If you have a tablet or smartphone you find and install new software or apps using the authorized app store preinstalled on your device such as the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store, the Amazon App Store, and the Windows Phone App Store. However, when downloading and installing applications on a desktop or laptop computer, you have a lot more options. While there are app stores for computers, many downloads are hosted independently at websites across the web, and must be manually downloaded and installed.
Downloading and installing software will look a little different depending on the type of device you're using, the operating system running on the device, and the software you're downloading. However, the basic process is the same for all computers.
Step 1: Find and Download the Software
Use a search engine to find the application you want to download. Make sure to find a reputable source for your downloads. The best source is the developer or publisher. While there are a lot of third-party download sites you could use, be aware that software downloaded from these third parties is often packaged up with adware and other bloatware that you really don't need or want.
If you aren't certain if the download source you've found is reputable, do some additional research before hitting Download. Simple head back to your search engine and query the name of the download source along with terms like adware, virus, and legitimate to find out if there have been a lot of public complaints about bad downloads originating from the source you're considering.
Once you've located the application, follow the instructions provided to download the application to your hard drive.
Depending on the browser you are using and your browser settings, the download may start automatically or you may be prompted to confirm that you do want to download the software.
If you are prompted to confirm that you do want to download the application, you will often be given the option to either Run the installation script from its current location or to Save it to your hard drive. In most cases, the right choice is to Save it. Unless the source of the download advises you to choose Run, select Save.
Step 2: Locate the Software
Once the download completes – and it may take several minutes depending on the size of the file and the speed of your Internet connection – you'll need to locate the file in the Downloads folder on your computer.
This file may be located in a number of different places or it may have a different name depending on the operating system of your computer. If you don't know where the downloaded file ended up, go back to your browser, open the menu, and select Downloads or a similarly-named option. This will open a window showing the files you have downloaded.
In most browsers you can access this screen by pressing Ctrl and J at the same time. From this screen, you can either choose to run the script or access the Downloads folder where the file is saved.
Step 3: Run the Installation Script
Once you locate the file, click on it twice to run the file. This will produce a prompt with instructions that will guide you through the installation process.
As a part of the installation process, you may be asked if you would like to install add-ons such as browser toolbars. In nearly all cases you should decline to install these add-ons as they are typically adware that will not add much – if any – value to your browsing experience and may actually slow down your browser and siphon off your browsing habits to sell to advertisers. In some cases, the malware may even be packaged up with legitimate software by unscrupulous download sites.