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.NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size

One of the considerations of whether to choose .NET 3.5 for your non-server applications might be distribution size. If you're building a vertical application that you're distributing over the Internet you are probably concerned about the size of your installation if you want people to download it.

Recent versions of the .NET runtime have a made decidedly nasty turn for the worse when it comes to download sizes. Christopher Painter listed the framework sizes of various versions of the .NET Framework and the numbers really tell the story:

  • .NET Framework 1.0: 19.7MB
  • .NET Framework 1.1: 23.1MB
  • .NET Framework 2.0: 22.4MB
  • .NET Framework 3.0: 50.3MB ( x86 )
  • .NET Framework 3.0: 90.1MB ( x64 )
  • .NET Framework 3.5: 197.0MB

Holy shit! That's quite a jump over a version 2.0 install. Heck version 2.0 managed to cram a shitload of new features into the framework and still REDUCE the footprint. Granted though, the 3.5 install includes .NET 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5 and it looks like the single installer handles 32 and 64 bit installs.

Nevertheless, if you are planning to distribute a .NET 3.5 application on a CD almost half the disk space is going to be eaten up just by the framework install. And lets not even talk about the download aspect of an application if it doesn't have it and you have a fully self contained install.

What really sucks about this is that the actual runtime files account for only a small fraction of this install. If you were to install the required files manually you'd probably end up with less than a 50 meg install.

To be fair, for downloads I tend to link to the runtime install as a separate link and if you're using one of the expensive installer tools they'll let you directly link the runtime downloads from your own installer.

You certainly wouldn't want to force people to download the runtime install if they already have it installed. Microsoft also has an online installer that pulls down only the components that are needed which can significantly reduce the installation download size, but it's a separate step that can't be handled through an integrated install.

The other part to this which I don't understand is why Microsoft is not pushing the .NET runtime a bit harder and force it down onto machines with Windows Update. While that won't cover everybody at the least developers can put a label on the box that says requires SP2 or SP3 (of whatever) that includes the runtimes. This was basically done with Vista and .NET 3.0, so it seems really strange that .NET 3.5 shouldn't have made it into Vista SP1 and XP SP3 that were finally released to Windows update last week.

This is certainly an issue that's making me think twice - at least right now - of using .NET 3.5 for vertical/desktop applications. Distribution sizes do matter and people are weary of downloading a 200 meg  runtime in order to run an application that has a 2 meg footprint on its own.

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# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Rik Hemsley March 27, 2008 @ 2:25am
I work on B2B apps so getting .NET installed isn't such a problem for me, but what I'm hearing from many people thinking about developing for .NET is that they're (still) concerned about user acceptance of the fact they need to (possibly download and) install this 'massive' prerequisite.

I believe it would really help existing .NET developers - and attract new ones - if Microsoft were to force .NET down through Windows Update. I think it only takes up disk space if it's not being used, so it can't be bad to install it, can it? I do have a colleague who swears it slows down machines just by its existence, but I can't get him to prove it to me.
# .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by March 27, 2008 @ 2:42am
You've been kicked (a good thing) - Trackback from
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Michael March 27, 2008 @ 6:15am
Microsoft seems to be moving toward the "modular" approach to things these days (apparently even the next version of Windows), so maybe they'll eventually have a modular .net framework. It would be nice to be able to build a custom .net framework install that only includes the modules that your application uses.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Tyrone March 27, 2008 @ 6:26am
It should also be noted that the .NET FX 3.5 installer is also bundled with service packs of the previous frameworks. I remember hearing that the 3.5 installer is at least bundled with SP1 for the 2.0 framework. So, you could expect the size to be larger if this is the case.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Valued Customer March 27, 2008 @ 7:15am
ScottGu mentions a servicing update that might improve things this summer:

"This summer we are going to ship a new setup framework for .NET that makes it easier to build optimized setup packages for client applications. This setup framework can be integrated with existing installation frameworks (for example: products like InstallShield), and enables a smaller and faster end-user setup experience of the .NET Framework."
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Aaron Fischer March 27, 2008 @ 7:26am
I read that to. Not sure if its a good thing, or a nightmare in the making. Installation is always a pain in the ... Adding more complexity by not installing the whole frameworks. add service packs and version conflicts. Oh joy!
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Pete March 27, 2008 @ 7:44am
Dude, just delete 10 free-pr0n-site-clips from your computer and you've got the space you need for .NET 3.5.

