Regardless of what you are doing online, chances are downloading is somehow involved. Even if you’re simply reading a friend’s personal blog, your computer or mobile device must first contact the web server hosting that blog and download today’s post to your device. These days, it’s hard to imagine most websites needing to download, because most pages load so quickly. But the next time you’re stuck somewhere with bad wireless connection, try going to that friend’s blog again. Depending on how slow the connection, you may actually be able to see the text download line by line.
For the most part though, when people talk about downloading, they’re referring to large files, pictures, music, and movies; items that you save to your hard drive to use or view later; or programs that need to be downloaded before they can be installed. The following guides will walk you through the process of downloading and saving these types of files.
Depending on the type of file you want to save, your internet browser may automatically download it for you, it may prompt you to open it in a specific program, or you may need to take additional steps to specify how and where to download the file. This guide will walk you through the necessary steps to download most common file types to your hard drive.
You will typically need to take additional steps when downloading software, because unlike storing a movie or saving a picture, installing software requires you to make changes to your computer settings. This guide will show you the necessary steps to download and install software, plug-ins, and games from the Internet.
When downloading content from the Web, you will undoubtedly encounter many different types of electronic file formats. Your computer or mobile device should be able to handle most of them. But some file types will require additional software or drivers in order to be opened or viewed. This guide will help you identify different file types and make sure your computer supports them.
Media files, especially full-length movies, can be very large, so downloading may take hours, depending on the speed of your connection. To speed things up, many large files are compressed. This guide will help you determine which file formats will work with your device and how to view compressed files once they are downloaded.
These days, downloading files may be different from browser to browser or from device to device, but the essentials remain the same. If you understand how to save a file using Internet Explorer, it won’t be a difficult jump to saving a file with Mozilla Firefox. The trick is to know what type of file you are saving, whether or not your computer supports that file, and where that file will be located once it is downloaded.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I’m downloading a file to my phone, does it work the same way?
If you’re downloading a file directly from the internet, through a mobile browser, downloading works in very much the same way. First you have to select the file to download, then you need to tell your browser to download that file. Most mobile browsers will automatically save files to specified locations. For instance, it may save all pictures to your phone’s picture folder. In some cases, you can adjust your browser settings to save files directly to your phone or to a secondary storage space, such as a micro-SD card. Regardless of where your phone saves the file, the process will be very similar to the downloading process for your computer.
How do I know whether or not my computer supports a file type?
The easiest way to find out is to download the file and see if your computer can open it. If not, you will need to find the appropriate program or extension and download that as well. If the file is too large to download first, or you are trying to decide between more than one file format, you can do a quick google search for the file extension (that’s the two, three, or four letters after the period, such as “.docx”, which is the extension used by Microsoft Word files). This will usually tell you what program it is associated with, so you can then check your computer to see if that program is installed. For more information, see our File Formats and Extensions guide.
If I download a compressed file, do I have to decompress it to view it?
In many cases, your computer will allow you to view the contents of a compressed file and open single items contained within it. Technically speaking, your computer is uncompressing the item in order to let you view it, but you’re not saving an uncompressed version anywhere, and if you go to view that same item again, you will need to first open the compressed file just like you did this time. The same is true for compressed installation files. Often your computer will install the software without saving an uncompressed version. Whether you want to decompress the entire file or just view a single item within it, you still need to have the correct file compression software installed on your device.