Sometimes, when working on someone’s computer, I need to look in the “Downloads” folder. All too often, I see the same program file has been downloaded five, ten, maybe even twenty times.
This tells me they do not know the difference between “downloading” a program file, and actually “installing” the program.
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 a program file only gets half the job done, though. Downloading the file is not the same as “installing” the program 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 (the program that lets you see websites) 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.
As an example, here’s how to download and install a nifty (and superior) media player called VLC Player. (1) Use your browser to visit www.videolan.org. Click the “Download VLC” button. (2) The next page will say that VLC is downloading. Choose “Save File” when the message appears asking what you want to do.
Depending on how your browser is configured, it may ask you where on your hard drive you want the download to be stored. Whatever the case, you need to know where your downloaded file is going; this applies to both PC’s and Mac’s. Choose and/or make note of the download location, because you will need to locate the downloaded file later, for installation.
Step 3 is usually the one that confuses file-downloading newbies the most. People complete the download stage, but don’t know where the downloaded file went, which prevents them from completing the download/install process. When you click the “Download” or “Save” link, pay attention to what happens. If you are using Firefox, it may have been preconfigured to download all files into a folder called “Downloads.” Other browsers are the same way.
You need to be able to find that folder, so, it is sometimes a good idea to make sure you actually know how to find the Downloads folder before you begin the file downloading process.
You may also be given the option to choose the download destination. It doesn’t really matter that much what location you pick, as long as you make note of the location for future reference. Be sure to remember the name of the downloaded file, too. I will often choose “Desktop” as the download destination because files located there are super-easy to find. Some people save downloaded files to their Documents or My Documents folders, because they already know how to get there.
You may be given the option to “Run” (another word for “install”) the file. I rarely choose this option; downloading the file first, and then installing, gives more consistent results. Click the little arrow next to “Save,” choose “Save As,” pick your download location, and then move on to step 4.
Your computer’s file manager is used to locate files on your hard drive. On a PC, it’s called “File Explorer.” Click the little yellow folder in the left end of the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. On the left side, you’ll see folders named Documents, Pictures, etc. One of them will be named Downloads. Click/highlight it, and the file you downloaded should appear on the right side.
On a Mac, the file manager is called “Finder.” Click the word “Go” in the toolbar at the top, and “Downloads” will be one of the folder options.
Once you have located your downloaded file, you are ready for the installation process. To begin, double-click the downloaded file.
Say “Yes,” “OK” or “Next” to whatever windows may appear, and agree to the ridiculous License Agreement that you are not going to read. Accept the default installation location, and keep following the instructions until you are finished.