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[Preamble: I am on Mac and I've ported my favorite program to Mono, mostly... but I'm beginning to give up on its implementation of Winforms. It's surely very impressive and has been the result of a massive amount of work, but when you get deep into the details, it's quite different. And getting it working perfectly on OSX will be a huge task]

As a guest in VirtualBox, what is the lightest weight Windows I can run that will run .Net 2.0? I am also interested in programs to lighten up Windows... I don't need a lot of its functionality.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You want Windows XP embedded. Don't let the term embedded scare you though. It's merely Windows XP altered to be highly modular and configurable. You can run it tight with just the kernel as a controller for an embedded app or as the full-blown XP the world is familiar with if you decide for the kitchen sink (all the components.)

If you don't want to mess with embedded then see: Supported Operating Systems: Windows 2000 Service Pack 3; Windows 98; Windows 98 Second Edition; Windows ME; Windows Server 2003; Windows XP Service Pack 2

Link to: XP embedded page

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oh! I didn't know anything about this. I'll have to check into that. –  Yar Jan 22 '10 at 21:05
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Isn't SO great that way? –  Paul Sasik Jan 22 '10 at 21:08
    
When you said, "isn't SO great" I realized that I was on the wrong site :) –  Yar Jan 22 '10 at 21:38

Windows 98 is the farthest-back Windows which can use .NET 2.0. Totally unsupported by Microsoft anymore, but it would be considered pretty light weight.

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Pretty lightweight but not very stable. Few years ago I had to install Windows 98 in a virtual machine to test the compatibility of one of my apps that had to run also on it. The app worked fine, but after I installed some stuff I needed and changed some settings of Windows it crashed with a BSOD. Two hours after the installation. On virtual hardware. I don't know how we could possibly work on such an OS in the good old days :) –  Matteo Italia Jan 23 '10 at 16:17

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