary cause being that the 16-bit operating systems did not restrict processes to their own memory space, thereby not allowing them to load their own version of a shared module that they were compatible with.
Application installers were expected to be good citizens and verify DLL version information before overwriting the existing system DLLs.
The difficulties include conflicts between DLL versions, difficulty in obtaining required DLLs, and having many unnecessary DLL copies. A particular version of a library can be compatible with some programs that use it and incompatible with others.
Solutions to these problems were known even while Microsoft was writing the DLL system. Windows has been particularly vulnerable to this because of its emphasis on dynamic linking of C libraries and Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) objects.
In this case, every application grows by the size of all the libraries it uses, and this can be quite large for modern programs.