If you have an .NET application that is 500 MB (700 minus 190 Mb .NET) you've either qualified to use DVD:s instead or you've done a real bad job at compressing your (pr0n-)images for your application.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Martin March 27, 2008 @ 8:21am
Get over it. That's a very small price to pay in the land of 500 gig harddrives. You can always choose to write more lines of code in order to save your user a couple Mg. I personally think my time is more valuable than 1/2000th of my user's harddrive.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by John S. March 27, 2008 @ 9:43am
Pete & Martin,
You've both missed the point completely. It's not about how much space on the hard drive it takes up, its about the amount of time it takes to download and install a prerequisite before you can install your app.

I agree with the previous posters that said that .NET 3.5 should have been included in Vista SP1 and XP SP3.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Duncan Smart March 27, 2008 @ 10:23am
My main peeve with it is not just the size and the fact that it's monolithic - it's that the setup can be so flaky - check this out - lame.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Duncan Smart March 27, 2008 @ 10:24am
Oh here's some more good stuff from Aaron Stebner regarding the size
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Marlon Grech March 27, 2008 @ 10:47am
hi there,

brilliant post. I have the same issue at my company. We use .Net for some products but for the smaller programs we are forced to use C++ because of the size... The ideal world would be if every OS would have .Net installed

# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Grant C March 27, 2008 @ 3:39pm
Bleh. Yes it's definitely large by historical standards, but an interactive 200MB+ download of either the redistributable or an installer with it embedded doesn't strike me as the most common use case. Right, wrong or otherwise, .NET's best penetration is on the server-side and enterprise LOB applications. Not consumer-focused downloadables.

Having a large redistributable when creating a server build or pushing updates out via enterprise config mgmt isn't much of a penalty. Despite corporate IT being typically under-agile, we just pushed 3.5 onto 30K desktops within a week of the request at a customer.

So, yes, it seems large if you measure things by MB. I'm just not sure who primarily does anymore. To me, it looks like if you add up the x32 and x64 versions of 2.0 + 3.0 + incremental 3.5m, you're talking about 200MB. So 100MB installers if we wanted a version per CPU arch, does that make a difference? I don't see it.

I couldn't agree more, however, that this should be happening more aggressively via Windows Update. There's a lot of vectors this could be getting preloaded, but I don't see Microsoft exploiting it. I think I had to install 3.5 on WS2008, no?
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Rick Strahl March 27, 2008 @ 4:04pm
@Grant - That's a very single sided view. If you're building a vertical app that requires .NET 3.5 you'd care. In house applications in a primarily IT controlled shop - not a big issue. But if you're building end user applications that go to consumers or small businesses it's a serious consideration. Nobody wants to be told to download a 200 meg runtime!

The whole point of .NET is that it's extremely well suited to build general purpose and utility applications, tools etc. - small things that can be used for all sorts of purposes not just big enterprise apps.

Part of my point is this: WTF can .NET 2.0 which provides the core engine, ship in under 25 megs and 3.5 which is presumably more of an 'update' library release multiply that size by 8?

Above is talk of service packs etc. and versions and other excuses. "Oh we have to ship 2.0, 3.0 and all service packs etc." What? Microsoft doesn't have the resources to build a consolidated install that removes all those redundancies in 10 different installers and build one that only delivers the installation files that are required? C'mon. For example, an installer shouldn't have to install .NET 2.0 and then install SP1 ontop of it - why not install .NET 2.0 SP in the first place? It's cutting corners at the wrong end.

And it only adds to the perception that .NET is a huge bloated pig which it is actually not.

