Downloading means copying a file from a website or other remote source onto your own computer. Pretty much everything you do online involves downloading:
- when you load a web page, your browser is downloading the page
- each individual picture on a page is downloaded
- videos are downloaded so that you can watch them
Most of the time, you don’t have to worry or think about what is being downloaded, or how to download it, or where it gets stored — your computer, and your internet software (your web browser) takes care of all of that for you.
But sometimes you want to download and save a file where you can get to it later.
Saving an Image
- Place your cursor (mouse) over the image.
- On Windows, right-click; on Mac, click with two fingers. This will open a little pop-up menu.
- Select Save Image As.
- Rename the file if you wish (you don’t have to) and change the save location if you don’t like the default (usually, the Downloads folder).
- Save the file.
Saving a Document or Other File
When you run across a hyperlink to a file, you can save it in two different ways.
- Follow the instructions above for the hyperlink, selecting the Save Target As option from the popup menu.
- Open the file by clicking on the hyperlink, and then saving the file by selecting the Save Page As item in the File menu on your browser. (This is a good choice if you want to view the file before saving it, but it is a bad idea if you know it is a very large file.)
Saving an Entire Web Page
You can click the Save Page As item in the File menu if you want to save the page to your computer. This will download all these different elements and put them into a new file folder in your download directory.
A more efficient way to save a page, if all you want to do is be able to access it again later, is to bookmark the page. This works a little different on each browser, but usually there is a little star symbol near your address bar, at the top of your browser. This lets you save a link to the page so you can easily come back to it later.
Using Files Once You Have Them
Most of the files you might download online are easily viewable using apps or programs you already have on your computer. In most cases, simply clicking the file will open it. But there are some exceptions you should watch out for:
- Apps and executable files — Files with the extension
.app(Mac) are self-running — they are software programs (applications). If you click it, it will start running. This might be exactly what you want, but it might also be a problem (a virus or malware). Only open apps and executable files if you trust their source.
- Self-extracting archives
- On Mac, the
.dmgextension (when stands for “disk image”) is used for compressing applications to be installed. You open the
.dmgfile, which then launches a little pop-up box inviting you to move the app into your Applications directory. This is fine if it is what you were expecting, but don’t do it if you weren’t intending to download and install a program. Additionally, you may get a warning from your computer if you try to launch a program that comes from an unknown source. If you want to ignore the warning and run the program anyway, you will have to go to the Apple Menu (top left corner of your screen), click System Preferences, and then the Security and Privacy icon. In the panel that opens after that, you’ll be able to side-step the warning and run the program.
.zipfile will extract itself on most computers when you click on it. Other types of compressed archives (
.rar, for example) will do the same if you install a general-purpose extraction tool like 7-zip. You’ll then have to look at the target directory (wherever it was that the archiver put the files) to open whatever other files were in it.
- On Mac, the
- Unknown file types — if you get a file and you don’t know the file type, you can look in our list of file formats and extensions for information on how to open it.