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Downloading means receiving files from a remote computer to your computer. These files could be anything -- text files, pictures, music files, videos, or software. If you have surfed the Net even a little bit, you must have discovered that a lot of software can be downloaded from the web. Some of these are upgrades to your existing software, some are plug-ins or patches for your existing software, and others are brand new software that you would like to have.

Why download software from the web, and not buy them at a store or have them shipped to you? There are many reasons, some of which are convenience, instant delivery on any day at any time, and no shipping and handling charges. These reasons apply to regular commercial software for which you pay the price by credit card before you download (the downloaded version is usually a few dollars cheaper as there is no packaging cost, and as it does not include a printed manual).

Most commonly downloaded software are probably the freewares and sharewares. The freewares are totally free for your use. But these are copyrighted. You cannot sell them to someone else. Sharewares are usually free for a specified period of time so that you can try them out. After that you have to register them by making a payment. Or they will cease to work. (Some sharewares can be downloaded on a totally honor basis.) Sharewares are probably the most popular types of programs that are available on the web. Their prices are usually much cheaper than the commercial software.

If you know how to download, you can also enjoy the many benefits of downloading. To the new comer, the process initially may seem to be a little scary. If you just read on you will discover it is a pretty simple process actually.

1. Open your Internet browser and sign on.
2. Go to the site from where you want to download something.
3. Locate the file you want to download.
4. Click on the button marked "Download" or "Download Now". (Some times you may have to click on the file name.)
5. A File Download dialog box will appear which looks like this:

File Download Dialog Box.
File Download Dialog Box.

6. Choose "Save this program to disk" in the above dialog box and click on "OK".
7. Another dialog box will appear. Here you specify where to save the downloaded file, file name, and file type. (See Saving a file.) You may accept the default choices (computer selected options), but if you want complete control of things, you should make your own choices EXCEPT file type. I have created a "Download" folder right on my desktop. (The address is C:\Windows\Desktop\Download). I always download files from the web there. That way it is easy to find the file later. See Creating a new folder, if you are not sure about how to create a new folder. If you prefer to download at another location, make sure you write down the name and address of that folder, so that you can find the file easily later. Of course, if you forget the location of the downloaded file, you can always use Windows "Find: Files and Folders" feature to locate the file. (See Finding a file.) You can change the name of the downloaded file (the part preceding the dot) if you like, but never change the file extension (the part of the file name after the dot). If you do, Windows will get confused, and unexpected things might start to happen.

Take a look at the screen shot below. Here I am downloading a file I named irfanview375 in a folder of my choice (Download). The "Save as type" was already chosen as Application by the computer (choice by default), and I did not alter it.

Save As dialog box for the downloaded file.
Saving "irfanview375" file in my "Download" folder.
The file is an "Application".

8. Once the above dialog box is correctly filled out, click on the "Save" button. Downloading will begin. Your browser will show a progress bar, which is not 100% accurate. But it will give you an idea approximately how long would this downloading process take. It really depends on several things, such as the size of the file you are downloading, your modem speed (28.8K or 56K or DSL) and how busy is the Internet at the time. Stay near your computer in case something goes wrong and you have to take action.

9. Once the downloading is complete, before you install the software or open the file you have downloaded, you should immediately scan it with an anti-virus program to make sure that the file is not infected with a virus.

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Several Notes:

Before you download any application, you should read all the available literature to make sure it is compatible with your system. For example, if you are using Windows XP, do not download a file which is meant to work with Windows3.1 or with Macintosh system.

Also make sure your computer meets the system requirements for the software you are downloading, such as hard drive space, RAM, monitor specifications etc.

If you see a READ ME file at the site from where you intend to download the program, PLEASE DO READ IT. If the site gives installation instructions, print it out before downloading the file.

Most software come with a READ ME file. If you did not see it at the site before downloading, chances are the file is included in the program. PLEASE DO READ IT as soon as possible once you install the program and see the file.

Remember to write down the name of the file you are downloading and the folder in which you are saving it. These information will help locate the file easily later.

If the file you downloaded has an .exe file extension, it is an executable file. That means, to install, you just have to click on the file. That will start the install program. You then read each screen and follow instructions to complete the installation.

If you received special instructions when you downloaded the file, just follow those instructions to install the program.

If the file you downloaded has a .zip file extension, it means it is a zipped or compressed file. Before you can install it you have to unzip or decompress it. Some zipped files unzip automatically when you double click on them. AOL usually will unzip zipped files for you. Otherwise you will need a program like WinZip or PKZip to unzip these files. Luckily these can also be downloaded from the web. (These are sharewares.) When you have WinZip or PKZip installed in your computer, the program will start automatically when you double click on the zipped file, and will unzip your file. Once the file is unzipped, follow the installation instructions.

Try all downloads (and uploads!) at off peak hours for the Internet. During peak hours the download can be slow or you may get disconnected. If you get disconnected, just retry.

If you need help using the Internet, check out the companion site:
Internet Basics For Seniors
If you need help with Windows XP, check out the companion site:
Help with Windows XP (New)
If you are an absolute beginner in computing, check out:

ABC's of Computing


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