MTE Explains: What is .NET Framework and Why You Need It to Install Apps in Windows

MTE Explains: What is .NET Framework? Why You Need This to Install Apps in Windows

When installing applications from around the Web, you may have encountered some that require you to have installed various versions of Microsoft’s .NET Framework.

The .NET Framework is, in truth, a vital part of many applications from around the Web, no matter their purpose. Let’s get started figuring out what that means.

What’s a Framework?

Essentially, a framework is something made to support other applications. In the case of the .NET Framework, it contains files and functions that aren’t actually within the programs that call upon them, so having these Frameworks save developers the trouble of having to code many of these things all by themselves.

What does .NET mean?

In this context, .NET refers to a group of technologies that allows applications to interact over and through the Internet to a fuller extent. This is used by both local applications and web servers to drive activity over the Internet and is the basis beyond which cloud computing services are built.

.NET uses the following Internet standards:

  • HTTP – You may recognize this. It stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”, and it’s used to determine what your browser and the web server do in response to your commands, like typing in a web address.
  • XML – Extensible Markup Language. This is made for web documents in particular, allowing tags that define different formatting for different things.
  • SOAPSimple Object Access Protocol. This is an XML-based messaging service used to encode messages before sending them over the network. Messages from SOAP are transmitted through various Internet protocols, like HTTP.
  • UDDIUniversal Description, Discovery and Integration. This acts as a phonebook of sorts, allowing businesses to find each other over the Internet.

So, what’s the .NET Framework?

Microsoft .NET Framework logo.

The .NET Framework is a framework of technologies that is used by applications that, in themselves, rely on .NET technologies. Applications that require the .NET Framework usually heavily factor Internet access into their primary usages.

The .NET Framework in itself uses the following:

  • CLRCommon Language Runtime. This manages .NET code, memory, exceptions, debugging, profiling and security. This is also known as the VES, or Virtual Execution System.
  • FCLFramework Class Library. Name for thousands of classes which are used to define object properties. These classes include runtime functionality, database interaction and other features.
  • ASP.NET – Used to create web pages and services. To do this, it treats everything on a page as an object to run server-side. These pages are then compiled into another language, which is then compiled to native code (for your own machine), which is then run through your processor.

What do I do with it?

First thing’s first. Make sure you’ve grabbed the most recent version from Microsoft’s website. Also be sure to use Windows Update to keep your system up to par – some parts of the .NET Framework may not be compatible if you don’t have the latest, greatest Windows updates installed onto your computer.

After that, you should be fine. If something goes wrong with installation, consider using the .NET Framework Cleanup tool to get rid of older versions that may be causing you trouble. No applications should be strictly incompatible with a newer version of the Framework, but on the off chance they are, the application will tell you which version you need, after which you need only to search for it and download it to your computer.

Christopher Harper Christopher Harper

I'm a longtime gamer, computer nerd, and general tech enthusiast.


  1. “This is used by both local applications and web servers to drive activity over the Internet and is the basis beyond which cloud computing services are built.”

    This is only a half true statement, there are many cloud solutions that cant use this framework and in fact 80% of the webs cloud infrastructure uses Linux which does not run .NET and provides us with most of the cloud we know today. Fact is the world would be a far better place without anything Microsoft!

  2. The .NET Framework is far more than a package to allow internet communications. It also includes data primitives, diagnostics, reflection, database access, location information, provides access to Active Directory, authentication and authorization, Enterprise services, globalization, IO to access data files, speech recognition, threading and many others. There are a significant number of applications out there that are built leveraging the .NET Framework that *never* touch the internet.

    “No applications should be strictly incompatible with a newer version of the Framework”

    When applications are compiled using the .NET Framework, they are targeted for a specific version of .NET. Removing older versions of the framework may cause some of your applications to no longer work at all. Some apps may use elements of the one version of the framework that have been deprecated or removed from a newer version so compatibility is not guaranteed with different versions of the framework. And because of the targeting mechanism, if you try to start a .NET application when the appropriate version of the .NET framework is not installed, it will generate an error message telling you that you need to install version xx of the framework for the program to be able to run.

    The cleanup tool you linked to should only be used as a last resort as it states in the description provided at the link. If there are problems with the .NET Framework, you should use Microsoft’s tools to try to fix any issues first rather than resorting to a tool that is likely to break other applications on the system.

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