perlwin32 - Perl under Win32


These are instructions for building Perl under Windows NT (versions 3.51 or 4.0). Currently, this port is reported to build under Windows95 using the 4DOS shell--the default shell that infests Windows95 will not work (see below). Note this caveat is only about building perl. Once built, you should be able to use it on either Win32 platform (modulo the problems arising from the inferior command shell).


Before you start, you should glance through the README file found in the top-level directory where the Perl distribution was extracted. Make sure you read and understand the terms under which this software is being distributed.

Also make sure you read BUGS AND CAVEATS below for the known limitations of this port.

The INSTALL file in the perl top-level has much information that is only relevant to people building Perl on Unix-like systems. In particular, you can safely ignore any information that talks about ``Configure''.

You may also want to look at two other options for building a perl that will work on Windows NT: the README.cygwin32 and README.os2 files, which each give a different set of rules to build a Perl that will work on Win32 platforms. Those two methods will probably enable you to build a more Unix-compatible perl, but you will also need to download and use various other build-time and run-time support software described in those files.

This set of instructions is meant to describe a so-called ``native'' port of Perl to Win32 platforms. The resulting Perl requires no additional software to run (other than what came with your operating system). Currently, this port is capable of using one of the following compilers:

      Borland C++               version 5.02 or later
      Microsoft Visual C++      version 4.2 or later
      Mingw32 with EGCS         version 1.0.2
      Mingw32 with GCC          version 2.8.1

The last two of these are high quality freeware compilers. Support for them is still experimental.

This port currently supports MakeMaker (the set of modules that is used to build extensions to perl). Therefore, you should be able to build and install most extensions found in the CPAN sites. See Usage Hints below for general hints about this.

Setting Up

Command Shell

Use the default ``cmd'' shell that comes with NT. Some versions of the popular 4DOS/NT shell have incompatibilities that may cause you trouble. If the build fails under that shell, try building again with the cmd shell. The Makefile also has known incompatibilites with the ``'' shell that comes with Windows95, so building under Windows95 should be considered ``unsupported''. However, there have been reports of successful build attempts using 4DOS/NT version 6.01 under Windows95, using dmake, but your mileage may vary.

The surest way to build it is on WindowsNT, using the cmd shell.

Borland C++

If you are using the Borland compiler, you will need dmake, a freely available make that has very nice macro features and parallelability. (The make that Borland supplies is seriously crippled, and will not work for MakeMaker builds.)

A port of dmake for win32 platforms is available from:

Fetch and install dmake somewhere on your path (follow the instructions in the README.NOW file).

Microsoft Visual C++

The NMAKE that comes with Visual C++ will suffice for building. You will need to run the VCVARS32.BAT file usually found somewhere like C:\MSDEV4.2\BIN. This will set your build environment.

You can also use dmake to build using Visual C++, provided: you set OSRELEASE to ``microsft'' (or whatever the directory name under which the Visual C dmake configuration lives) in your environment, and edit win32/ to change ``make=nmake'' into ``make=dmake''. The latter step is only essential if you want to use dmake as your default make for building extensions using MakeMaker.

Mingw32 with EGCS or GCC

ECGS-1.0.2 binaries can be downloaded from:

GCC-2.8.1 binaries are available from:

You only need either one of those, not both. Both bundles come with Mingw32 libraries and headers. While both of them work to build perl, the EGCS binaries are currently favored by the maintainers, since they come with more up-to-date Mingw32 libraries.

Make sure you install the binaries as indicated in the web sites above. You will need to set up a few environment variables (usually run from a batch file).



Type ``dmake test'' (or ``nmake test''). This will run most of the tests from the testsuite (many tests will be skipped, and but no test should fail).

If some tests do fail, it may be because you are using a different command shell than the native ``cmd.exe''.

If you used the Borland compiler, you may see a failure in op/taint.t arising from the inability to find the Borland Runtime DLLs on the system default path. You will need to copy the DLLs reported by the messages from where Borland chose to install it, into the Windows system directory (usually somewhere like C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32), and rerun the test.

