I have a piece a malware to analyze. It is a DLL according to the IMAGE_FILE_HEADER->Characteristics. I was trying to do some dynamic analysis on it. I have done the following:

  • Run it with rundll32.exe, by calling its exports. Nothing.
  • Changed the binary's characteristics to an exe. Nothing.

So I moved on to static analysis, Loaded on IDA and OllyDbg. Which brings me to my question. :)

What is the main difference between DllMain and DllEntryPoint?

When/How does one get call vs the other?


So after reading MSDN and a couple of books on MS programming. I understand DllEntryPoint. DllEntryPoint is your DllMain when writing your code. Right?! So then why have DllMain. In other words, when opening the binary in IDA you have DllEntryPoint and DllMain.

I know it is probably something easy but I am visual person, so obviously not seeing something here.


3 Answers 3


Both, DllMain and DllEntryPoint are merely symbolic names of the same concept. They even share the same prototype. But they aren't the same:

The function must be defined with the __stdcall calling convention. The parameters and return value must be defined as documented in the Win32 API for WinMain (for an .exe file) or DllEntryPoint (for a DLL). It is recommended that you let the linker set the entry point so that the C run-time library is initialized correctly, and C++ constructors for static objects are executed.

(MSDN Library from Visual Studio 2005)

The entry point in a DLL is the same as in an EXE technically, but with different semantics and prototype (EXE vs. DLL). Both are to be found at IMAGE_OPTIONAL_HEADER::AddressOfEntryPoint. However, in a DLL this entry point is optional (although usually supplied by the runtime library). The entry point isn't explicitly exported through the export directory (although IDA for example shows them under "Exports"). Most of the time there is no public name attached to this entry point, which is why the documentation refers to it as DllEntryPoint. If you find this name in the export directory of the PE file it's probably not the actual entry point from the PE optional header (this would have to be confirmed by looking at the exact sample, though). The last point, btw, holds for DllMain as well.

DllMain is the name the runtime library (ATL, MFC ...) implementation expects you to supply. It's a name the linker will see referenced from the default implementation of DllEntryPoint which is named _DllMainCRTStartup in the runtime implementations. See the CRT source files crtdll.c and dllcrt0.c if you have Visual Studio.

This means that DllEntryPoint calls DllMain - assuming default behavior. The runtime-implemented entry point function (_DllMainCRTStartup) does other initialization.

You can override this name by using the /entry command line switch to the linker. Again, it's just a name and you can choose whatever you fancy. The limitations (not being able to load another DLL using LoadLibrary from within the entry point and so on) are independent of the name you give the function.

Side-note: in an EXE the TLS callbacks run before the entry point code, which can be dangerous in malware research. I don't think this is relevant to DLLs, though, but if someone has more knowledge in that area I'm interested to see pointers to material.

Peter Ferrie, a distinguished reverser and malware analyst, pointed out in a comment to this answer:

TLS callbacks always run in statically-linked DLLs, and since Vista, they also run in dynamically-linked DLLs! For more information, see my TLS presentations, and of course my "Ultimate" Anti-Debugging Reference

Thanks Peter.


DllEntryPoint - is the address from which the execution will start (but does not have to if we are speaking about malware) after the loader had finished the loading process of the PE image. This address is specified inside the PE optional header. Please look here. The other name for DllEntryPoint is AddressOfEntryPoint.

DllMain - is the default function name that is given during DLL development and it is how the compiler knows that it should take the address of this function and put it inside PE AddressOfEntryPoint field. The developer can change this name to whatever he wants but he should instruct the compiler then, what function to use in that case. In addition, if the library is just a bunch of functions (let's say not an application ), then the compiler will provide default implementation of the DllMain function. Please look further here in remarks.

  • To what MMavipc has written, I'd add that DllMain is needed to prepare the environment or react differently to various events (Thread creation, loading dll into process, process termination) before the actual dll logic can be called. The call to the actual Dll logic sometimes can be seen in IDA as StartAddress.
    – PhoeniX
    May 23, 2013 at 8:39

When loading time is involved the entry point is DllMain.
(Ex. COM in-process server DLL).
When running time is involved the entry point is DllEntryPoint.
(Ex. LoadLibrary get called).

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