Components and Versioning in .NET Core

This document covers the different components that make up a .NET Core distribution and how they are versioned. This document currently covers the 1.x releases.

How components in .NET Core are versioned.


.NET Core consists of multiple components that are each versioned independently and can often be mixed and matched.

  • Shared Framework. This contains the APIs and the Virtual Machine and other runtime services needed for running .NET Core applications.

    • The current .NET Core Virtual Machine is called CoreCLR. This executes the .NET bytecode by compiling it JIT and provides various runtime services including a garbage collector. The complete source code for CoreCLR is available at

    • The .NET Core standard APIs are implemented in CoreFX. This provides implementations of all your favourite APIs such as System.Runtime, System.Theading and so on. The source code for CoreFX is available at

  • Host is also called the muxer or driver. This components represents the dotnet command and is responsible for deciding what happens next. The source for this is available at

  • SDK is also sometimes called the CLI. It consists of the various tools (dotnet subcommands) and their implementations that deal with building code. This includes handling the restoring of dependencies, compiling code, building binaries, producing packages and publishing standalone or framework dependent packages. The SDK itself consists of the CLI, which handles command line operations (at and various subprojects that implement the various operations the CLI needs to do.

Components in .NET Core installations

Various official and unoffical packages, tarballs, zips and installers for .NET Core (including those available on provide .NET Core in many variants. Two common ones are SDKs and Runtimes.

Each SDK install or Runtime install contains a number (possibly 0) of hosts, sdk and shared framework components described above.

  • .NET Core Runtime contains

    • 1 version of Shared Framework
    • 1 version of the Host
  • .NET Core SDK contains

    • 1 or more versions of the Shared Framework (varies depending on the version of the SDK)
    • 1 version of the Host
    • 1 version of the SDK

Identifying Versions

Each .NET Core component (SDK, Host and Shared Framework) is versioned independently.

You can find the version for each of them separately.

  • SDK

    You can use the --version option to dotnet to see the SDK version. For example:

    $ ~/dotnet-1.1.1/dotnet --version

    dotnet --info also shows the SDK version.

  • Host

    You can run dotnet by itself without any arguments or options to see the version of the host.

    $ ~/dotnet-1.1.1/dotnet
    Microsoft .NET Core Shared Framework Host
      Version  : 1.1.0
      Build    : 362e48a95c86b40cd1f2ef3d08741f7fed897956
    Usage: dotnet [common-options] [[options] path-to-application]
  • Shared Framework

    There no command currently to display the avaialble shared frameworks. I use ls /path/to/where/you/installed/dotnet/shared/Microsoft.NETCore.App which relies on internal implementation details. For example:

    $ ls ~/dotnet-1.1.1/shared/Microsoft.NETCore.App/

Selecting Versions

It’s possible to have multiple .NET Core SDKs and Runtimes available on disk. You can select the versions for each separately.

To select the version of the SDK to use, use global.json.

To select the version of the shared framework to use, target the specified framwork in the .csproj file (or project.json if you are still using that).