The Visual C runtime apparently has a bug that causes posix.t to fail one it test#2. This usually happens only if you extracted the files in text mode.

Please report any other failures as described under BUGS AND CAVEATS.


Type ``dmake install'' (or ``nmake install''). This will put the newly built perl and the libraries under whatever INST_TOP points to in the Makefile. It will also install the pod documentation under $INST_TOP\$VERSION\lib\pod and HTML versions of the same under $INST_TOP\$VERSION\lib\pod\html. To use the Perl you just installed, you will need to add two components to your PATH environment variable, $INST_TOP\$VERSION\bin, and $INST_TOP\$VERSION\bin\$ARCHNAME. For example:

    set PATH c:\perl\5.005\bin;c:\perl\5.005\bin\MSWin32-x6;%PATH%

Usage Hints

Environment Variables

The installation paths that you set during the build get compiled into perl, so you don't have to do anything additional to start using that perl (except add its location to your PATH variable).

If you put extensions in unusual places, you can set PERL5LIB to a list of paths separated by semicolons where you want perl to look for libraries. Look for descriptions of other environment variables you can set in the perlrun manpage.

You can also control the shell that perl uses to run system() and backtick commands via PERL5SHELL. See the perlrun manpage.

Currently, Perl does not depend on the registry, but can look up values if you choose to put them there. [XXX add registry locations that perl looks at here.]

File Globbing

By default, perl spawns an external program to do file globbing. The install process installs both a perlglob.exe and a perlglob.bat that perl can use for this purpose. Note that with the default installation, perlglob.exe will be found by the system before perlglob.bat.

perlglob.exe relies on the argv expansion done by the C Runtime of the particular compiler you used, and therefore behaves very differently depending on the Runtime used to build it. To preserve compatiblity, perlglob.bat (a perl script that can be used portably) is installed. Besides being portable, perlglob.bat also offers enhanced globbing functionality.

If you want perl to use perlglob.bat instead of perlglob.exe, just delete perlglob.exe from the install location (or move it somewhere perl cannot find). Using (which implements the core functionality of perlglob.bat) to override the internal CORE::glob() works about 10 times faster than spawing perlglob.exe, and you should take this approach when writing new modules. See File::DosGlob for details.

Using perl from the command line

If you are accustomed to using perl from various command-line shells found in UNIX environments, you will be less than pleased with what Windows NT offers by way of a command shell.

The crucial thing to understand about the ``cmd'' shell (which is the default on Windows NT) is that it does not do any wildcard expansions of command-line arguments (so wildcards need not be quoted). It also provides only rudimentary quoting. The only (useful) quote character is the double quote (``). It can be used to protect spaces in arguments and other special characters. The Windows NT documentation has almost no description of how the quoting rules are implemented, but here are some general observations based on experiments: The shell breaks arguments at spaces and passes them to programs in argc/argv. Doublequotes can be used to prevent arguments with spaces in them from being split up. You can put a double quote in an argument by escaping it with a backslash and enclosing the whole argument within double quotes. The backslash and the pair of double quotes surrounding the argument will be stripped by the shell.

The file redirection characters ``<'', ``>'', and ``|'' cannot be quoted by double quotes (there are probably more such). Single quotes will protect those three file redirection characters, but the single quotes don't get stripped by the shell (just to make this type of quoting completely useless). The caret ``^'' has also been observed to behave as a quoting character (and doesn't get stripped by the shell also).

Here are some examples of usage of the ``cmd'' shell:

This prints two doublequotes:

    perl -e "print '\"\"' "

This does the same:

    perl -e "print \"\\\"\\\"\" "

This prints ``bar'' and writes ``foo'' to the file ``blurch'':

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" > blurch

This prints ``foo'' (``bar'' disappears into nowhereland):

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2> nul

This prints ``bar'' and writes ``foo'' into the file ``blurch'':

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 1> blurch

This pipes ``foo'' to the ``less'' pager and prints ``bar'' on the console:

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" | less

This pipes ``foo\nbar\n'' to the less pager:

    perl -le "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2>&1 | less

This pipes ``foo'' to the pager and writes ``bar'' in the file ``blurch'':

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2> blurch | less

Discovering the usefulness of the ``'' shell on Windows95 is left as an exercise to the reader :)

Building Extensions

The Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) offers a wealth of extensions, some of which require a C compiler to build. Look in for more information on CPAN.

