by David Hakala
When you go to update Windows on the Microsoft update Web site, you have the option to select which specific updates you want to download and install. One update you may see is “Microsoft .NET Framework.” As of this writing, it is a whopping 284 MB package. Should you download and install it?
The .NET Framework is a huge collection of programs that creates a virtual machine in your computer’s RAM. (See What Is Virtualization, A Virtual Machine, and a Virtual PC?) Programs written by third parties for the .NET Framework do not have to worry about the different configurations of the machines on which they run, they use the known capabilities of the virtual machine. This makes programming easier and allows creation of programs that do interesting but non-essential things.
Most people don’t need the .NET Framework. It should be installed only if there is at least one specific program you can’t live without that requires it. Removing the .NET Framework will not harm your computer.
If you go to the Add/Remove Programs console of Windows, you may see several versions of the .NET Framework installed. Each expands and relies upon the capabilities of earlier versions. If you decide to remove the .NET Framework, you need to remove each version in reverse order, i. e., version 3.5 first, then 2.0, then 1.1. You will need to reboot to make the removal effective.
I like my computer to boot fully without my participation, going from power-on to Windows desktop without pausing for me to enter a username and password or click on my user icon at the Welcome screen. It won’t do that when the .NET Framework is installed because the framework requires its own user account named “ASP .NET Machine.” The computer doesn’t know which user is logging on so it waits for me to tell it. I’d rather be making coffee, so I removed the .NET Framework and deleted its user account. (Go to User Accounts in Control Panel.) When the coffee’s ready, so is my computer.
David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dhakala