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Download - what is it? How do I do it? Are there problems if I do it?
Page updated 10-20-03

Barrettism:
Always Back up your data before doing any maintenance

The term "Download" refers to transferring data from some other source into your computer. The reverse is "Uploading" which means transferring data from your computer to another computer.

Actually when you copy data from a floppy, CD, DVD, jump drive, etc. into your computer, you are downloading that data into your computer. When you open a page in your browser, the data must be downloaded from some place on the Internet to your computer. If you are using an email program in your computer like Outlook, when you receive e-mail, the file must be downloaded from your mail provider to your computer. Although an accurate description, these are not the ways that the term is commonly used. On line email programs do not download the mail to your computer. They are stored on the host computer and allow you to look at it from any computer. However attachments may need to be "downloaded".

The term is more commonly used to refer to the downloading of programs from the Internet into your computer or downloading a program or file attached to e-mail. This is the area we will discuss here.

First, let me dispel concerns about e-mail. You cannot get a virus from reading e-mail. Virus' are included inside executable files. If you do not download and open an infected file, you won't get a virus. A virus file can be attached to an innocent e-mail. A recent example was the Navidad.exe. This virus (actually a worm for the technically correct) when opened, will send a new e-mail to everyone on your e-mail address book saying "open this cute file", making the recipient think it was sent by a friend. Opening it sent it on to the new address list without the knowledge of the person.

Click Here for further discussion of e-mail attachments and a list of file types that are dangerous.

Now to the meat of the discussion. How do I download something from the Net?

There are a variety of things that can be downloaded. 1) Music, 2) Pictures & graphics, 3) Documents, 4) Programs, 5) Updates, 6) Drivers, 7) Games, 8)Plug-ins, 9) Windows elements (Fonts, Cursors, Wallpaper, Screensavers) and probably many other things I haven't thought of yet.

I will not give detail on all of these, but once you understand the general concept, you can apply it to any situation.

All downloads follow two standard sets of procedures.

Procedure A) The item to be downloaded may have a link to click on that starts the download process. You should get a window asking if you want to "Open the File", or "Save to Disk". In most cases, you choose to save to disk, select a location on your hard drive and click OK or Save. The file is then transferred to your computer in the location selected. The safest place to save a file is the desktop since it is easy to find.

Downloading a file does not expose you to a virus. After the file is in your computer, scan it with an anti-virus program before opening the file. For a list of places to get anti-virus programs or use an on-line scanner, Click Here

If the file is not self executing (.exe) and needs a program to use the file, you must have the appropriate program installed in order to use the file. Example: To watch a .ra file, you must have a program called Real Audio installed. A .pdf file can only be read by Adobe Acrobat Reader. Many of the necessary programs are free to download on the web. Many software companies provide readers free to download off the Net. Microsoft provides readers for Word, Excel and Access. These readers do not allow you to modify the file, just read and print it.

Some files are in compressed format, most common being .zip. For instructions on unzipping these files, Click Here.

Procedure B) Many items can be grabbed (downloaded) by right clicking and choosing "Save As". Other items can be grabbed by using Copy & Paste. Click the link for detailed instructions on using Copy and Paste.

Now lets look at some items to download:

1) Music. Everyone has heard of Napster. Actually it has been possible to download and listen to music available on the web for some time. It helps to know something about the different formats used in music files. The most popular is .mp3. Music can also be in .wav and other formats. Click here for a list of some common file formats. Napster has been stopped, but there are other programs that do the same job. Do a search for file sharing software referred to as P2P.

In order to listen to the music, you must have the appropriate program installed. Some programs will play a variety of formats. For example, most computers have Microsoft Media Player installed. The latest version can be downloaded from Microsoft for free. Click Here to go to the site. All Windows computers have a default player.

Another good player is WinAmp. It comes with Netscape or can be downloaded from www.winamp.com or many music sites.

2) Pictures & Graphics: Lots of sites offer graphics for free download and for about any purpose you can think of. Actual photos of people, scenery and any subject you can think of; Clipart by the millions, and all free. Most have copyright statements allowing limited use.

Any picture that is displayed on a web page can be saved in your hard drive for use anywhere you want providing you don't violate copyright. You can convert a picture to wallpaper also. In either browser, just right click on a picture or graphic and choose to "Set as background" or "Set As Wallpaper". This procedure can be blocked by the web page.

3) Documents: the most common document for download is .pdf which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. Just clicking on the file usually opens the Save As dialog box or will just open Acrobat Reader and show you the file. You can choose to Save or Print the file from the reader just as you would in a wordprocessor. Newer Windows and browsers will read the file in the browser.

Other documents are in .doc format or .txt format. Again, just clicking on the file will usually open it. Word files can carry a virus, so it is a good idea to scan the file before opening it.

4) Programs: Adobe Acrobat Reader and Winamp mentioned above are programs that can be downloaded for free. Many free programs are available for just about any purpose you can think of. There are programs to replaces Microsoft Office. See the discussion below on games for additional instructions on full programs.

5) Updates: Most software programs today allow for downloading an update. Often they will pop up a window and tell you an update is available and ask if you want to download it. All Windows versions include an automatic update feature to check the web for updates to the program. This keeps you up to date with bug fixes and improvements to the program. Older Windows programs are no longer updated when support has stopped. As of 2016, Windows 7, 8 and 10 are still current.