Most extensions (whether they require a C compiler or not) can be built, tested and installed with the standard mantra:

    perl Makefile.PL
    $MAKE test
    $MAKE install

where $MAKE stands for NMAKE or DMAKE. Some extensions may not provide a testsuite (so ``$MAKE test'' may not do anything, or fail), but most serious ones do.

If a module implements XSUBs, you will need one of the supported C compilers. You must make sure you have set up the environment for the compiler for command-line compilation.

If a module does not build for some reason, look carefully for why it failed, and report problems to the module author. If it looks like the extension building support is at fault, report that with full details of how the build failed using the perlbug utility.

Command-line Wildcard Expansion

The default command shells on DOS descendant operating systems (such as they are) usually do not expand wildcard arguments supplied to programs. They consider it the application's job to handle that. This is commonly achieved by linking the application (in our case, perl) with startup code that the C runtime libraries usually provide. However, doing that results in incompatible perl versions (since the behavior of the argv expansion code differs depending on the compiler, and it is even buggy on some compilers). Besides, it may be a source of frustration if you use such a perl binary with an alternate shell that *does* expand wildcards.

Instead, the following solution works rather well. The nice things about it: 1) you can start using it right away 2) it is more powerful, because it will do the right thing with a pattern like */*/*.c 3) you can decide whether you do/don't want to use it 4) you can extend the method to add any customizations (or even entirely different kinds of wildcard expansion).

        C:\> copy con c:\perl\lib\
        # - emulate shell @ARGV expansion on shells that don't
        use File::DosGlob;
        @ARGV = map {
                      my @g = File::DosGlob::glob($_) if /[*?]/;
                      @g ? @g : $_;
                    } @ARGV;
        C:\> set PERL5OPT=-MWild
        C:\> perl -le "for (@ARGV) { print }" */*/perl*.c

Note there are two distinct steps there: 1) You'll have to create and put it in your perl lib directory. 2) You'll need to set the PERL5OPT environment variable. If you want argv expansion to be the default, just set PERL5OPT in your default startup environment.

If you are using the Visual C compiler, you can get the C runtime's command line wildcard expansion built into perl binary. The resulting binary will always expand unquoted command lines, which may not be what you want if you use a shell that does that for you. The expansion done is also somewhat less powerful than the approach suggested above.

Win32 Specific Extensions

A number of extensions specific to the Win32 platform are available from CPAN. You may find that many of these extensions are meant to be used under the Activeware port of Perl, which used to be the only native port for the Win32 platform. Since the Activeware port does not have adequate support for Perl's extension building tools, these extensions typically do not support those tools either, and therefore cannot be built using the generic steps shown in the previous section.

To ensure smooth transitioning of existing code that uses the ActiveState port, there is a bundle of Win32 extensions that contains all of the ActiveState extensions and most other Win32 extensions from CPAN in source form, along with many added bugfixes, and with MakeMaker support. This bundle is available at:

See the README in that distribution for building and installation instructions. Look for later versions that may be available at the same location.

Running Perl Scripts

Perl scripts on UNIX use the ``#!'' (a.k.a ``shebang'') line to indicate to the OS that it should execute the file using perl. Win32 has no comparable means to indicate arbitrary files are executables.

Instead, all available methods to execute plain text files on Win32 rely on the file ``extension''. There are three methods to use this to execute perl scripts:

  1. There is a facility called ``file extension associations'' that will work in Windows NT 4.0. This can be manipulated via the two commands ``assoc'' and ``ftype'' that come standard with Windows NT 4.0. Type ``ftype /?'' for a complete example of how to set this up for perl scripts (Say what? You thought Windows NT wasn't perl-ready? :).

  2. Since file associations don't work everywhere, and there are reportedly bugs with file associations where it does work, the old method of wrapping the perl script to make it look like a regular batch file to the OS, may be used. The install process makes available the ``pl2bat.bat'' script which can be used to wrap perl scripts into batch files. For example:


    will create the file ``FOO.BAT''. Note ``pl2bat'' strips any .pl suffix and adds a .bat suffix to the generated file.