With current bandwidth access the .NET 2.0 had become a reasonable requirement, but now we're back again a fairly outrageous install requirement with 3.5?
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by yaip March 27, 2008 @ 5:55pm
197 MB!!! Yikes. But I guess Silverlight developers have to bite the bullet.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Lex Y. Li March 27, 2008 @ 7:25pm
No. Silverlight 2.0 will bundle a much smaller BCL (only core classes). Thus, it wouldn't be hundreds of mega. And If you treat .NET Framework as a huge middle ware, then you may not feel too disappointed.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Parag Mehta March 27, 2008 @ 10:06pm
Actually Framework distribution size is a worry if you use .NET 3.5 to build Retail applicatoins. However 190MB is still not bad because most people now use DVD for distributions.

But the idea of pushing .NET Framework with SP updates is a great one.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Steve from Pleasant Hill March 28, 2008 @ 8:14am
Recently got into the desktop app installed via ClickOnce process, but thankfully only the 2.0 framework is required.

Not sure what the "average non-corporate home user" would think if they had to install 200MB additional the first time. Hopefully the ClickOnce install process detects available HD space!
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by DevTopics March 31, 2008 @ 10:12am
Re: "Get over it. That's a very small price to pay in the land of 500 gig harddrives."

This person obviously has never tried to sell consumer software! The issue is not disk space, but download time, and the fact that it's a separate download and install. Many users are naturally suspicious of anything Microsoft. Now if you tell them they must download a 200MB "framework from Microsoft" just to run your application, that's about all they need to skip your app and look at your competitors' solutions.

In a non-scientific web survey in mid-2007, we discovered that over 50% of software consumers would NOT download the 20MB .NET 2.0 framework to try a new application. I bet if we asked that question again with a 200MB additional download, that number might approach 100%.

As a result, we continue to target the .NET 2.0 framework for all our applications since a majority of computers at least have this version installed.

As for why Microsoft won't force install the latest version of .NET via Windows Update, my theory is it probably stems from the Sun vs. Microsoft bad blood over Java. Sun and Microsoft got into a legal spat, Microsoft stopped shipping Java with Windows, and so now Java is a separate download for Windows users. As a result, perhaps Microsoft is wary of appearing monopolistic, hence they maintain the .NET Framework as a separate download too.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Steve April 01, 2008 @ 2:38pm
Try selling shareware that needs a 200 meg add-on... You'll be laughed out of the market by confused consumers. I had a guy in another office download the Redistributable Package for an internal app and was afraid he was going to get rugged on my a$$. I often wonder why monkey boy isn't put into a tree to make room for someone who knows how to write slimmer sware...

PS: I'm no lover of Java, but why is it that Java can write once, compile anywhere and the runtime is less then 16 meg?
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Matthew April 06, 2008 @ 7:47am
I, too, am really frustrated with this HUGE install required for my 3k app.
You know what would sell like crazy right now? A compiler that only includes the
needed parts of the framework with my app for the installer. I would do it,
but its beyond my level of expertise. The 2 products I've seen out there
are over 1,000 dollars. Is that worth it? Maybe, but it should be free with
the VS2008 package.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by DSpider April 08, 2008 @ 1:24pm
You could do a google search... "NET Compact Framework 3.5"

Installer: 33 MB
Installed: 81 MB

No download (I think) and no fuss, but it doesn't seem to fool the apps... Dammit.

Microsoft strikes again :|
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by chris April 11, 2008 @ 1:59pm
does that last comment even deserve a response?
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by bryine April 22, 2008 @ 1:47am
<font color="green" size=25>You could do a google search... "NET Compact Framework 3.5"

Installer: 33 MB
Installed: 81 MB

No download (I think) and no fuss, but it doesn't seem to fool the apps... Dammit.

Microsoft strikes again :| </font>
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by El Delo August 01, 2008 @ 9:58am
MS has lost their minds.

We're currently trying to decide what we're going to do...

A non-trivial fraction of typical users (consumers), at least the target demographics for our products, do not have DVD drives. Yet this pig will take up a huge fraction of a delivery CD.

Sighhh... thanks a lot, Ms...
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Christopher Painter August 12, 2008 @ 9:20pm
I've been enjoying my time in South Padre but tonight I noticed a couple things about the newly RTM'd .NET 3.5 SP1 release...
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by John Ketchpaw August 20, 2008 @ 4:28pm
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Rick Strahl August 20, 2008 @ 11:29pm
@John - only if you do dynamic download. The full distribution size is even BIGGER now.

