Short Tutorial: Executable and Linkable Format [Updated 2023]

Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) is a default format on Linux based systems. It defines the structure of binary files used in Linux, Unix, OpenBSD etc.

Remember one thing, ELF is mainly used for or we can say that common standard for:

  • shared libraries
  • object files
  • core dumps
  • executable files

Components of ELF files

Header file <elf.h> defines the format of ELF files.

man elf

ELF is broadly divided into the following components:

executable header
program headers (optional)
section headers (optional)

Tools used to analyze ELF binaries

Tool NameDescription
filepopular Linux utility to know the information about the format of binary
Usage: file <bin>
readelfUNIX utility to identify information of binary
Usage: $readelf -a test.o
elfdumpextract information of ELF files
objdumpdisplay information of object files (one or more)
elfutilscollection of binary tools to analyze and manipulate ELF files

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Disclaimer: This tutorial is for educational purpose only. Individual is solely responsible for any illegal act.

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