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March 24, 2013

Downloading, installing files: must-have computer skills

NORMAN — When you take my free computer safety class next Tuesday evening, March 26, at the library (visit my website for details), you will see why you need the ability to download and install files from the Internet on your own.

One thing you can count on with computers (which includes smartphones, tablets and iPads) is that things will always change; they will never stay the same for very long.

With computers, there will always be something to add, update, upgrade or replace. Monthly operating system updates for Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac users are de rigueur, and other items like Adobe Flash and Java need frequent updating, too. All these things require that software, in the form of “files,” be downloaded from somewhere on the Internet, and then, the files must be installed. Sometimes, these chores are somewhat automatic; sometimes, you must do them yourself.

Download a file, download a program, download software, these phrases all refer to the same thing: instructions are given to a remote computer located somewhere on the Internet to transfer a collection of digital information your computer. In turn, your computer is instructed to allow the receipt of that information and store it somewhere that it can be retrieved and used at a later time, usually on your computer’s hard drive. This information is typically called a “file.”

Downloading the file only gets half the job done, though. Downloading the file is not the same as “installing” the file. “Installing” the downloaded file means giving instructions to take the downloaded information and use it to change your computer. Without installation, the file just sits there, and nothing is changed or updated.

Bringing all of these things to pass is usually pretty easy, and is done in a series of steps. (1) Use your computer’s browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.) to find the desired file to download, usually located on a website, somewhere. (2) Tell the file to download. (3) Pick a location on your computer’s hard drive to save the file. (4) Locate and install the file. (5) Mission accomplished.

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