A good understanding of the Portable Executable (PE) file format leads to a good understanding of the operating system. If you know what's in your DLLs and EXEs, you'll be a more knowledgeable programmer. This article, the first of a two-part series, looks at the changes to the PE format that have occurred over the last few years, along with an overview of the format itself.
After this update, the author discusses how the PE format fits into applications written for .NET, PE file sections, RVAs, the DataDirectory, and the importing of functions. An appendix includes lists of the relevant image header structures and their descriptions.
Note: I have updated the archive to include the second part of this paper and have included the PE32 file used for reference.