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In Microsoft™ Windows™ operating systems, the kernel32.dll is the central module that contains the core processes or heart of the operating system. At boot, the kernel32.dll loads into memory, regulating operations as the user runs various tasks and programs. The kernel32.dll file is so-named because like an organic kernel, it contains the operating system’s fundamental processes. The number 32 denotes a 32-bit operating system, and the file extension .dll stands for dynamic link library.
A .dll file can be thought of as a container that holds shortcuts or links to a variety of executable processes or functions, though a .dll can also contain data. There are many .dll files in an operating system, and most software programs written for Windows contain one or more .dll files.
A .dll file can be accessed by more than one program at a time, so the kernel32.dll serves not only the operating system itself, but can also accommodate installed third-party programs that have been written to utilize one or more of its processes. Additionally, the kernel32.dll file regulates memory management, input and output streams, necessary task management and disk management.
When the kernel32.dll loads into memory, it protects the address field or “page” it occupies to keep other programs from stealing memory it will require to operate. Sometimes it happens that software will attempt to access this memory page, triggering an “invalid page fault error.” On occasion, a single program can produce this error, but it can also happen that a combination of several open programs might cause a page fault error. Normally, shutting down problematic programs and re-starting them will solve the problem, as programs will seek alternate memory addresses upon the re-start. In other cases, a reboot is necessary to clean the memory slate and start over.
If a particular program continually produces a page fault error, it probably requires a patch – a small file that updates the software to fix bugs, security holes, or compatibility issues. This should be available by the author of the program, assuming the software is in active development.
Many other issues can also result in page fault errors. A partial list includes a damaged or incorrect version of the kernel32.dll file itself, damaged swap file, damaged file allocation table, damaged registry, bad drivers or incorrectly installed drivers, incorrect settings in the BIOS, excessive overclocking and overheating, and viruses or malware. If you need help troubleshooting errors related to the kernel32.dll, many websites provide guides. You can also freely download replacement kernel32.dll files online.
Ever get that "kernel32.dll missing" error on a Windows machine? That's never good, making it all the more important to set system restore points regularly and to make sure to try starting a Windows machine from "last good configuration" before going into a panic, throwing things and/or crying.
Missing kernels were almost always fatal prior to XP, but they're not as much of a worry these days. Thank goodness for that.