What Does Decompile Mean?

Decompile is the process of converting computer readable code into human readable source code with original code functionality. Decompile is the reverse of compile.


It is impossible use decompilation for original source code reproduction because original code identifiers, such as variable and function names, are rarely stored in computer code. However, code containing metadata or debugging information may include identifiers.

Techopedia Explains Decompile

Decompilation is often performed on computer code when source code is no longer available. Thus, it is a form of reverse engineering. Additionally, decompilation may be used for computer security, interoperability and error correction.

Decompilation is applied for multiple reasons, including:

  • Understanding code functionality
  • Correcting errors
  • Enhancing computer security
  • Removing restrictions, such as passwords, copy protection and time limit
  • Studying computer viruses
  • Recovering lost source code for archiving purposes

Successful decompilation depends on available code information and complexity.

A decompiler (the tool used in decompilation) may be obtained separately, rather than bundled with vendor development tools.

In most cases, copyrighted software decompilation is illegal. However, in the U.S. and Europe, copyright laws allow limited decompilation usage, such as interoperability.


Related Terms

Latest DevOps Terms

Related Reading

Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…