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A manifest file in Microsoft Windows is a text file with .manifest extension that accompanies and holds metadata for executable files and DLLs. It contains XML version, encoding(UTF-8 etc.), assembly version trust information, privileges requested and even execution level.

An example of .manifest file is as follows:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<assembly xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1" manifestVersion="1.0">
  <assemblyIdentity version="" name="MyApplication.app"/>
  <trustInfo xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v2">
      <requestedPrivileges xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v3">
        <requestedExecutionLevel level="asInvoker" uiAccess="false"/>

See Comparison of privilege authorization features and Side-by-side assembly.