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It is my understanding that the Windows operating system (windows 7 to be exact) must come with a C compiler because the OS is written in C. How can I access such a compiler to compile my C source code?

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It doesn't come with one. You'll have to download a suitable compiler. –  Sathya Mar 7 at 7:45
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er, you compile, build & ship the executable files. Much like how most closed source software is distributed. –  Sathya Mar 7 at 7:49
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Windows doesn't come with its own code either. –  jlliagre Mar 7 at 7:49
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What Sathya says is correct (at least for the versions of Windows I'm familiar with). Compiled code does not need a compiler to be present to execute. It is compiled before its put onto the disk and you only get the finished product which executes the, if you like, assembler code. –  davidgo Mar 7 at 7:49
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No, it doesn't need an assembler either. It's all precompiled machine code binaries. The actual numeric opcodes that are directly executed by the CPU. –  Spiff Mar 7 at 8:06

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Not necessarily - You'd just need the necessary libraries - like libc or mscrt if they are dynamically linked, or just suitable runtime support for the binaries you are running . Even many linux distributions do not come with compilers built in (I often end up installing build-essential for Ubuntu when I need to compile packages for example), so expecting windows to have one built in is not correct.

You can run compiled files without a compiler on the system. Its interpreted languages that often need the language tools installed to run - like Java or Python

If you must have a compiler, there's two fairly common options - the open source mingw or microsoft's visual studio - there's a free version called visual studio express. Install and configure one and carry one.

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There are others, of course, like OpenWatcom. There's probably a "What C/C++ compilers are available for Windows?" question somewhere. –  JdeBP Mar 7 at 8:56

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