Portable Executable

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File Format
Name Portable Executable
Extension(s) .exe, .dll, .cpl, .efi, .ocx, .scr, .sys, .lib, others
PRONOM x-fmt/411, fmt/899, fmt/900
Kaitai Struct Spec microsoft_pe.ksy

Portable Executable (PE, PE/COFF, PE32, PE32+) is a member of the EXE family of executable file formats. It is used by the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems (starting with Windows 95 and Win32s), EFI and sometimes in other environments. It is an extension/hybrid of MS-DOS EXE, and a successor to NE. Parts of it are derived from COFF.

Despite the name, not all PE files are executable. Some contain only icons, fonts, etc.



  • PE32 format is used by 32-bit Windows.
  • PE32+ format is used by 64-bit Windows.


A PE file begins with the ASCII signature "MZ". At offset 60 is a 4-byte integer pointing to an "extended" header that begins with 'P' 'E' 0x00 0x00. For more information, see MS-DOS EXE.

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