If you have just upgraded Windows, some programs may require you to use older versions of the Microsoft NET framework that are not included in the latest version of Windows. In some cases, Windows may automatically recognize this and prompt you through a dialog to install the required version of the Microsoft NET framework, but this cannot be taken for granted. Read on to learn how to manually install the version of NET Framework you need.
What Is Microsoft NET Framework?
Microsoft .NET Framework is an open source software development framework created by Microsoft. The first version was released in 2002. It contains the command language runtime and the framework class library.
It is designed to simplify the design of multi-language software and web applications. Developers can build applications for Windows, Microsoft Azure, Windows Server, and XML Web Service on a single platform.
Install via Windows Update
You need a working Internet connection to use this method.
1. Press the Win key on your keyboard and type “Windows Features” in the search box.
2. Click “Turn Windows features on or off” to open the configuration dialog.
3. Select the “.NET Framework 3.5 (contains .NET 2.0 and 3.0)” check box and click “OK”. You can leave the other options unchanged.
Windows then connects to Windows Update to install .NET Framework 3.5 on your computer.
You may need to restart your computer to complete the installation.
Manual Install through Windows Installation Media
If you have a Windows installation media handy, you can use it to install older versions of the Microsoft .NET framework. It is much faster and does not require an active internet connection.
This is how it works:
1. Insert your Windows DVD or Windows bootable USB stick into your PC.
2. Next, open the file explorer and make a note of the installation media letter you inserted in “This PC” (D: in my case).
3. Press the Windows key and enter cmd in the search field.
4. Right-click on the command prompt and click “Run as administrator”.
5. Then run the following command. Remember to replace D: with the letter found on your computer’s installation media.
The installation completes after a few seconds. To be safe, you can restart your PC.
Install .NET Framework Directly from Download
Microsoft offers you the option to download most versions directly for manual installation. Versions 3.5 SP1 through 4.8 are all available for download, although not all of these versions are still actively supported. Click on the version you want and download the runtime option.
You can also download version 2.0 and 3.0 directly and search for different versions and the latest service packs within the Microsoft Update Catalog.
Available .NET Framework Versions
While this post will focus on Microsoft .NET framework versions 2.0, 3.0, and 3.5, these are not the only earlier versions available. As of August 2021, the latest version is actually .NET Framework 4.8.
The current list of previous versions includes:
- .NET Framework 2.0
- .NET Framework 3.0
- .NET Framework 3.5 (installing 3.5 also installs 2.0 and 3.0)
- .NET Framework 4.0
- .NET Framework 4.5
- .NET Framework 4.5.1
- .NET Framework 4.5.2
- .NET Framework 4.6
- .NET Framework 4.6.2
- .NET Framework 4.7
- .NET Framework 4.7.1
- .NET Framework 4.7.2
Troubleshooting Installation Issues
Although you will not normally have a problem installing the Microsoft .NET framework, you will sometimes encounter problems. Some of the most common are:
- Compatibility error: If you receive a message that is not compatible with your operating system, the version you are trying to install is incompatible and will not work. When you know it’s supported, install the latest Windows updates. This error usually occurs when trying to install a newer version on an older PC.
- Invalid Windows Installation – If you are not running a licensed copy of Windows, the Microsoft .NET framework might not install at all. The only solution is to register your copy or install a valid copy.
- Windows update issues: If you get errors about a specific KB number or need additional updates, install the latest Windows updates before proceeding.
- Corrupt Download – If you get corrupt installation errors, check Add / Remove Programs to see if anything was installed. Uninstall if necessary, then manually download the required version and install it this way.
Microsoft offers even more troubleshooting options for more advanced errors.
Check Microsoft .NET framework Version
If you are not sure if you already have the correct version installed, it is easy to learn to verify your .NET Framework version.
Using File Explorer
A quick and easy way to check your version of the .NET Framework is to use File Explorer. Open File Explorer and enter the following location. (Replace drive letter if Windows is not installed in C.):
Each folder at the top is an individual .NET Framework version.
Press Win+ X and select Windows PowerShell (Admin). Enter the following at the prompt:
This shows you all the versions that are currently installed.
Using Command Prompt
While the result is not that clean and beautiful, you can use the command prompt instead of PowerShell. Open Start and type cmd. Select “Run as administrator” at the command prompt when it appears.
Enter the following command:
Scroll through the list, looking at the Version line.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I install multiple versions of .NET Framework?
Yes, you can install multiple versions of the .NET Framework. Different apps require different versions and can peacefully match on the same PC. Install only the versions of the .NET Framework that you really need.
2. How long are .NET Framework versions supported?
.NET Framework 3.5 SP1 is supported until October 10, 2028. This is ideal for applications that require 2.0, 3.0, and / or 3.5. These are long-term compatible as they are the most popular and stable previous versions.
Versions 4.0 to 4.5.1 are no longer supported. Also Versions 4.5.2 to 4.6.1 will expire April 26, 2022.
Versions 4.6.2 and later do not currently have an end of support date.
3. How can I check compatibility?
If you’re not sure whether your PC supports a particular version of the .NET Framework that you want to install, this is an easy one to check. Microsoft has a list of dependencies and system requirements for every .NET Framework version.
You should now be able to run programs on your PC that require older versions of the .NET Framework. Let us know in the comments section which of these Microsoft NET Framework installation methods worked for you.