Technology Explained Windows

Microsoft .NET Framework: Why You Need It and How to Install It on Windows

Joel Lee 14-10-2016

If you download and install software often How to Find Open Source Software for Windows Are you concerned about privacy, data security, or malicious code hidden in your software? With proprietary software, you just never really know what the program is doing with your data. Open source is the answer! Read More , you’ve probably run into errors involving the Microsoft .NET Framework. The two most common errors? Either you don’t have it installed on your system, or you have the wrong version of it.


Why does this happen? And more importantly, what is this so-called .NET Framework and why should you care? Well, in a lot of ways, the .NET Framework is what allows modern Windows to be what it is.

What Is the .NET Framework?

First things first: it’s pronounced dot net.

Before we dive into what the .NET Framework is, it may be more helpful to explore why the .NET Framework exists. For this, you’ll need a bit of programming context — but if you’ve never coded a single thing in your life, don’t worry! This explanation will assume you have absolutely zero programming experience.

You probably already know that programmers (i.e. people who create software) need to “write code” in order to make Windows apps. They do this using different “programming languages”, which let you write code that tells the computer what to do.

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The problem is that programming languages are primitive on their own. They can handle simple computations like addition and multiplication, but can’t do much more than that. Want to put text or images on the screen? Then you’ll need to write a bunch of code using the most basic components of the language to do that — and this can take up a lot of time.

That’s where the .NET Framework steps in. At its core, the .NET Framework provides an entire collection of already-written code (written and maintained by Microsoft A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us Microsoft just released a significant part of its code under a permissive open source license. This move breaks with years of tradition. But why and what does it mean for you? Read More ) that programmers can use to quickly create software. For example, the .NET Framework handles a lot of boring behind-the-scenes operations like telling Windows how to draw a window on the screen — as a programmer, I’d just need to supply what text to include, how the menus are laid out, what buttons should do when clicked, etc.

But the .NET Framework is much more than that. It provides additional tools that can speed up overall development time, as well as additional APIs (what the heck is an API? What Are APIs, And How Are Open APIs Changing The Internet Have you ever wondered how programs on your computer and the websites you visit "talk" to each other? Read More ) that programmmers can use to easily interact with certain services, such as the Windows Store. Instead of hand-writing all of the code that an app needs in order to be considered a UWP (universal Windows platform) app, for example, the .NET Framework provides all of that.



But there is one downside to creating an app with the .NET Framework: your computer doesn’t know how to run Framework-based apps unless you have the Framework installed on your system.

This means that the .NET Framework is actually comprised of two parts. The first part contains all of the already-written code that programmers need (formerly called SDKs but now referred to as Dev Packs). The second part contains a program that can “interpret” .NET Framework code into commands for the operating system, allowing you to run apps written with the .NET Framework (known as a Redistributable Package but also called Runtime Environment by some).

It’s similar to Java in that you need to install the Java Runtime Environment in order to run apps that were coded in Java.

Long story short: as a regular user who won’t be coding apps, you only need .NET Framework Redistributable Packages.


How to Install the .NET Framework

Most Windows computers come with the .NET Framework already installed, but yours may be outdated. For example, Windows 8 and 8.1 come with version 4.5.1, while Windows 10 can come with 4.6, 4.6.1, or 4.6.2 installed, depending on the newness of the computer.

If you need to install a newer version, the process is simple. As of this writing, the .NET Framework has reached version 4.6.2 so that’s the one we’ll be installing. Future versions of the framework should be just as easy to install.

Image Credit: Khakimullin Aleksandr via Shutterstock

Note that you can install the .NET Framework through Windows Update, but it’s a lot easier if you just use the manual method below. You probably have Windows Update disabled or deferred How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It works in the background, and keeps your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize. Read More anyway, in which case this will be the preferred method.


Before You Begin — .NET Framework 4.6.2 can be installed on Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7 SP1 on both x86 and x64 systems. Microsoft recommends at least 2.5 GB of unused disk space 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer Clutter can be a big downer on productivity. Over time, files get lost, programs go unused, and suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up.... Read More to ensure that installation completes without a hitch.

As with most of their products, Microsoft offers two kinds of installers: a web installer and an offline installer.

The web installer is extremely small up front (less than 2 MB), but downloads all necessary components during the installation process, which requires a stable and consistent internet connection.

The offline installer is a larger up-front download (approximately 60 MB) that doesn’t require any internet access during installation. Choose this option if you want to install on a separate computer with shoddy internet or no internet at all.

Either one is fine, but we prefer using the offline installer because it’s more reliable and you can re-use it if you need to re-install the .NET Framework for some reason. Once downloaded, the installation process is fairly straightforward. Just follow the wizard as you would when installing any other app.

Download: .NET Framework 4.6.2 Web Installer

Download: .NET Framework 4.6.2 Offline Installer


Note that installing the 4.6.2 version of the .NET Framework is an in-place update to previous versions starting with 4.5 (which includes 4, 4.5, 4.5.1, 4.5.2, 4.6, and 4.6.1) so do not uninstall those older versions after the fact. Versions 3.5 SP1 and prior are kept as a separate installation.

By default, the .NET Framework installs in English regardless of which installer you use. To localize it into another language, you must download the appropriate Language Pack of the same .NET Framework version (in this case, 4.6.2). Language Packs are only available as offline installers.

On the download page below, select the language you want, wait for the page to reload, then click Download.

Download: .NET Framework 4.6.2 Language Pack

One More Thing on the .NET Framework

A few years back Microsoft went ahead and open sourced the .NET Framework A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us Microsoft just released a significant part of its code under a permissive open source license. This move breaks with years of tradition. But why and what does it mean for you? Read More , essentially making it possible for anyone to contribute to .NET Framework development. This resulted in Microsoft becoming the most active organization on GitHub 10 Free Open Source Windows Tools Hosted on GitHub Microsoft is the organization with the most open source contributors on GitHub. To celebrate this achievement, we have compiled a list of the best free Windows tools you can download from GitHub. Read More .

What does this mean for you? Basically it means that .NET apps are only going to become more prevalent going forward — and not just more prevalent, but better quality too How Microsoft's Move Into Open Source Is Affecting You Microsoft is radically changing its culture. Open sourcing is a hallmark of this transformation and it benefits coders and consumers alike. We explain why you should care. Read More . Even if you made it this far without ever having used a .NET app, you probably will soon.

So you might as well install the Framework right now.

Did this help? If so, please let us know below! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them as well.

Related topics: Install Software, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8.1.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Radevic
    December 24, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    I have just read your article on offline installer for dot Netframe that can be installed later after it has been downloaded but which still requires to be connected to the Internet when it is to be installed on one's computer. Why then is it called an offline installer if I have to connect to the Internet for the installation.

  2. Rab
    October 22, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    STILL needs an internet connection before it will install.
    They say 'Offline Installer' but bomb out if they do not detect an internet connection.

  3. Doc
    October 14, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    TL;DR. .NET is a bloated, buggy framework of code that is the predecessor of UWP (Universal Windows Platform, used to make Microsoft Store apps), and it's slower and more bug-prone than most other Windows frameworks, just like COM and COM+ (used to embed ActiveX controls) before it. Like most other Microsoft code, it's riddled with security holes, memory leaks, etc. etc. Half of the patches that roll out every Patch Tuesday are for flaws in .NET; the other half are for security holes in code that Microsoft released that *use* .NET or UWP. While a few pieces of well-regarded software (like CDBurnerXP) use .NET, most other software won't touch .NET or UWP with a ten foot pole (like GIMP and LibreOffice).