Converting a CPP File to an EXE: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

Table of contents:

Converting a CPP File to an EXE: 7 Steps (with Pictures)
Converting a CPP File to an EXE: 7 Steps (with Pictures)

This tutorial gives you step-by-step instructions on how to convert C++ source files to.exe files, which will work on most (to avoid the word 'all') Windows computers. Other extensions that work with this are.cpp,.cc, and.cxx (and.c, to some extent, but don't assume it will work). This guide assumes that the C++ source code is intended for a console application and does not require any external libraries.


Compile CPP File to EXE Step 1

Step 1. First you need a C++ compiler

One of the best compilers for Windows is the free Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 Express.

Compile CPP File to EXE Step 2

Step 2. Start a new project in Visual C++

This is quite simple. Click the 'New Project' button in the top left corner and follow the steps to create an 'Empty Project'. Give it a name and click 'Finish' in the next window.

Compile CPP File to EXE Step 3

Step 3. Copy and paste all.cpp files to the "Source Files" folder and copy all

h files (if any) to the 'Header Files' folder. Rename the main.cpp file (the one with 'int main()') to the name of the project you chose. The external dependencies file will populate itself.

Compile CPP File to EXE Step 4

Step 4. Build and Compile

Press the [F7] key when you are done with all of the above and the program will be created.

Compile CPP File to EXE Step 5

Step 5. Locate the exe file

Navigate to the 'Projects' file where Visual C++ installs all programs (in Windows 7 this is the Documents folder). It will be in the file with the name you gave it earlier under the 'Debug' directory.

Compile CPP File to EXE Step 6

Step 6. Test it

Double click on the.exe file to run it and if all went well the program should work fine. If it doesn't, try going through the steps again.

Compile CPP File to EXE Step 7

Step 7. If you want the program to run on another computer, the VC++ Runtime Libraries must be installed on that computer

C++ programs compiled with Visual Studio C++ require these program libraries. You don't have to install it separately on your machine, because it is installed with Visual Studio, but you should not expect your customers to have it. Download link:


  • Sometimes errors can be generated because the original author used outdated methods or forgot to include the source code dependencies.
  • Make sure your Visual C++ Express is up-to-date so there are no errors during compilation.
  • In most cases, it is more efficient to let the creator of a program compile it for you. Only compile it yourself if there is absolutely no other way.


  • STAY AWAY from Dev-C++. It features an outdated compiler, has over 340 known bugs, and hasn't been updated in 5 years, leaving it in a perpetual beta. If possible, use ANY OTHER COMPILER AND IDE EXCEPT Dev-C++.
  • Since C++ and C are very low-level programming languages, they have the potential to harm your computer. A quick check you can do is to check if the.cpp files have the line '#include WINDOWS.h' at the top. If so, DO NOT compile the program and ask the creator why they need access to the Windows API. If they can't provide a satisfactory answer, ask an expert in a forum for help.

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