The most common and important update is to Anti-Virus software. If you don't download a new data file frequently, you may not have adequate protection. All major anti-virus software companies provide the updates on line. Some are free and some require a subscription. Usually the free version requires manual updates and the pay version does it automatically.

I personally use www.antivirus.com and use their free on line virus checker called HouseCall. That way you know you are using the latest information. I believe Symantec and Mcafee have on line checkers also but at last check a subsciption price was required. www.grisift.com offers a free version of AVG with free automatic updates.

Most updates install automatically after downloading, so not much user intervention is needed.

6) Drivers: These are files that are used to make various equipment work in Windows. It is like a language interpreter that converts instructions in one language into a language that can be understood by another party. Much of the equipment that we use today, such as Modems, CD's Printers, Scanners, Cameras and the like are supplied with a driver on a CD or ask you to get it on line. There are vaious free and pay programs that promise to keep your drivers updated. I use the free version from IOBit.com called DriverBooster

When the equipment is originally installed, the drivers are added to Windows. Due to upgrades to Windows or errors in the drivers, new updated drivers are made available on the web. If you upgrade to a newer Windows, you may need to download new drivers for the equipment used by the computer. You need to know the manufacturer and model of the equipment, go to their site or search the web for updated drivers.
2016: Windows 10 does an excellect job of adding the correct drivers for everything on the computer during the upgrade. So far I have upgraded all 6 of my computers with no failures with the xception of a couple of older devices that are no longer supported and do not work in Windows 10.

As an example, if you have an HP printer, check www.hp.com for an update for the specific model. Since HP makes a lot of equipment, it may take a little browsing to find the driver you need. Most sites have a search feature or a download section to start in. This works if you have Canon, Epson, Umax or Lexmark products.

These downloads do not normally install automatically. Be absolutely sure you get the correct file for your model. Installing the wrong file may disable the device and be difficult to uninstall. Be sure you have good backups of your data and create a restore file before proceeding.

Choosing a location to download programs on your hard drive is fairly easy. The Save As dialog box usually defaults to the desktop. Placing the file there makes it easy to find and install by double clicking on it, but the desktop quickly becomes messy. A preferred method is to place files in a folder on the C drive called My Downloads. If it does not exist, the Save As box has an icon to create New Folder. Just be sure the C drive is selected (double clicked). (unless you have a secondary drive that you store your data on)

Name the new folder My Downloads. Then double click My Downloads and click Create New Folder again. Name the new sub-folder by the manufacturer. Example: C:\My Downloads\HP would hold drivers for HP. last step is to double click the new folder to make it the location in which to download the file. Compete the operation by clicking OK or Save.

After downloading the file, open My Computer or Windows Explorer, find the file and double click it. Most sites have complete instructions on downloading and installing their files. By placing it in a folder, you will have it if you need it again. Be sure you back these files up on floppy, tape, Zip or CD so they will be available if the computer crashes.

7) Games: Lots of free games are available on the web. Do a search for free games or card games or go to download.com, shareware.com or freeware.com and look for games. Download them into a new folder under My Downloads. Some may be in Zip format and require unzipping first. To see if you have an unzipping program installed, find a file ending in Zip and right click on it. If you have a program, the resulting menu will have selections to "Extract to....". If you don't see this, go to www.winzip.com and download their program and install it. Winzip is a shareware program with nag screens. See my page on Utilities for a better program that is free.

When you see the correct menu that includes selections to Extract the file, choose the one that says Extract to C:\My Documents\New Folder where New Folder is the folder you just created and saved the file into. This will create another folder below your new folder with the extracted files in it. Use My Computer or Explorer to find that folder and it should contain a file called Setup.exe. Double click that file and the program will install in the computer. Most programs will provide a new menu in the Start menu to activate the program. Some will offer an icon on the desktop.

8) Plug Ins: These are small files that add extra features to a program. They usually ask if you want them and download and install automatically. If not, instructions should be provided.

9) Windows Elements: Windows is supplied with a limited set of standard fonts, cursors, wallpaper and screen savers. Full sets of these are included in a Theme. The web provides a limitless variety of new sets to install. These are easy to find with a simple search. The sites give instructions on downloading and installing.

The key to remember is that for one of these items to be available for Windows to use, it must be added to the correct folder. Fonts must be in the Fonts folder and Cursors in Cursors. Wallpaper must be a .bmp file and located in the Windows Folder*. Screen savers are in .scr format and must be in the System folder under Windows. *Note: later versions of Windows allow using jpg pictures for wallpaper and are in the c:\Windows\web\wallpaper or c:\winnt\web\wallpaper folder.

Themes are a little trickier because they are not a single file. They include all of the above elements and each must be placed in separate folders. The download site should have full instructions. In Windows 7 thru 10 you can right click the desktop and select Personalize. In that window, you have the link to select more themes on line from Microsoft. These are safe to use. Be careful of any other sites. Many are used by unscrupulous porno programmers to redirect you.

Most of these files carry copyrights with limited license to use for personal use only and should be respected.

If you have gotten this far and tried some of this, you should have enough knowledge to find and install files from the web. Learn as you go. We all make mistakes, but if you followed my advice to make backups, at least you will not lose your data.

Final Note: Do not try to access the web in Safe Mode. See my page of instructions on using Safe Mode.

Again if you have questions, please E-Mail me using the link below.

Also click here for a tutorial on downloading.

Check these sites for nice places to download software:

www.cnet.com

www.filehippo.com

www.majorgeeks.com

Note: this site is provided free. Donations are accepted to help support the work. Click here for instructions.


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