Microsoft unveils native Arm64 support in the .NET Framework

Older operating systems excluded from the 4.8.1 release party

Microsoft has updated its venerable .NET Framework once more, this time to add native Arm64 support while also removing support for some older operating systems.

The release sends the version counter to 4.8.1 and is a significant one for the niche of Windows developers that really, really want to get their legacy .NET apps working on Arm64 silicon.

The native Arm64 support means an end for the need to run x64 code in emulation. "Your investments in the vast ecosystem of .NET Framework apps and libraries can now leverage the benefits of running workloads natively on Arm64 for better performance," said Microsoft.

The update is joined by official support for Arm64EC, which allows Arm and x64 code to be mixed, thus making the porting of apps an incremental affair. The tooling has been around for a while, but only in experimental mode in Visual Studio (and so most definitely not for production). With the 17.3 release of Visual Studio for Windows, the toolset has made its way into the big leagues.

Microsoft said: "We hope that using Arm64EC makes it easier for developers to target Windows on Arm, especially for applications that are blocked today from moving to Arm due to x64 plugins or dependencies."

If, of course, any developer outside of the most devoted of Microsoft fans really cares. Windows on Arm has hardly set the world on fire. That said, the company's latest throw of the Arm dice, Project Volterra, is due to debut any day now. Just in time for Microsoft to finally finish porting most of the day-to-day tools that developers and users need to the Windows on Arm platform.

As well as accessibility improvements, the .NET Framework update has also dispensed with some old operating systems; only Windows 11, Windows 10 20H2 and later, and Windows Server 2022 need apply (and even then, only the former will get the Arm64 support). This is an odd move as previous versions supported Windows Server 2019 among other in-support operating systems.

It's doubly vexing since yesterday also marked the day when Windows Server 20H2 dropped out of servicing. Windows Server 2019, however, is still good until Jan 9, 2029 (or Jan 9, 2024 for mainstream support). That is: unless you want this latest .NET Framework update.

Tara Overfield, senior software engineer for .NET Framework Servicing, said: ".NET Framework 4.8.1 adds native support for customers building apps on, and for Arm64 devices, the support matrix for 4.8.1 on Arm64 reflects this and includes Windows 11 and later versions only.

".NET Framework 4.8.1 is also available on Windows 10 versions (20H2+) and Server 2022+ for x64 based devices."

.NET Framework 4.8 will continue to be supported as long as the underlying OS remains supported, meaning security patches will continue to arrive. However, the exclusion of those operating systems from 4.8.1 could mean developers will simply not bother targeting the latest and greatest. ®

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