What is Global Assembly Cache (GAC)?
The Global Assembly Cache, more commonly known as GAC, is a central location in the Microsoft .NET Framework where shared assemblies are saved. These assemblies, also known as class libraries, contain a collection of code modules that can be used in multiple applications. The GAC simplifies the installation and maintenance of these assemblies, allowing them to be easily accessed by any application that needs them.
In the .NET Framework, assemblies are essential components that contain executable code, metadata, and resources. They can be created by developers, third-party vendors, or the .NET Framework itself. While most assemblies are private to a specific application, some assemblies need to be shared across multiple applications.
This is where the GAC comes in. As a global cache, it allows multiple applications to use the same version of an assembly without having to copy it into each application’s private directory. Assemblies in the GAC are also isolated from the application directory and are not overwritten by application installation or uninstallation.
To install an assembly into the GAC, you need to use the Global Assembly Cache tool (gacutil). Gacutil is a command-line tool that comes with the .NET Framework SDK. It allows developers to view the contents of the GAC, install assemblies into the GAC, uninstall assemblies from the GAC, and check the status of assembly installation in the GAC.
One of the key benefits of the GAC is that it allows administrators to manage assembly versions efficiently. Assemblies in the GAC are assigned a version number, and multiple versions of the same assembly can coexist in the GAC. This allows applications to use the specific version of the assembly they require, even if other applications require a different version of the same assembly.
Another advantage of the GAC is that it provides a secure location for strongly named assemblies. A strongly named assembly contains a public key token that ensures the assembly’s integrity and authenticity. By saving a strongly named assembly in the GAC, you can be sure that it has not been tampered with or replaced by a malicious version.
In summary, the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) is a crucial component of the Microsoft .NET Framework that simplifies the installation and maintenance of shared assemblies. It provides a central location where multiple applications can access the same version of an assembly, isolating it from the application directory and securing it with strong naming. By using the GAC, developers can create more robust applications that are easier to manage and maintain.