Here's is more detail:

Lots of issues there: Only online installation can be smaller. .NET can't already be installed on the machine to name a couple of the big ones.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by JFF November 26, 2008 @ 11:01pm
What's with the "get over it" crowd here? It's not developers who can't get over it, it's the people using our apps.

I often like to give prototypes and early betas to friends to kick around and it was hell getting most of them to install .NET 2.0 ... with the 200MB 3.5 they don't even want to hear about it.

MS needs to push the damn thing on people.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Itegos December 12, 2008 @ 4:52am
How big is the 3.5 with SP1 supposed to be once its installed? Mine is only 32 mb which feels pretty small for since the installation file was 200 mb.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Rick Strahl December 12, 2008 @ 10:55am
@Itegos - 32 mb sounds about right actually. The reason for the size of the .NET 3.5 distributable is because it contains both 32 and 64 bit versions, plus .NET 2.0, 2.0 SP1 and installers all of which bloats the size of the distributable.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by David January 10, 2009 @ 1:12pm
WOW. This is horrible. I work at a non-profit and we do most of our work in Africa and other locations that have terrible connectivity. I am going to have to build client side applications because web applications with 20 to 30 second downloads per page will not work. There is no way these people are going to be able to download a 197MB framework. What the hell am I supposed to do now? Build my client side stuff with 2.0 or in Access? Thanks Microsoft.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by yoshi April 21, 2009 @ 5:25pm
I too am right in the process of converting 2.0 based game to 3.5 (well, technically converting soluton/projectd files to VS2008 format). I am definitely concerned about the size, our game is already 200MB (and ClickOnce should help the update download but still initial 200MB). And now, we have another 200MB for 3.5! I am not sure. I think I will start by setting the target 2.0 and turn it "on" if I gain confidence that it is OK.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by peterchen June 04, 2009 @ 8:56am
The download site now seems to have separate x86 / x64 versions -

scroll down to "Instructions:"
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Rick Strahl June 04, 2009 @ 10:48am
@Peter - that's only for the 3.0 executables. I don't think there's anything similar for 3.5.

And then there's the whole crap issue of service packs, which never get consolidated and have to be manually applied.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by dave July 31, 2009 @ 8:16am

We have a core windows c++ application (doc assembly) on 27,000+/- desktops. Occasionally, we need to 'slip' out auxilary dll/exes to augment it. Of course, C++ is expensive and slow to develop in, so we use ... wait for it .... VB6 for this.

Yes VB6. In 2009.

Distribution is a breeze and it does everything (for us this is: consuming webservices, streaming files, reading local data, taking user input etc etc) that we need.

In 2009, dotnet is STILL a non-starter for distributed apps.

Ever seen a mass-distribution dotnet app? Thought not.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Sean August 17, 2009 @ 9:29pm
I have a 4 MB app, and I'm supposed to tell my customers that they need to run a 250 MB installer for .Net just to run my app??? That's why I'm still using Delphi for my small apps. Do Microsoft people actually know what's going on in the real world, or do they just pull stuff out of their arse and demand that developers and consumers accept it? Microsoft had planned on every human being on the planet upgrading to Vista which would automatically install .Net, but most people are still using Windows XP (which lacks .Net) because Vista is a debacle. Now everyone will be very leery to upgrade to Windows 7, so people still won't have .Net on their computers and it becomes a thorny problem for developers trying to distribute .Net apps to wary consumers. Good job, Microsoft.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Brodie September 23, 2009 @ 2:20am
Dave I agree, We still use VB6 today, found very few of our simple apps that need anything more, until everyone has Vista (or newer, and i'll be waiting a while for that) we aren't moving to use .Net for our downloadable apps

and whoever was mentoning the Compact .Net 3.5 framework, you'll probably find its for Windows mobile / CE (dont quote me on that one though)
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Collin Cannon September 30, 2009 @ 7:18am
I hear ya. I'm on dial up. So I went to get the latest microsoft net framework to download the catalyst program for my new radeon 9200. I went to the microsoft website to download it and i saw that the install was only 2.7 meg. On dial up that sounds reasonable. So i went to install it and BAM! Guess what? It's just a goddamn mirror for an even bigger download. Who's idea was it to make a download, download more shit?
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Steve Hiner October 19, 2009 @ 4:56pm
I'm in the same boat. I have a commercial .NET 1.1 app. Right now 23% of my users don't have anything better than 1.1. 26% have 2.0 and nothing higher. 16% have 3.0 and 34% have 3.5.

