Linking a C++ DLL of a Solution in Visual Studio 2012








If you use Visual Studio to include your own dynamic library for the first time, most of you will encounter this lengthy error:

Error 12 error LNK2019: unresolved external symbol "public: ..."

When you search "visual studio c++ LNK2019: unresolved external symbol" in StackOverflow, the system returns nearly 1000 questions. As you can see, some of them are even marked as duplicated. In fact, existing answers in the previous posts do contain the procedure to solve this error if you are quite familar with C++ development. But it is too implicit for many newcomers to understand. This post will give you a step-by-step guide to solve this problem.

Problem Settings

ProjectDll (say in MySolution\ProjectDll) which implements the library functions

ProjectApp (say in MySolution\ProjectApp) which contains the functions that use the library

And compile with errors LNK2019.

Step 1: Verify the ProjectDll as a DLL project

In Solution Explorer,

1a. Right click ProjectDll –> Properties

1b. Configuration Properties –> General –> Configuration Type –> Dynamic Library (.dll)


Step 2: Mark and export the functions/classes/data to the library

2a. Create a header file, say CommonHeader.h in ProjectDll project


#define _PROJDLL_API __declspec(dllexport)
#define _PROJDLL_API __declspec(dllimport)

The reason using __declspec(dllexport) and __declspec(dllimport) can be found in [4] and [5].

2b. Mark all the required functions/classes/data which have to be exposed

And don't forget to #include "CommonHeader.h" only in the corresponding header(*.h) files.

For example,

In MySystem.h in ProjectDll

class MySystem{..}  ------> class _PROJDLL_API MySystem{..}

extern double GlobalVarA; ------> extern _PROJDLL_API double GlobalVarA;

2c. We need to define the symbol _PROJDLL_EXPORTS to activate __declspec(dllexport) only for this project. However, as the CommonHeader.h will be shared with ProjectApp, we cannot add #define _PROJDLL_EXPORTS in the header files used by another project. One way is to do this in compilation option

Configuration Properties –> C/C++ –> Preprocessor –> Preprocessor Definitions –> Add _PROJDLL_EXPORTS


Step 3: Build the libary

3a. Right click ProjectDll –> Build

Notice a .dll file and a .lib file in In the same window, MySolution\Debug\ directory.


Step 4: Set the Dependencies

4a. In Solution Explorer, right click ProjectDll and open Project Dependencies with the following settings:

Projects: ProjectDll

Depends on: ProjectApp

After this, modifications on ProjectDll will lead to recompilation of ProjectApp.


Step 5: Include necessary files when compiling ProjectApp

5a. Right click ProjectApp –> Common Properties –> Add New Reference… –> Add the ProjectDll project

5b. In the same window, Configuration Properties –> C/C++ –> General –> Additional Include Directories –> [Directory of the header files of ProjectDll in MySolution\ProjectDll]

5c. In the same window, Configuration Properties –> Linker –> Input –> Additional Dependencies –>  [.lib file of ProjectDll in MySolution\Debug$$


Step 6: Compile ProjectApp

Right click ProjectApp –> Build


Right click ProjectApp –> Set as StartUp Project

Press Build in the Toolbar


You need to repeat the above steps for Release mode, probably with a different directory of *.lib file. Of course you can use All Configurations next time when making these settings. Readers should also find the reasons behind these settings from online documents and forums.


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