Dear Lifehacker, What is the "Microsoft .NET Framework" and why do I need it? I've been trying to install BlackBerry Desktop, but it fails and states I'm missing the Framework. For some reason I can't download it from Microsoft. What could I do?
Sincerely, Needing .NETDear Needing,
In a perfect world, you wouldn't need .NET Framework. The makers of all your crucial applications would have the time and resources to fully patch together their applications into self-contained packages, because developing for Windows would be an intuitive, mostly high-level process that independent developers could nail down in fairly quick order. So nobody besides developers would need a package like .NET, which provides applications with an orderly way to access databases, web services, and other communication tools.
But you don't live in that world, and we certainly don't write in it. Lifehacker has often recommended applications, usually from small and independent developers, that require some version of the .NET Framework to be installed to function. It's often a big download, and sometimes prone to errors, as you've seen — less so in Windows 7, but any big software patch has the potential for error. BlackBerry's need for the Framework is a bit unusual for a large-scale effort, but not entirely unheard of.
Most times, applications will ask for a particular version of the framework to be installed. We'd recommend avoiding installing that particular version, and trying instead to install the most up-to-date version of .NET, assuming your Windows OS supports it. Most .NET packages have backwards compatibility, so an app asking for the 2.0 framework can usually get by with what's packaged into the latest version: .NET Framework 4. Be sure, too, that you're kept up on your Windows Update requests, as there may be relevant system patches that need installing before .NET will fit comfortably on your system.
One problem .NET installations often run into is a need for space, even if your system might not make that explicit. The 4.0 version of .NET for standard 32-bit Windows systems requires 850 MB of free space on your primary Windows drive; a 64-bit Windows system needs 2GB free, and Windows usually won't ask you if you have space on another partition to spare. If your free space is smaller than these amounts, you'll need to look at your hard drive and free up some space.
Another common problem involves older versions of .NET and, perhaps, their misbehaviour on your system. Head into your Add/Remove Programs section in Control Panel (or "Uninstall Programs" in newer Windows setups) and search for any installations related to ".NET Framework", or something very similar. Try removing them from here, through the standard uninstall procedure, then try installing your newer .NET framework again. If that still fails, it's time to turn to the .NET Framework Cleanup Tool, which was made by Microsoft itself to tidy up and set things straight following tricky .NET installations.
Beyond those two run-of-the-mill issues, you'll want to watch to see if any particular error message, or error code, is given out during installation. Copy that message down — on paper, if selecting and hitting Control+C seems out of reach — and search the web with it in quotes, along with ".NET framework". From what we've seen, nearly every potential issue involving .NET has been posted to a tech support forum somewhere, and an answer often follows.
Here's hoping you and .NET can co-exist inside your Windows system soon, so your BlackBerry can start hanging out and making use of your cool stuff there, too.
Got any other advice about .NET Framework and its ins and outs? Drop them in the comments to help out a fellow reader, now and into the future.