That means moving to 2.0 would entail less than a quarter of my users needing to download a 22MB file. Moving to 3.5 would require 2/3 of my customers to download 200MB.

What do you think I'm going to pick?

I'd love to get some of the cool features in 3.5 but the download size is abusive. I'm assuming Windows 7 will include 3.5 out of the box which should help but I still probably won't be able to move it 3.5 for a couple years at least. It's taken this long to get the majority of my customers to have 2.0 at a minimum.

I totally agree, we need a smaller/easier download to get users up to 3.5. This is certainly a barrier to entry for anyone trying to sell a non-corporate commercial app.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by JCQ October 20, 2009 @ 5:11am
I remember in 2002 during a Microsoft .NET presentation, i asked them how long it will take to have the framework installed on majority of computers. The answer were: We don't have this information yet.
4 years later, during another Microsoft presentation i asked same question, answer: We don't have this information yet...
That's incredible for a company who told some years ago, go with .NET now !
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Marc G May 19, 2010 @ 3:21am
It is unbelievable. I'm trying to sell a 3MB app and explain to a school why they need to wait over an hour to install the demo. It is so embarrassing.

What would be the legality of posting a CD with the update on it?
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Angus May 29, 2010 @ 7:52am
Would it be true to say that this issue has now been addressed with .Net 4.0. It's back down to sub 50MB.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Rick Strahl May 29, 2010 @ 3:34pm
Yeah .NET 4.0 is 48megs for full installation include 32 and 64 bit installs which is much more reasonable although still pretty damn big. Nice to see the Web Installer can install only required pieces though to bring that down even further.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Mahmoud Zaki June 07, 2010 @ 2:25am
Windows7 is shipped with .net framework 3.5 and this is good, windows7 is much better than windows vista, So I predict that users of winodws7 will be much more than users of windows vista(which have .net framework 3.0). So, We just need to wait spreading of windows7(which will be very fast) at the end of 2011!!. It will be very helpful for developers from Microsoft to ship .net framework with windows update like Adobe which delvers its AIR runtime with Adobe Reader for all people in very short time(and the user has no choice to cancel its installation). so .net framework is worth that.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by bttmstr October 24, 2010 @ 1:12pm
screw this ppl, you're obviously missing the point. .NET is HUGE! I'm working with an older lappy right now... 6gb hard drive... needed to run just ONE simple program ONE TIME - was forced to install .NET 3.5... before install used space on drive 1.3gb, after .NET 2GB!... This is BS. To the end user all the programs that use .NET look the same as anything ever did - so why the hell does it need to bloat my hard drive with a 20,000 files and create 10,000 registry entries and take 30 minutes to install on this old laptop? ...I'm just saying, everything always worked and could be written just fine w/o .NET to run these stupid ass simple programs that most people create with .NET.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by Magento themes October 04, 2011 @ 4:33am
.NET 4.0 is 48megs for full installation include 32 and 64 bit installs which is much more reasonable although still pretty damn .net framework is worth that.
# re: .NET 3.5 Framework Distribution Size
by LadyD January 29, 2012 @ 9:02pm
I realize that this is an old thread, however the topic still remains a problem.
I am neither a developer, nor a purveyor of apps, however I am a user of them.
Speaking as a consumer and as one of the 100 million Americans who do not have access to broadband at home, (and/or in my case, a reasonably priced mifi. sevice) I will say this; The NET 3.5 Framework download is of a completely unacceptable size for all dial-up users. This behemoth would take me 12 hours, and 8 minutes to download if I started with a clean machine, no other programs running and a good tail wind. Even then there’s no guarantee that a file or two wouldn’t be corrupt or connection lost.
100 million of us, that is currently about 1/3 of all Americans. That amounts to more than a wee bit of cheddar that the MS lab rats in demographics must be keeping for themselves. Needless to say, there are several apps I won’t be using on my PC anytime soon.

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