If you download and install software often How to Find Open Source Software for windows 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.


Microsoft .NET Framework: Why You Need It and How to Install It on Windows
Image Credit: Labirintami via Shutterstock

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 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 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 Windowsplatform) app, for example, the .NET Framework provides all of that.


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

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.


Microsoft .NET Framework: Why You Need It and How to Install It on Windows
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 How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It's designed to operate in the background, automatically keeping your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize. Read More

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