    If you use the 4DOS/NT or similar command shell, note that ``pl2bat'' uses the ``%*'' variable in the generated batch file to refer to all the command line arguments, so you may need to make sure that construct works in batch files. As of this writing, 4DOS/NT users will need a ``ParameterChar = *'' statement in their 4NT.INI file, or will need to execute ``setdos /p*'' in the 4DOS/NT startup file to enable this to work.

  3. Using ``pl2bat'' has a few problems: the file name gets changed, so scripts that rely on $0 to find what they must do may not run properly; running ``pl2bat'' replicates the contents of the original script, and so this process can be maintenance intensive if the originals get updated often. A different approach that avoids both problems is possible.

    A script called ``runperl.bat'' is available that can be copied to any filename (along with the .bat suffix). For example, if you call it ``foo.bat'', it will run the file ``foo'' when it is executed. Since you can run batch files on Win32 platforms simply by typing the name (without the extension), this effectively runs the file ``foo'', when you type either ``foo'' or ``foo.bat''. With this method, ``foo.bat'' can even be in a different location than the file ``foo'', as long as ``foo'' is available somewhere on the PATH. If your scripts are on a filesystem that allows symbolic links, you can even avoid copying ``runperl.bat''.

    Here's a diversion: copy ``runperl.bat'' to ``runperl'', and type ``runperl''. Explain the observed behavior, or lack thereof. :) Hint: .gnidnats llits er'uoy fi ,``lrepnur'' eteled :tniH

Miscellaneous Things

A full set of HTML documentation is installed, so you should be able to use it if you have a web browser installed on your system.

perldoc is also a useful tool for browsing information contained in the documentation, especially in conjunction with a pager like less (recent versions of which have Win32 support). You may have to set the PAGER environment variable to use a specific pager. ``perldoc -f foo'' will print information about the perl operator ``foo''.

If you find bugs in perl, you can run perlbug to create a bug report (you may have to send it manually if perlbug cannot find a mailer on your system).


An effort has been made to ensure that the DLLs produced by the two supported compilers are compatible with each other (despite the best efforts of the compiler vendors). Extension binaries produced by one compiler should also coexist with a perl binary built by a different compiler. In order to accomplish this, PERL.DLL provides a layer of runtime code that uses the C Runtime that perl was compiled with. Extensions which include ``perl.h'' will transparently access the functions in this layer, thereby ensuring that both perl and extensions use the same runtime functions.

If you have had prior exposure to Perl on Unix platforms, you will notice this port exhibits behavior different from what is documented. Most of the differences fall under one of these categories. We do not consider any of them to be serious limitations (especially when compared to the limited nature of some of the Win32 OSes themselves :)

Please send detailed descriptions of any problems and solutions that you may find to <>, along with the output produced by perl -V.


Gary Ng <71564.1743@CompuServe.COM>

Gurusamy Sarathy <>

Nick Ing-Simmons <>

This document is maintained by Gurusamy Sarathy.


the perl manpage


This port was originally contributed by Gary Ng around 5.003_24, and borrowed from the Hip Communications port that was available at the time.

Nick Ing-Simmons and Gurusamy Sarathy have made numerous and sundry hacks since then.

Borland support was added in 5.004_01 (Gurusamy Sarathy).

Last updated: 12 July 1998


We are painfully aware that these documents may contain incorrect links and misformatted HTML. Such bugs lie in the automatic translation process that automatically created the hundreds and hundreds of separate documents that you find here. Please do not report link or formatting bugs, because we cannot fix per-document problems. The only bug reports that will help us are those that supply working patches to the installhtml or pod2html programs, or to the Pod::HTML module itself, for which I and the entire Perl community will shower you with thanks and praises.

If rather than formatting bugs, you encounter substantive content errors in these documents, such as mistakes in the explanations or code, please use the perlbug utility included with the Perl distribution.

--Tom Christiansen, Perl Documentation Compiler and Editor

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